No one saw this coming.
As a collective nation, we have been gobsmacked and many of us are still trying to process it all and make sense of a world that's been stopped on its axis. It's like someone pressed the Pause button and we're watching a series of events through a polarized lense. Social isolation? Toilet paper hoarding? Face masks? Empty airports and train terminals? Insurance companies actually giving US money back?
Something most of us have never experienced in our lifetime.
What continues to astound me, however, is our ability as humans to assimilate, adapt and adhere to life's challenges. Some quicker than others, but for me, this time of social isolation has illuminated a few things that I probably needed to be reminded of.
When I think I've got it all figured out, I'm wrong.
I really do prefer Bounty paper towels over other brands.
My kids often have better coping skills than I do.
I let myself get far too distracted by things that don't really matter.
I am not thankful enough for simple things like hugging a friend, going to a concert, or sneezing in public without garnering a collective death glare.
As we navigate through life's current events, there's a mixed bag of pleasures and perils. Let's take a moment and examine them.
The Pleasures of Social Isolation
One thing I've had the occasion to do through all of this is think. And think some more. This falls under the list of pleasures for me because I seldom have time to just think, or better yet, reflect. When life slows down and you get the chance to hop off the Merry-Go-Round for a spell, some cool things happen. Clarity, for one. Clarity about where I am, where I want to be and how to start the process moving forward. Returning to "normal" begs some questions about just what I want the "new normal" to look like. I get to choose and I'm making some serious moves. What are some of yours?
Rest & Rejuvenation
Another pleasure associated with this social isolation gig. Don't underestimate its value.
It clears my head and minimizes an over-emotional approach to all this. I'm getting as much as I can now before the world starts spinning again. And rest doesn't have to involve sleep. I've taken great solace in reading that book I've been meaning to pick up for over 6 months. I've watched my old Doris Day movies, some twice. Gosh, I miss her.
Our younger generation would be well-served by looking her up. What an example she set for women. Smart, funny, fashionable, vulnerable, kind, and determined. And what's wrong with your coat matching your dress and hat? Her approach to social isolation would have involved Zoom tea parties with her friends featuring uplifting songs and a killer make-up tutorial.
The connection to others, although physically distant, has been intensified for me during this time. I check in on my loved ones a little more often. Our conversations have more substance because the daily hum-drum chatter is absent, forcing us to go a little deeper.
Asking your child how they're dealing with this situation yields way more insight than asking them what show they watched on Netflix last night. Helping them to navigate the uncertainty and confusion during this time gives us an opportunity to share some valuable life lessons. Things they may have taken for granted will now become valued. Savings accounts may be a new found priority, charitable causes may garner attention, people less fortunate may be given more consideration. Kindness and compassion may preside over judgement.
Sometimes we need to take a step back in order to move forward. It's the slingshot effect.
Witnessing the Good in Others
Nearly every day I am brought to tears as I witness the inspired actions of those who want to help.
It's about neighbors helping other neighbors, First Responders continuing to put themselves on the front line every day, health care workers fighting like modern-day Ninja warriors, essential business employees reporting to work in order to keep the country from deflating like a tired helium balloon.
Sometimes, however, it's the smallest of deeds that resonate with me most deeply. The heroic acts that take place when no one is watching. The home-schooling mom with 3 kids that finds time to make an extra casserole for the elderly woman next door. The man who got furloughed from his job, the family's only source of income, but packs up canned goods and pasta for his local food pantry. The 7th grader who draws a picture with flowers on it to cheer up his mom when she's worried about how this will all end. The list goes on and offers proof that adversity really does summon the inherent compassion and strength of humanity.
The Perils of Social Isolation
There. I've said it. If there's a dark and dangerous underbelly to all this, it's the demonstration of ignorance and plain stupidity in the face of a crisis. The need for social isolation has cultivated a certain breed of Negative Nellies who've trounced all over social media and infiltrated grocery store lines across America. I get increasingly frustrated with these Nellies who jump to irrational conclusions and buy into the panic. These are the hoarders, the finger pointers, the arm-chair politicians, and the entitled, self-absorbed minions who adopt the victim mentality.
To them I would say, "You are not a victim. You are an active member of this society and if you are not part of the solution, then you are, in fact, part of the problem."
Now I know I'm not getting points for originality on that last statement, but please. People. Do something productive. Be responsible. Put down the Karaoke mic for a minute and think about what you're spouting on about. We are in the middle of a crisis that affects our entire population physically, economically, emotionally, psychologically, and mentally. Choose your words and actions carefully. A lot is a stake. It's natural to want to find blame and to politicize everything. If this monster of a virus has taught us anything, it's that we are vulnerable as all hell and no one is immune to the many subsequent effects of it. This is no time for your dime-store rationality. So put your ego and your ignorance in an 11x13 pan and bake it at 450 till it's done, then feed it to the squirrels.
We've got work to do.
It's often our greatest enemy. It skews our perspective and causes us to make poor judgements and decisions. I'd be lying if I said I haven't experienced fear myself through all of this. Not fear for myself, necessarily, but for those I love. For the people I don't even know who are most vulnerable at this time. For the well-being of our country and it's flailing economy, our children, our elderly, our food supply and other critical resources, not to mention the effects of the overall fallout from this unprecedented period of time in history. There appears to be so much that is suddenly out of our control as local and federal government issues warnings and mandates that affect our ability to move about the cabin freely. Who do we trust? What news sources are reliable? Who's going to ultimately lead us out of this mess?
In the worst of times, we often turn to an outfielder for help. But what if we held the answer ourselves? When it's your turn at bat, consider this:
The best way to defeat fear is to immobilize the thoughts that summon it.
This is 100% in your control. Choose thoughts that don't provoke fear, like asking yourself where you will go once this fog is lifted. Who will you reach out to first? What meal will you enjoy at your favorite restaurant? What changes will you make in your life that will make you happier? What can you do starting today that will change your tomorrow for the better? If need be, use one of your lifelines and phone a friend. They probably need to hear your voice too.
The fact is, fear serves no purpose in this particular arena. Put it on the top shelf with your old Beanie Baby collection and find productive alternatives.
"Everything you want is on the other side of fear." - Jack Canfield
Here's My Two Sense....
Find your center. Balance is everything!
There are undoubtedly other things that will be instrumental in coping with all of this, like patience and resilience, but balance will be the key. Balancing how much information we take in and who it's from. Learn when to turn off the TV and tune in to Mozart or Vivaldi. Avoid over-indulging in unhealthy activities like mowing through rows of OREOs instead of one or two of those delightful Double Stuffs.
Remember that for the first time in recent history, we all are affected. In different ways and on different levels, yes. But there is not one person in the country who has not been affected in some way. There is a certain element of comfort in knowing that none of us have to try too hard to give or receive empathy. It's a common thread that binds us during a difficult time and we will only survive if we unify.
Balance your time. Incorporate variety into daily routines. Be kind to yourself and those around you. Social isolation does not mean social devastation. It's a lesson in finding what's valuable, coping with adversity, reasoning with intent to rise above the immediate issue at hand and forge a new path.
Here's hoping your new path is a long and healthy one.