Maintaining a sense of sanity during a prolonged crisis is becoming a bit of a game amid the guidelines of Shelter in Place. For about a month now, I have been working mostly from the house, which itself is a distraction with my dogs underfoot and various streaming services at my disposal for background noise.
I’ve tried different Youtube channels of straight up noise — rain, low fi hip hop, birds chirping with farm scenery in the background and Beethoven symphonies to name a few — to keep my mind occupied without the usual office noises in my ear. I’ve been alternately typing and talking on the phone, while also slowly keeping up with household chores. At times I have been enlisted to help with the restaurant too as delivery driver and dishwasher extraordinaire.
Though I’m not out as much as I have been in the past, I’m out enough to avoid the full psychological effects of being stuck indoors. So chaos continues to determine my course for the day despite efforts to take it easy.
Even during the daily changes surrounding the crisis at hand, I find myself with bursts of being busy, then lulls where I am not so much. Yet time still marches forward, even if sometimes the days seem to drag on forever. Time is strangely fluid in the coronavirus crisis, where the weekdays blur with Saturdays and Sundays while the world is in various states of lock down.
People keep asking me when “things are going to get back to normal?” Well, let me ask one back: When was anything normal?
I view either question as one based on nostalgia for times in people’s lives when they felt they had more control over their routines, and not being reminded of constant threats posed upon their daily existence.
When inconvenienced like we all have been of late, people do not respond well initially then soon adjust to their new world order. This is what we are beginning to see in dribs and drabs as previous habits are replaced with new ones.
Meetings are now held over video or conference calls. Social hours are moving from bars to Google Hangouts. A culture already stuck on screens is becoming more dependent on their devices than ever before. The new fashion statement is going to come in the form of N95 masks — at least as a short-lived fad.
This experience too shall pass, though it is never easy to hear that in the midst of a crisis. We can all be armchair generals about how we would handle the COVID-19 outbreak, but in reality we forget that no matter the course of action taken it will be criticized and evaluated on all fronts.
Decisions made about how to reopen America for business are just as hard as the ones made in weeks past to close down. Yet from where I sit today, there’s no way to make that decision without more data. Case numbers are still going up, and people are still dying.
I’m not seeking to be alarmist, just realistic in that this outbreak is not over yet. Despite what our President wants, this is up to what we individually have to do to keep ourselves and others safe from real harm. Collective action on our part by following guidelines will do wonders for slowing down the spread of the disease, and is probably the best we can all do for now to bring the virus under a semblance of control.
I used to harp on people about the lack of long term thinking, on how we have to stop thinking of our existence here in terms or the next few weeks, months or maybe in terms of a couple of years. That may not be feasible in an emergency, but we’re going to have to begin to decide how this is going to rule our lives going forward.
This painful reminder of how long term planning can go horribly wrong is one where like everyone else I have to bite my tongue and wait to see what happens. There’s no way to determine a course ahead when events unfold so fast. We all must endure the roller coaster ride together.
I agree with the late, great Tom Petty who sang it best: “Waiting is the hardest part.”
But I hope everyone can take an example from Job, and maintain patience in the days ahead. Times will get better again, and we’ll continue forward as we always have. In what form that looks like might be out of our hands, but will definitely be shaped by what tools we use at our disposal.
People don’t like to admit it because it feels like one is taking advantage of a situation, but there can be opportunity amid a crisis. I look at the likes of actor John Krazinski (Jim from the Office) who is sharing positive news stories and getting celebrities together to help lift up spirits of individuals as an example of how that can be a good thing.
Without the crisis, would he have felt inspired to do some good in the world?
This situation doesn’t have to end on a bad note and leave sour grapes in our collective mouths. We can overcome and do better for ourselves by realizing that this is a chance for us to look at how we’ve been operating before this and decide whether individually we’re making the right life choices.
I have been taking a hard look in the mirror lately and wondering the same thing. Yet I know one thing for sure: we have no choice but to persevere, to be better than we were before. We can’t roll back the clock, so we better do what we can with the days we have now and the future ahead.