I don’t recognize the world anymore and I’m trying not to be anxious about it. News headlines and press conferences and speeches made by leaders are making me feel like I’m in a Black Mirror episode. This COVID-19 pandemic has infected us in more than one way, turning us into a panicked, gloved, masked people who toilet-paper hoard. Who are we anymore?
I went for a walk yesterday evening, desperate to get out of my house and move my body, and I felt the alienation in the way passersby casually moved over to the next sidewalk before our paths could cross. Am I being paranoid or are they really trying to keep that six-feet distance? But from me? I’m not the virus. (Am I? Or maybe I am. Maybe we all are, and that’s the point.)
Then I found myself doing the same thing. I turned in the opposite direction when I heard a person cough lightly up ahead of me as they came out of their car. Nope, not today, and away I went. We’ve become afraid not only of this thing that we don’t understand, but of each other.
We’ve never been good with the unknown. We humans thrive on structure and predictability (well, most of us, I think). We always want answers, proof, assurance. All these things bring us comfort, much like the comfort a baby feels when she knows her mother is near.
But our sense of security and normalcy have been interrupted, watered down into strange days that pass into strange weeks. We’re not making any plans and we’re worrying about the ones we did make long ago that now sit there on our calendars, just floating in an unsure not-too-distant future, reminding us of a time where we could schedule something weeks in advance, so casually, so confidently, so… normally.
These last couple of weeks have been unsettling and jarring, and even though I’ve been loving the Coronavirus memes and jokes (keep them coming please), and enjoying the break from commuting, I know there have been many people around the world who have felt the jaws of this pandemic in a very real and tragic way. And my heart goes out to them.
I’m an introvert, so time spent at home and to myself is more of a life line for me than a challenge. However, this forced home-bound situation we’re finding ourselves in is even making me feel a little people-deprived and stir crazy.
Mostly though, it’s making me reflect on just how much we rely on each other and the many communities of which we are a part, in ways we don’t really think about. There’s so much we took for granted. The hugs we give friends, the spontaneous meet-ups, the birthday party or other celebration we plan because we want to be surrounded by people we like and love—all these things that came so easily and that felt so simple are just not so anymore. My parents aren’t a plane ride away anymore.
And really it wasn’t our fault that we took these simple joys for granted. I’d argue it’s in our nature to not actively appreciate or recognize what we have until it’s gone. And perhaps it’s impossible to be constantly appreciative. Perhaps we need strange and scary moments to shake us awake a little, from time to time (just not a pandemic please).
Yet through all this, we are doing what we do best as humans. We are adapting. In this time of isolation, of uncertainty, we are finding ways to connect and make each other laugh.
We’re playing music and singing songs to each other on our balconies, creating obstacle courses in our living rooms with pillows and cups so our kids can exercise and play, and so we can be kids with them again.
We’re Skyping, Face-timing, Zooming, Whatsapping, and whatever other video mechanisms are out there- ing to see each other, speak to each other, and tell each other that hey, we’re still here.
Through all this, we haven’t stopped believing that this will end. We haven’t stopped loving. And maybe after this becomes a chapter that we will dog-ear to tell our kids about when they’re older, we’ll love differently because of it.
Maybe we’ll hug each other next time for a few seconds longer. Book that flight to see that friend or family member that we’ve been putting off for years, because life. Maybe we’ll splash in the public pools with a little more glee and dance a little more freely at the next party we go to.
Maybe we’ll love our bodies better too. Maybe we’ll go out for more walks or take up running (because social distancing has made us want to run from the walls of our homes) or maybe we’ll be more attune to our health: drink more water, make a doctor’s appointment we’ve been avoiding, start taking vitamins, stop eating foods that make us feel less than good, sign up for our first 5K, or start going to therapy.
Who knows what we will be like after this is over. Who knows if we’ll move on to the next chapter and just, move on. Forget. Get on with life and continue with our old habits, our old familiar, comfortable ways. Netflix and numb.
Whatever happens, I just know that this whole experience has shown me that we do love each other, even though we have a shitty way of showing it sometimes. Small businesses are missing us right now. Parents are missing schools. College students are missing classrooms and campus events. Athletes are missing the roar of the stadium, the rush of the game. Museums are missing the steady flow of footsteps. Concert venues are missing music. And loved ones across lands and seas, and even mere streets, are missing each other.
All this missing I equate to loving.
And sure social media is great and has its pros, especially now, but I hope this experience of being physically a part because we have to reminds us that togetherness and connection and community in real life are infinitely more valuable than a tag on a post or a text convo that tapers off with “lol.”
Strange times, indeed, and stranger times ahead, probably.
This virus may be mutating and spreading rapidly, but let’s not forget, we hold our own powers too. In our ability to evolve and adapt and keep getting up. In our ability to love fiercely and endlessly, and spread that love—and hope and strength and support—rapidly.
In the end, history has proven that we are resilient. The courageous and inspiring stories always outlive and outshine the stories of fear.
Many stories will come out of this time, but I hope the overarching theme from those stories are not of fear. I hope they’re of love. I hope the story is of how we, the world, stepped up together to fight off fear because we love each other (except the toilet paper hoarders, they don’t love anyone but themselves apparently).
I hope the stories are of how families spent time together, learned something new about each other. I hope they’re of the heroism of the people on the front lines (thank you) and the resilience of people who overcame challenges that seemed insurmountable.
So yes let’s continue to socially distance for now to stay safe, but in the process, let’s also continue to love and show each other just how creative we can be in doing so. We’re in this together.