Every phone call or text chain I have with friends, family neighbors or co-workers centers around the same conversation – corona virus and when in the world things will go back to normal. As optimistic as I may be in life generally (something I’d normally pride myself on), this is not a topic that presents a silver lining or light at the end of the tunnel very easily for me. I just don’t see it. Not yet.
I hear the high-hopes of my friends talking about daycares re-opening or enrolling their kids in summer camps (we ourselves did this pre-corona virus), about the eagerness to get back to school in the Fall (amen). I understand those who hang their hats at the end of the day on getting back to the office soon, with both desperation and excitement in their tone. I know the line about “getting together when this is all over” all too well. I see the planning of milestone celebrations as early as this summer, fall, even next winter. Yes, I find that early. Because, the truth seems to be, this virus isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
As gung-hoe as our politicians are to re-open the country, as much as citizens across the nation want and need that to happen both out of sheer financial desperation and growing agony to return to some sort of social normalcy (myself included), it’s not that easy. Not yet. Protest all you want (no, don’t really. Stay home.)
This pandemic has up-ended our way of living and our way of dying. There is no break from the effects this has had on each of us, some to a much greater degree than others. We feel it in our sleep, our physical and mental well-being, the way we interact, act, what we say, and to whom. It affects where, how and when we work, walk, talk, shop, eat and breath. The way children enter the world to the way people exit the world – it is all different now. We knew this was coming – we just didn’t know when.
There might come a day in the next few weeks, maybe months, that I stop washing my groceries down before I put them in the fridge. Perhap I’ll be able to stop putting my mail in “quarantine” before I sort through it after a few days or that I don’t have to wear a mask to drop something at the post office, in the near-ish future. But right now, I kind of doubt that is near. We are at the two mile mark in a marathon. The risk of infection and the constant fear of such will continue to be present until there is a vaccine (could there truly be a vaccine?) or widespread herd immunity (which by the way, likely means millions of people dying in the process to get there).
It will be no surprise to me if there is an exodus from dense cities where there are/will be people feeling some version of PTSD from living in incredibly small, confined spaces, afraid or unable to go outside for weeks, months at a time. Perhaps most especially from those who do so alone during this time, experiencing an isolation both unique and terrifying.
It will be no surprise to me to see those living in different cities or states from their family move across these miles to be together again. Airports, plane rides, trains- no longer easily accessible and readily “safe” for families or those in high-risk categories to hop abroad for Christmas visits, weekend jaunts or happy celebrations. Forget just moving closer to each other, but many will move into one home unit, as financial hardships, health and fear of isolation and separation once again push us to bring in our circles as close as possible. Not to mention needing someone to help with children while parents attempt to get back to work.
It will be no surprise when mothers, disportionately, lose or leave their jobs, for that matter, to care for their children. Perhaps out of desperation as the childcare industry collapses around us – both making it more expensive and also more scarce, but also, the fear of sending their children to environments that act like petri dishes for germs. Summer camps, enrichment programs, parties, events – these seem like a thing we have to sadly tuck away into our back pockets for another year, or two, maybe longer, as those businesses fall apart at this wretched time.
I had never stopped to think before how much of our world was built on simply being together, being near each other. From commuting on trains and buses, to being in dense offices, grabbing lunch or coffee on break, to shopping, visiting doctors offices, schools, games – our entire lives and millions of people’s livelihoods are building blocks of these sophisticated and intricate fabrications of simply being physically close to other humans. And now? That has come crashing down.
The new developments and distributions of protective wear like facemasks, gowns, face shields and gloves – sure these businesses will boom for now. But they do not replace the millions of jobs lost by something that seems as simple as “people not playing football this year.” Companies that produce or sell cleaning supplies – they will do well. Same with the one-time use producers (hello plastic bag waste, how we haven’t missed you). Convenience companies like postable (never having to set foot in a card store or post office again), Blueland or TruEarth (never running out for cleaning supplies or laundry detergent again) – these are the things that will do well in a world in which people need or want to stay home, as far away from others as possible, whenever possible. In-home care, such as babysitters or nannies who can make promises on social distancing and aggressive hygiene themselves, will replace the caregiving of so many children who were used to going into daycare centers with their drool-sharing friends.
Isolating and insulating our families will be a thing, as it is now, 2 weeks from now, two months from now. Perhaps on and off for the next year or two. So, apps that make it possible to work from home (like Coda.io and Zoom) , socializing from home, shopping from home, and getting personal convenience from home (deliver me everything including all my meals) will do well, of course.
Our mental state about this?
Not so well.
We are social creatures who prefer beautiful decorated hotels and busy night clubs to desolate camping and RV trips, disportionately. But our options are going to be limited. A vacation may be in a tent in your backyard, a visit to grandma might be by RV. For that matter, so many will want to drive themselves – goodbye shared rides and commuter rails. The choice will be not to go, as ‘stay home and stay safe’ play on repeat in our heads.
What can we do about this crisis?
Paying attention to the science and data is most important. The people who know what they are talking about are the ones whose voices should be the loudest in your world – not necessarily the ones who have the ability to get in front of a television camera whenever they please. Listen to the expert, the doctors, the researchers, the people doing good, seeking solutions, the ones who have the data, information and skillsets to not only keep us safe in the now, but solve this problem for the future.
The hardest part about all of this (for most of the people I have talked to), has been acceptance. To know, understand, digest and accept that this is the new normal for now. And life after this? It will look different too. It’s hard to picture that, it is hard to imagine not going back to the way things were in just a few weeks, or months.
So many of us are at our breaking points – mentally, physically, emotionally. Relationships are strained, parenthood is tested, finances are ruined. Finding acceptance that this reality is in fact a reality and we need to bend around it, not the other way around – oof. But the sooner you can accept that for the next 12-24 months, this virus is a factor in running our lives and the world around us, the sooner you can find ways that make life work better for you. Whatever that may entail.
Seek a Means to an End
Being smart about your decision making – continuing social distancing, wearing masks, washing your hands, staying home and/or generally 6-10 feet away from other individuals, avoiding crowds, washing high-touch surfaces, avoiding contact with your face, avoiding leisure travel and crowded events — the list goes on and on. But it’s all meaningful, important, impactful. Continuing down this path will help us control the narrative here, and we need everyone to work together on this one. The virus cannot continue to spread, or at least as broadly or as quickly, if we are following protocols to control it. Otherwise, it controls us. Making these habits part of your everyday has been harder on some than on others – but if we are in it together and seek to make it part of our regular lives – we will be on the road to recovery sooner.
Use Your Abilities
If you are an employer who can keep workers home, working remote, do it. If your company can plan to allow workers back but can implement social distancing measures and additional ways to protect your employees otherwise, do it. If you are talented at something that is going to help us all here – do it. Research, data, information sharing – do it. Making people f-cking happy by posting silly videos on TikTok – DO IT. Whatever your skill set, experience, power, is right now – we need to for the good. Put it to use. This might mean letting go of other things – especially “the way things were.”
The world is going to be different. It is likely that a lot of us are going to need a new job, as the one we had before doesn’t exist anymore. Our children need to learn in a new way. We need to connect with each other in new fashions. Finding ways to bridge the gaps, fill the hole, and put your life back together in some manner is going to be incredibly difficult, and quite frankly, almost impossible for so many souls. Once you are able to accept that this virus has changed our worlds – the sooner you can start planning for your life and future anew. New ways to share childcare with your partner, new ways to live – like with family, new ways to shop, socialize, and simply, be. Find happiness, in some way, whenever possible.
Participate in the Solution
If widespread testing for COVID-19 or the antibodies for such becomes affordable and accessible, do it. If there are apps for you to have about contact tracing, in order to stop the spread, do it. If the experts in your area are recommending measures to protect your community, participate. Fighting against the greater good does harm to all of us.
We have to keep spending money. Buying things, paying people, making stuff. If you have the means to, do it. We need money to circulate, people to be employed (though many in new ways). Just because we can’t buy tickets to basketball games or concerts, or hold big birthday parties, or go out to dinner doesn’t mean the economy doesn’t need us to participate in it. If we try our best to continue to engage in the economy to the best of our ability (and for a lot of people that means – not a lot if at all…). So, if you are still being paid – pay your nanny, child care center, housekeeper, gardener, your bills, buy things, get take-out – continue on as smartly and feasibly as you can.
This is a time for us to come together. Do you best to share with your neighbors, friends and family. Share photos, stories, time together over Facetime and Zoom. Share laughs, jokes, tips on where to buy toilet paper. Share with those who are in need – food, water, blankets, clothing. Share joy, positivity, and hope.
Find Peace in the Future
This pandemic won’t last forever. As challenging as it is going to be, as destructive as it is going to be (honesty is the best policy here), this too shall pass. When you are knee deep in fear and despair, do remember that this will end. This will pass. This will be a distance memory at some point in time. So hold on. We’ll get there. For now, we are in this together, whether or not we are apart.