Throughout quarantine, I struggled mightily. I felt intense grief for the loss of my normal routine, the regularity of social interaction and a spring filled with big trips that I had eagerly anticipated. Like many people, I felt robbed, but I was also acutely aware of how fortunate I was to, through that time, only lose those things.
So, while I lamented the things I’d lost, I also attempted to practice gratitude for the many blessings I had in the midst of the stay-at-home order. I tried to take advantage of the restful weekends, the extra time with my family at home, making the most of what came my way. All the while, eager for a return to normalcy, a return that I was regularly reminded would “probably not come for a year or more.” Until a vaccine, until herd immunity, until the economy recovers, until our society finds a new normal.
The conversation surrounding the coronavirus and the future seems to change constantly, though. As we often do, our communities are torn into extremes, with varied perspectives on what’s safe, what’s risky, what’s ridiculous and what’s responsible. It seems that coronavirus has, like most things, divided us once again, but this time not as neatly into groups of commonly held political beliefs or religious views as we’re prone to divide. At this point, it seems as if we all need to recalibrate and recount where we stand on a near daily basis.
All the while, we are suffering from a crippling fear of the unknown. That fear manifests into confusion and chaos, unbased certainty and trepidatious uncertainty, judgment and criticism. Fueling that fear is a total lack of clarity about who is trustworthy, where to turn for information, along with an aggressive and pervasive impatience among all of us for life to go back to normal.
In the midst of the hardships brought on by the stay-at-home order, it seemed we had a stronger unity, people were looking for the good in each other and showering kindness more openly than ever. But, as things begin to reopen, as we begin to take baby steps out into the world, confusion reigns. It feels as if all of the pent up depression, anxiety and grief of what we’ve lost has bubbled to the surface as our expectations of returning to “life before” are dashed.
I don’t want to live my life that way. I don’t want to spend even one day of my life as a force for angst, a force for negativity, though I’m sure I have failed at that goal on my worst days. Like anyone, I want to make decisions that are well-informed and low risk, that keep me as well as my family, friends and community safe. I want to embrace the goodness of these days, these small steps forward without living to regret them.
So, how do we proceed? How do we move forward into this new, unknown world that we’re faced with?
First, we inform ourselves as best we can, and then we make the decisions that feel right based on that information, acknowledging that we don’t have all the information, and the information we do have is changing rapidly. We give ourselves permission to change our minds. We surround ourselves with people and information sources that seem to be consistent with facts, have a reputation for balance and a strong sense of ethics. We release judgment for others, recognizing that the truth of the matter is hard to nail down and that everyone is doing their best with what they know. We weigh the risks against the benefits and we recognize that we have never lived in a world filled with certainties. Life could always change on a dime.
Above all, we choose to spread kindness, joy and light in the world. We ensure that the interactions we do have are good ones, refraining from complaint and criticism, but instead choosing to remind people how worth living our lives are, how blessed we are to live in such a beautiful world and in such a time as this, even when it’s hard.