I can read the headlines on the news and skim through the endless posts on social media and still remain disconnected from the reality and the world that we are living within. I can speak to friends and family (virtually or otherwise) and process what is happening – but still remain distant from my own understanding. The antidote – my antidote – is coming back to pen and paper so that I am able to feel, express, and reflect whatever is happening on my own terms.
This is nothing new; I have always, always felt more at peace when I can write and take time for myself. Such is life as a writer. Yet, creating and protecting this time is not always at the forefront of my response to life’s occurrences.
Chelsea and I have been self-quarantined for over twenty days. Prior to any state or federal guidelines and regulations issues in light of COVID-19, we were not feeling well and took it upon ourselves to remain home as a precautionary measure. One might think that in twenty days I would have had plenty of time to wrap my mind around the state of the world, however, if I can be honest, there’s no linear process of how to understand the fact that we are in the middle of a global pandemic.
Until I read this article from the Harvard Business Review on the role of grief and COVID-19, I was unable to name the undercurrent that I was actually feeling: grief.
Loss, change, death, illness, scarcity, and uncertainty make the perfect recipe for what the world is processing right now. Once I could recognize this strange, casting shadow as grief I felt more free to sit with the larger uncomfortability of what it means to stay at home and “do my part” at this moment in history.
My grief lays heavily in the fact that our communities won’t be the same once the dust settles. People will get sick. People will die. Businesses will close. Many will never re-open. As I try to come to terms with the changes in my own little world, I am quick to recognize that the reason I am working/studying/working out/doing absolutely every single task from home is because a virus is spreading and harming people around the world.
This is a huge deal – and while I can appreciate efforts to remain positive and find the inspiring stories that always arise from deeply challenging situations, it is also okay to grieve and it is also okay to be sad about what is here, and what is ahead. This situation is not normal and so a “normal” response does not fit into this paradigm.
I have the privilege of job security, financial security, food security, and health. Many, many others here (and abroad) do not. There is an inherent inequity here. I spoke with an old friend from Rwanda last weekend. Sputtering out Kinyarwanda phrases that I can remember felt like riding a bicycle for the first time in a long while – rusty, but embedded deeply in memory. She shared that so far, her family has remained healthy. She was quick to note, however, that food shortages are on the rise, and it’s possible they wouldn’t have a consistent supply of food. Food concerns are often on the forefront of her agrarian, rural community, but the situation is far more dire in light of the pandemic. Together, we could connect in what was happening, but I felt far from here – not just physically – but in social location. My ability to cope with the pandemic is in a very different place than hers. This isn’t just the case with a person who lives thousands of miles away; this is happening here, too.
It is interesting to reflect back on the national or global milestones that have framed my lifetime: September 11th, Hurricane Katrina, the global recession in 2007, and the earthquake in Haiti. In all of these, there is always good to come. After all, I am fundamentally an optimist, and so I look for these stories when heartbreaking situations occur. I have already seen this happen with COVID-19. Example after example reminds us of the human spirit and the unity we can find when things feel that they are ripping at the seams. So, I hold onto this and believe in this.
And, I continue to honor my feelings, too. I continue to sit in the discomfort of feeling helpless. I continue to recognize how fortunate I have it right now. I continue to think of, pray, and honor the people who are combating this virus on the front lines. I grieve the loss our community will face – and communities will face around the world – and I try to be there for myself and my friends, family, and colleagues as best as I can.
Upon review, my quarantine writings in my journal reveal no pieces of sage wisdom to share, other than to hold close to the ones you love. Check in on your family members. Drop off food (keeping physical distance) to those that need it most. Support local businesses. Be gentle and kind to yourself. Find some sunshine wherever you can. Laugh when possible. Watch Tiger King. Read the news – but mindfully. Reflect. Grieve. Cry. Hope. Find resources to help those that are out of work.
Someday, I will tell my children about what it was like to live in a time such as this. I want to be able to share that story with honesty, humility, grace, kindness, and authenticity. I want to be able to say that my eyes – and my heart – were open. I want to be able to say that I did what I could and that I helped others as I was able. I want to be able to say that I was real and didn’t hide how I really felt. I want to be able to say that I watched and participated as the world come together and figured this thing out.
Here’s some resources for supporting our community: