The world is reeling. Our country is suffering. The daily headline for every news channel recites the most recent death toll in which the pandemic, COVID-19, has captured. We are living in a cocoon of fear, where our avoidance of the virus seems to be based mostly on luck and a little on geography. Our existence feels eerily similar to an apocalyptic novel. Most minutes of the day it is hard to believe this is our reality.
As the wife of an emergency physician, I hear the stories of patients suffering. As the sister of a firefighter, I worry for all of the front-line workers who are risking their health and safety for the good of all. As the friend of both a furloughed and laid-off employee, I listen to their concerns of a possible failed economy and lack of future job opportunities. As a family member of an essential worker, a neighbor to parents who are struggling to work full-time and homeschool, a daughter to two high-risk individuals, and a mother to a scared eight-year-old who understands more than I realized, it is impossible to not be touched by this relentless and vicious disease.
2020 will become an iconic time in history, one marked with sadness, loss, grief, and death. As we sit in our homes and wait for the stay-at-home order to be raised, it is very easy to wallow in all that is gone. I will be the fist to admit I am grieving the missed milestone celebrations and the abrupt ending to school. I miss hugging my parents, or simply seeing them at all. I feel waves of gloom and fear as we attempt to stay healthy, and also protect the ones whom I love the most.
What is helping me push through the panic and frustration? Having faith that every cloud has a silver lining. We can embrace the positives while still understanding and being acutely aware of the negatives, a lesson I learned from my dad. Sometime in my mid-twenties, I was having a particularly awful week when my dad called to check on me and offer advice. After listening to me vent, he said, “sometimes the only thing you can do when you are going through hell is just to continue to put one foot in front of the other. Once you have come out the other side, you will look back and see you made it out OK after all. And maybe it wasn’t as bad as you had anticipated. Either way, the important thing is that you made it.”
That one piece of advice has always stuck with me, and it feels particularly applicable in today’s situation. Maybe we can escape our lows by continuing to look forward, and just keep on keepin’ on. Look for the small slivers of hope amongst this mess, and let that guide you to a better place.
What is the good happening from this awful situation? I have a few things in mind.
- For those with school-aged children, can we all collectively agree teachers deserve to be paid $1,000,000,000 dollars a year? How they teach our children to read, compute this new-age alien math, and sit still for eight hours a day is beyond me. We already knew before the pandemic teachers are miracle workers, but now perhaps, the world will actually do something to compensate them for their voodoo magic.
- The true backbone of this country always has been, and always will be, the workers who show up everyday for ordinary jobs. The world has never been built on celebrities, politicians, and ball players. The janitors, grocery stockers and checkers, healthcare workers, scientists, truck drivers, postal workers, delivery personnel, and small business owners are the ones who have always made the world go round and are currently keeping us all afloat. We are finally shining a light on what they do, when they should have been recognized all along. It is now evident, more than ever, they deserve an appropriate compensation for the important work they provide.
- Mothers. Wow, are we resilient and strong. On a normal day we feel as though the weight of the world is on our shoulders. But now we are taking on additional responsibilities as we fight to protect, shelter, teach and provide for our children. If you can’t find a sense of power in simply making it through the day you are selling yourself short. All that you do, and all that you are taking on, is noble.
- Our children are learning lessons they might not have had a chance to otherwise. They are soaking up more sunshine than ever before. Our overly-scheduled lives have come to an abrupt halt. Instead of rushing to practices and organized activities, kids are simply playing. Being bored is more than acceptable, as it encourages creativity, ingenuity, and self-reliance.
- Perseverance has always been a trait of the American people, and it shows now in every facet of our society. We are allowing our children to see the importance of grit. This is (hopefully) a temporary situation, in which we will make it through. By carrying on in the face of adversity we are comforting those scared children and giving them the reassurance they need to look ahead.
- Our sense of community has changed for the better. Giving back can mean many different things. Perhaps it involves helping a high-risk neighbor with groceries, cheering on healthcare workers as they enter another day of battle or writing sweet notes to grandparents. Charity and love, as said by Mother Teresa, always begins at home, and we are embodying this in so many important ways during the pandemic. We are scooping up those whom we love the most, and making sure they are safe and healthy. By doing so we are also protecting and loving those whom we don’t even know.
We all now realize we can get through tough times. The days and weeks ahead will be filled with uncertainty, but we can and will persist. All that truly matters in this world is health and family. Stay safe, stay home, and keep on, keepin’ on. We will get through the other side, and everything will feel a little sweeter. Better days are ahead.