It’s been a long six months. What began as fear of the unknown, with a mysterious virus lurking in the air has morphed into a different kind of dread and trepidation. Now, we must figure out how to live with this mess for much longer than we initially anticipated. And that feels overwhelming. Not seeing an end in sight feels scarier than when the news first broke that we must shelter in place, scour for groceries, and stock up on hand sanitizer.
We have morphed into a new kind of human, one who must live in fear of people and public places. In order to stay safe, we need to stay home, which is so counterintuitive to the American way of life. Home is our place of solace, meant for rest and relaxation. COVID-19 has demanded it morph into more. For many, it is now the workplace, a school, the local diner, and neighborhood playground. The complexities of being all of those things at once is starting to wear us down. Our houses are bursting at the seams. Our nerves are frazzled. Our brains are fatigued from worry.
To make matters more complicated, many parents are being steamrolled and crippled by an economy and culture that is requiring full-time childcare and schooling along with full-time work. It is demanding parents be actively present in both worlds at the same time or risk being a failure, only to realize it is a no-win situation no matter the path taken.
Our children have met their limits as well. They need school and socialization. They want to feel normal again as much as we do. Soon the decision will have to be made on which is more important, their mental or physical health as we decide whether or not to send them to school. And the luxury to be able to make the decision without risking a paycheck is reality afforded only to a privileged few.
Heavy. It’s the only description I can muster for where our world stands right now. Every decision feels wrong and it is hard to sift through the mounds of information being thrown at us on the daily. In an alternative universe the way community members and friends are handling our new normal would seem like an overly-dramatic teen novel, but alas, here we stand watching friends viciously fight over the safest way to live our lives (over social media nonetheless), while at the same time videoing a grown woman having a hissy fit over wearing a mask to enter a grocery store. If our children were to act the same way, we would be appalled. We would take action. The fragility of our friendships and our mental states coupled with a scary new normal seems to have made people lose their ever-loving minds.
It is for this reason I hope COVID-19 provides the reality check we all need to gain perspective on what is really important for our families and communities. We will continue to have challenges and hardships, but being slapped in the face with a little (or in some cases a lot of) perspective couldn’t hurt.
For one, we should put trust in the experts. Not politicians. Not secret Facebook mommy groups. We need to be listening to scientists, doctors, and researchers. If they tell us to do something, listen. If the science evolves and they suggest a different course of action, listen again. They have spent their lives and careers helping people. Your ten minutes of researching on Wikipedia and sophomore level biology class does not equate to the same level of knowledge.
Be okay with changing and adapting. If a worldwide pandemic has taught us nothing else, I hope this concept is one we can all acknowledge is of utmost importance. I drill it into my children’s brains when we discuss the upcoming school year. Things are probably going to look very different, but we must be accepting of that notion in order to still live and thrive during all of this chaos.
Caring about others’ health and safety translates to a selfishly securer home and future for our own families. I have gone into fits of rage witnessing the nonchalant way people are living because they believe they are invincible. What they do not understand is, not only are they vulnerable, but when they recklessly live and then unknowingly (or knowingly) spread this virus to others, they are in return potentially endangering someone they love. Who wants to be the reason someone is lying in a cold hospital bed with a tube down their throat? Nobody.
Remote work has become a way of life. It is something we should hold on tight to and advocate for. It increases productivity and job satisfaction when parents are able to care for their children while also still receiving a paycheck. The ability to do so when needed has hopefully given employers and employees a solid dose of perspective when it comes to work-life balance.
There are a lot of things we did and had six months ago that now seem pretty trivial and juvenile. The expensive coffees, overly scheduled lives, and overt consumerism have been replaced with home brews, evening walks in nature, and contentment with what we already possess. Days of shopping and nights out at a bar are not needed. In fact, they should make us squirm thinking of the risk they now hold. When considering our own mortality, or the mortality of ones who we hold most dear, a night of drinking is not worth the risk. It isn’t for me at least.
Maybe this is the reality check we all needed. Maybe our lives are richer now because they are more rooted in what is truly important. We do not need fancy things or for every day to be extraordinary. But we do need each other. So wear a mask, be careful, and get a dose of perspective.
Without each other, we are nothing.