Once we’ve dialed back the epidemic, what will we bring to the world it left behind?
What is ‘the good life’? Everyone defines it differently. For me, it’s pretty much every day I’m alive, can see friends, squeeze grands, talk to my kids and my wonky belly feels decent. The good life isn’t always exciting, but if we’re fortunate, we’re living the one that feels good to us. That life can seem boring, hectic, or aggravating, depending on the day and our frame of mind. Our kids drive us nuts, ditto the spouse. Jobs seem like an endless Lucy and the Chocolate Factory conveyor belt. We dream of taking that great trip that doesn’t materialize, of having more money, more time, and more of well, life. Still it’s our life and it fits us.
Just when we thought we were in control of that life, the coronavirus arrived and shook everything up like a vengeful snowglobe. Fear replaced anticipation, excitement with anxiety. Homeschooling replaced lockers and classrooms. We Netflix binged instead of going out to movies meetings, baseball practices, lunche — or visits in with grandma.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. . .” Ecclesiastes
This, indeed, has been a hell of a ‘season’. An epidemic from across the sea, rolled in like a tsunami, leaving a deadly season in its wake. Social distancing became the new lexicon as we desperately worked to thwart the virus’ deadly rampage by our separateness. Yet, no matter where we stand in the collective narrative of this deadly virus, we all are connected in the fight to survive it — and what happens after. That’s where yin yang comes in.
Yin yang, the symbol of crisis/opportunity, is what we’ve experienced after wars, wildfires, monster earthquakes and yes, pandemics. Incredible crises have sparked incredible heroism, sacrifice and generosity. They also create opportunities for growth and change. We can either travel through hellish journeys, bitching all the way, or find our moments, however small or elusive, for positive growth. We can get swallowed up in the sadness of a world gone incognito or use these uncertain times to evolve. We can lament our vitally changed individual worlds or discover, with gratitude, new ways to navigate them. When we look in the rear view mirror after this difficult time, we’ll also hopefully find that:
Technology can be an uber good thing. When social distancing separated us from friends, relatives and colleagues, technology enabled us to stay connected. We Zoomed our way into face to face chats with other isolated family and friends, discovering new channels of being together. We telecommuted, realizing we can be just as productive virtually. In turn, we decreased traffic, improved air quality, while increasing precious family time. Win win.
We trust science; politicians not so much. Desperate for information on COVID-19, our ears opened to everyone who had some. But we quickly discovered that political gain and re-election hopes can overshadow actual facts from medical professionals. Whether it’s climate change or pandemics, trust the experts.
Be Prepared is not only an ol’ scout motto. Keeping shelves stocked with just enough is a good thing. We’ve all seen people who panic-buy every last crumb, leaving little for others when 2″ of snow is predicted. Hoarding in a pandemic is unforgivable. Toilet paper, people, seriously? Nations, as well as households, need to ‘be prepared’ so we are never again this catastrophically ‘surprised’. Having resources, response systems and strategic plans in place will help combat the arrival of any future disaster in waiting. Most important is remembering what we were taught as toddlers – to share.
“. . . a time to weep and a time to laugh.“
Wash your hands is an all the time thing, not an epidemic one-off. In addition to that innately hygienic act, maybe disinfecting of planes, trains and mass transit are pretty decent ideas, too. Though not as deadly, there are many contagious diseases, including the flu, which kill many each year.
We found gratitude. Living through a time so grim and terrifying hopefully will inspire us, in better times, to see our glass half full, not empty. How could we not see images of illness and death each day and not to feel grateful for our own health, and safety, as well as those we love? Hopefully we won’t forget our eternal gratitude for those, whose unselfish sacrifices helped effect our very survival, as well as comfort in last moments. From the most incredible acts of heroism to the soothing balm of nature and music, there is always much to be thankful for.
“. . . a time to mourn and a time to dance“
We learned to SEE people. If we are lucky, we won’t just see the package we’ve been waiting to get but the people who packed and delivered it. We won’t take for granted the doctors, nurses, police, fire professionals and all first responders who make the difference between life and death, often risking their own lives in the process. Many people in service jobs, who live paycheck to paycheck, are the same people our society cannot function without. While we may not be able to change their economy, we can certainly elevate the respect and gratitude we show them.
Covid-19 does not discriminate. When thrown into a viral volcano, we learn quickly how vulnerable we are, as well as how a common enemy levels the playing field. COVID-19 does not discriminate. The refrigerated trucks at the backs of hospitals have been macabre reminders that when death arrives, whether you’re homeless or wealthy, you exit the same way. An epidemic doesn’t care what color you are, what gender, whether you are old or young, Democrat or Republican, rich or poor. We shouldn’t either.
“. . . a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing“
Take nothing for granted. Maybe it took an epidemic to see what matters, what doesn’t and what we took granted until it was no longer there. When the fog clears, we may become more mindful of the simple joys of touch as anyone widowed and living with immeasurable loss of touch, can attest. Just ask a grandparent, who’s stood a yard away, drinking in the sweetness of the grandchildren they couldn’t kiss or hug, Or friends who’ve walked 6 feet apart from us, studiously avoiding any physical greeting. After isolation, even the smallest hug will feel sweet and precious.
What comes next? Who knows. Whatever it is, this watershed global event will certainly have created a paradigm shift from all we’ve known in this fragile world. The new normal of life will ask us to create better, live better, love — better.
But let’s start now. We can extend our hearts a little more. Celebrate joy and sorrow in equal measure. Make the time. Make the call. Be the light.