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I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been
said, sung, preached from rooftops and social platforms. Everyone’s vying for their voice to be heard amidst all this noise, it seems, but if you’ve got the space (or mental capacity) for just a few more words, here are mine.
It may feel like we don’t have much choice right now – on who gets sick, on who is allowed to work and make money, on what we can cook for dinner – but still there are choices that we can make.
We can choose to:
spread panic or hope
spread fear or support
close our doors or open them
create isolation or community
choose to do what’s personally advantageous or morally right.
I know that times are hard. During times like these, it’s difficult to think clearly, to predict the best course of action, let alone to keep it together. Actionable tips are more useful now than ever.
After much reflection, this is all I’ve got.
First, let go of the anxieties which aren’t serving you. Stop watching videos of hoarding and stop posting pictures of empty shelves, which doesn’t serve anyone either. All this causes is panic. There is enough anxieties to go around and we don’t need it. There is enough food to go around, if we share. This isn’t to say I don’t have anxieties of my own. This isn’t ill-advice coming from the privileged. This is general advice coming from a person whose job is considered at highest risk for exposure during this epidemic, who works with limited medical supplies caused by a global hoarding of masks that won’t prevent disease acquisition, whose office just closed in order to protect others (staff and patients alike), and who doesn’t get paid time off but whose staff thankfully does. Despite going into half a million dollars in student debt in order to help heal the world, despite risking my health in order to take care of people in pain, despite having only one mask a day because of a shortage of medical supplies, and despite stopping work to protect those around me, I still call myself one of the lucky ones. The power of positivity has to be prioritized here. Which brings me to my second point…
Approach everything from a place of gratitude. I know it’s hard to do, especially for those who are just trying to get by, but trust me, the gratitude will be the thing that helps get you by. If you are working from home, at least you still get paid. If you aren’t getting paid, at least you still have your health. If you don’t have your health, at least you still have family to support you. If you don’t have family to support you, you have a world of people who wants to help. When you feel alone, just reach out a hand, and someone will grab it.
This is the time to reawaken relationships. If you are at home, lamenting your joblessness, pull out your phone and CALL someone. Don’t text, but CALL. Talk to them in ways that you couldn’t when life had you running in circles. This time is a gift, and it is temporary. Ask how people are. Talk about what’s going on in their life rather than what’s going on in your grocery store. And once you’ve finally rekindled connection with others…
Take the time to BE WITH YOURSELF. As uncomfortable as that is, sit in introspection. It may be painful if you think of what you have and don’t have at the moment.
“The more time you spend thinking about yourself, the more suffering you will experience” – The Book of Joy
Rather, think about yourself in terms of your role in society. Instead of fretting about what is uncontrollable outside those walls, heed attention to what is within. You have to care for yourself before you can care for others. All that is neglected in the home and in yourself, organize and take care of them. Putting things in order indoors will be reflected in bigger things. Once you’ve got yourself in order, you are finally ready to create community amidst this isolation.
If you’ve got a skill that you can share, if you’ve got extra toilet paper that a family needs, if you can cook meals for those living paycheck to paycheck, if you can provide emotional support, financial guidance, mental health advice, a foster home for pets that are being euthanized, if you can support small businesses who can’t stay afloat, if you can volunteer time … go ahead and do it. This is it. The time when the world stops and stands still. This is the time for us to stop with it, lest we all continue spinning out of control.
If you need help putting everything into perspective, a few of my favorite reads:
- The Book of Joy – Dali Lama and Desmond Tutu
- Slow Living in a Frantic World – Brooke McAlary
- Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
- Measure of a Man – Sydney Poitier
- Simple Matters – Erin Boyle
- Chasing Slow – Erin Loechner