You know it’s really starting to hit when two of the first social media posts you read in the morning are those posted by friends normally faith-filled and little rays of positive sunshine. The first one prompted me to call her after reading not one but two items about grief. I had to check in and make sure she is okay. The second one dealt with dressing in “real” clothes and doing her hair today and how just applying her hair spray made her tear up as it triggered thoughts and memories of actually getting ready for a day filled with work, friends, and just going out.
Day fill-in-the-blank, right? For me, I’ve been staying home and basically self-isolating since March 20. That was the first day of my Spring Break but as I heard COVID-19 threats growing, I went to the grocery store, stocked up, and prepared to hunker down. A couple’s dinner party had already been cancelled as had a market days outing with two friends. My husband got sent home from a pro golf tournament and our daughter had multiple weddings and sales meetings moved or cancelled. It all so quickly imploded on us and at what felt like record pace. I had made no plans for Spring Break and was so looking forward to a week at home doing absolutely nothing or whatever I wanted. Careful what you ask for, right?
Do you know why it’s called COVID-19 and referred to as “Corona Virus?” Well, it refers to a family of viruses that can cause everything from the common cold to SARS and MERS. “COVID-19” stands for coronavirus disease 2019 as it first appeared in 2019 in Wuhan, China. The “corona” part comes from the crownlike spikes on the viruses’ surface, depicted as red protrusions off a circle in photographs we see. “Corona” means “crown” in Spanish.
Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday we were watching in disbelief and horror as Wuhan, China was in lock down, the city’s streets were eerily empty, and makeshift hospitals were being built? And what about that cruise ship stuck in Japan? Then, in what seemed like overnight, Italy was ground zero for the virus and, even though so much of what we own and buy is “Made in China,” Italy being under siege seemed to sound the “could it come here” alarms. My coworker’s granddaughter was studying abroad in Italy and I remember her family debating whether she should come home. Thank God she did. Fast forward to today and here we are; doing the very same things. Locking down. Erecting hospitals. Stocking up on toilet paper. It’s frightening and it’s a shock to our systems.
We are facing tough times and guess what, real grief is real right now. We are all grieving our former lives, our jobs, our freedoms. Some are grieving grueling schedules and deaths. Suddenly things we took for granted are luxuries. Things we didn’t perhaps love doing are now longed for. For me, that means grocery shopping. Anyone who knows me knows I hate going to the grocery store but what I wouldn’t give right now to go to my neighborhood HEB to buy whatever I need or want. And yes, that would very likely include toilet paper.
I miss my former life. Running errands. Going to church and book club. Going out to eat and shopping. Getting my hair and nails done. Going to yoga and seeing my yoga squad. I miss work. I miss my little three-year-olds and their wonder and joy. I miss their parents who help keep me young and motivated. I miss my coworkers. So very much. I miss being able to do all of this and not worrying one bit about germs on my hands or touching my face.
Instead, I’m home. But yes, safe at home not stuck at home. And I’m grateful my daughter and husband are here with me. Funny thing is, it’s not the “quality family time” you read about. The three of us yes, spend some time together binging Netflix and eating, but for the most part we are individually living our lives. We’re just doing so all under one roof.
For me that’s meant cooking everything from new dinner ideas to homemade dog treats, watching endless news reports (I know, but once a newsie always a newsie) and TV shows. Binging hasn’t been as enjoyable as I thought it would be however, because so much of what people watch is either disturbing or dark. Thankfully my daughter recently discovered “Grey’s Anatomy” and it’s now on almost 24-7. And although I’m discovering it with her, the whole hospital/doctors/nurses theme is a bit too timely and realistic. In between, I’ve also done some touch up painting in the house I’ve been wanting to do and we have been walking a ton. Needless to say our three dogs aren’t complaining about the current situation! I’ve also been spending a lot of time in quiet prayer and am so grateful to do yoga online with an instructor I love but whose studio is far from my home. Nicki: you have been a Godsend!
What I haven’t been doing a lot of and it’s kinda shocking to me, is reading. I love to read and have stacks of books just waiting to open up. But, for some reason I can’t even focus on the book I’m in the middle of even though I love it (“Bridge of Sighs” for anyone asking) and I’m not sure why. I think I’m just distracted and disjointed.
On the whole I’m trying to stay positive as I stay home, but I worry. Every day. I worry about my 89-year-old mom who is home alone back in my hometown and whether my husband and daughter are washing their hands. I worry every time I open the mail or retrieve a delivered package. I wonder if it’s better to just eat home-cooked meals or support local restaurants and order to-go meals from them. I worry about our country that, even in the midst of what many are calling a “war,” cannot seem to put aside our differences and work together as one. I also worry how and when we are ever going to get out of this. If you listen to the experts, it’s going to be a long haul. And that worries me.
Welcome to the new normal, right? Much like we had to get use to changes at airports after 9/11, we will need to get use to who knows what. That causes anxiety. And it makes me anxious.
So, one book I have been reading is Max Lucado’s “Anxious for Nothing.” In it he describes a feeling of not being able to relax and feeling like the other shoe is yet to drop. Anxiety, he says is a “meteor shower” of what-ifs, trepidation, suspicion, and apprehension. Check, check, check, check. Then there is fear, which sees a true threat. Anxiety, on the other hand, imagines one. Our lives right now, right? In fact, the very word “anxious” is a hybrid of “angst,” which is a sense of unease.
The U.S. is good at worrying and is the most anxious nation in the world. Lucado half jokingly writes that if worry were an Olympic event, we’d be gold medalists. Oddly enough, there so much worry out there that even the Olympics have been postponed. But what causes anxiety? Change and challenge for starters. Hmmmm…pretty much two things enveloping our lives and our world right now.
Oh good grief. Grief is what many of us are also experiencing on many levels. And that’s okay. We are all living with a daily dose of it and in epic proportions. David Kessler, the world’s foremost expert on grief, discussed the topic with the Harvard Business Review and says that although much of what we’re feeling is temporary, it’s all real and it involves things we are not used to dealing with. On top of that, we are experiencing collective grief; something else we are not accustomed to. Finally, we are also feeling “anticipatory grief,” which is the worrisome feeling we get about what the future holds. Enter anxiety.
I’m anxious and worried about our health care workers and health care industry. I’m also worried about people losing their jobs, shops and restaurants closing their doors, airlines, and the economy as a whole. Just when we were doing the best we ever had economy-wise in this country with record job levels in every category, we are hit with a pandemic and unprecedented unemployment numbers. Will we ever bounce back fully and completely? I’m concerned about those in domestic abuse situations and pray they find a way and a safe place to go while being told to “stay home.”
I worry about parents who are home with their kids. I cannot imagine trying to work from home, log on to connect with each child’s teachers several times a day, make dinner, clean the house, check in with elderly parents, and everything in between. Just remember, kids are watching and how they feel during this time will stay with them for many years. Work to make them feel secure and safe while you are homeschooling and house cleaning. These kids will be the ones who tell their kids and grandkids their own version of “I had to walk for miles in snow to get to school.” Make it one of resilience.
For days on end I go to bed anxious and drained but then wake up each day and try to stay positive and productive. It’s a vicious cycle of uncertainty and optimism. For a week or so I worried I will “get it” or that a family member does. Coughing? Oh no! Sneezing? Yikes! But wait, thankfully all of that is just seasonal allergies, which unfortunately are in full bloom where I live. My main worry is the whole scary situation as a whole.
I for one have faith in the team that is leading us in this fight and I feel for President Trump and all those on his team. Do they ever rest? Aren’t they exhausted? They truly have the weight of the world on their shoulders and the last thing they need is continued finger pointing, division, and hate. The fact that some trinkets and items are manufactured in China as cost-cutting measures is maybe okay, but the fact that 95 percent of our antibiotics and many other medications are, is not. We must protect our borders, bring manufacturing back home, and be less dependent on other countries. These issues have been discussed for years now but deemed unacceptable by some. Back in January a travel ban to and from China was enacted and a Coronavirus Task Force was formed but mere weeks later impeachment pens were ceremoniously handed out and a State of the Union speech in which we were warned about the threatening virus was ripped in half on national TV. Let it go people. No one deserves this and no country on earth or miracle worker could have perfectly prepared for this type of event so instead of filling our new void with your criticisms and bitterness, how ‘bout filling it with kindness and prayer. Do us all a favor and stop casting the first stone, won’t you?
So what might our new normal look like? Video and virtual chatting like the above? I’ve actually been doing exactly that and have downloaded Zoom, which I’d never heard of mere weeks ago, and have taken part in group chats and a yoga class. I’m hoping this will not be the case months from now though. We are all so dependent on all things online that I’m concerned one of our new normals is going to be a complete change in the way we not just communicate but do commerce as a country. One of my thoughts is that brick and mortar stores, which even before coronavirus were feeling an economic pinch, will lose even more customers to online buying and I particularly fret for small businesses that have had to close up shop. Big corporations and companies are also a concern, as they employ hundreds of thousands who support those small businesses. Television ads now tout “free shipping” and “contact free delivery” and every online site is offering free shipping and deep discounts. But, with Amazon reporting COVID-19 exposure at warehouses, do we really feel safe? Is our new normal wiping down and spraying every piece of mail, package, and bag of stuff we get? Maybe, hopefully maybe not.
So what can we do? First and foremost stay home, wash your hands, and don’t touch your face. It can’t be said enough: STAY HOME PEOPLE! I don’t care how bored you are or how tempting that neighborhood park looks. The rules do apply to you, regardless of how healthy or invincible you feel.
Kessler also recommends acknowledging the common stages of grief. First there’s anger: “I’m angry I have to stay home.” Then there’s bargaining: “Okay so if I social distance for two weeks I’m okay and can then go out?” This is usually followed by sadness, “I have no idea when this will ever end and people are dying.” Lastly, there’s acceptance and that’s where we all need to focus on arriving at. We must accept that we need to stay home, avoid contact with anyone we can’t avoid, work virtually, keep a safe distance when and if we MUST leave the house, and wash our hands.
Also remind yourself what you can and can’t control. You can’t control what is happening in New York or New Orleans or what your neighbors are doing, but you can control what you do and don’t do. As Kessler says, we are taking the right precautions and this is the time to overprotect and not overreact.
We are living in historic times and this event will forever be linked to this year and this generation. You and I will one day tell others where we were when it happened and how we handled it. It’s frightening but it can also be the most remarkable act of solidarity we may ever witness and the year the world came to its senses.
If there is any silver lining in any of this, it’s that we have discovered who the real heroes are among us and who are truly essential: health care workers, truckers, grocery store staffs, teachers, delivery drivers, sanitation workers, warehouse workers, our military, scientists, bankers, farmers, utility workers, and a host of others. We are also grateful for the many companies and businesses that have so quickly retrofitted to make ventilators, masks, and other much-needed items. This includes all those sewing circles making masks and volunteers stocking food pantries. We’ve also come to the realization that all those things all all those people we thought were so important, aren’t. Funny how actors, musicians, and professional athletes don’t make the cut.
When it’s all over, we need to remember to go out to eat and shop local. Vacation in the U.S. and buy American. All those stores that delivered to your doorstep will need you to step inside their doors. Until then, take these weeks and possibly months to pray for blessings upon those working overtime on curing everything having to do with COVID-19 and count your blessings. We might not know what the future holds, but we know who holds it.
Stay safe my friends and while we stay at home, let’s pray at home. Pray for healing, strength, wisdom, guidance, and solidarity. We are in this together and we will get through this. Together. But separated.