First things first, my friends – a little disclaimer. This post is not to belittle anyone’s experience with the pandemic thus far. It is simply my way of bringing to the forefront the power of positivity and the opportunity we have been given to find lessons during this daunting time.
Covid-19 is a global enemy that doesn’t target race, socioeconomic status, gender, or religion, and it is certain to be a long-term disruption with far-reaching consequences. Not since 9/11 or the 2008 Subprime mortgage crisis have Americans lived through such a life-altering event. Like those two tragedies, it too will destroy lives, disrupt markets, and lead to permanent shifts in power – both economic and political. I think it’s fair to say that our world will never be the same again. 2020 will most likely signify a year that changed human history.
But as a sound believer in the power of the human spirit, I believe that, like with all crises, we have been presented with a choice: buckle under the pressure, or rise above.
This leads to the interesting question, has Covid-19 given us the opportunity to rise to the occasion, grow as a society, and possibly even reinvent ourselves?
As a mom, I lie awake at night struggling with my own fears about how the momentous consequences of this pandemic will affect the wellbeing of my three children, one teen (16), and two adults (18 and 22). Amidst my panic, however, I am reminded that my attitude towards it is essential, as it will set an example to them. The CDC reports, “Children and teens react, in part, on what they see from the adults around them. When parents and caregivers deal with the COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children.”
So I have decided not to succumb to hysteria and fear. Instead, I will change my mindset and attitude, and continuously search for meaning in this pandemic.
It could be argued that there are a few similarities between Covid-19 and the Holocaust, antisemitism, and intrinsic evil at Auschwitz. At the very least, both are symbols of terror and scars on human history.
Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl searched for the meaning after his experience as a prisoner in German concentration camps. In his best-selling memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning, he explained that he survived by finding personal meaning in the experience, which gave him the will to live through it. He wrote, “What man needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.” He believed that once we find meaning in any situation, even the most devastating, we are then able to find fulfillment.
Frankl’s horrific experience at Auschwitz taught him that a positive attitude brings a positive result. He wrote, “everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” The theory that we are all able to choose our response to a given situation reminds us that a fundamental change in our attitude can also positively change our lives.
Admittedly, consciously shifting our attitudes is an abstract idea that requires a great amount of effort. This is especially true during our current situation because we are constantly bombarded by its negative aspects. We can not turn on the TV without agonizing about what is and what’s to come.
These are trying times, but as humans, we have the right to choose how we will respond to them.
I don’t think anyone could ever call the coronavirus a blessing. There is too much loss and permanent devastation for that to be true. But when we strip it down to its core, we may find that even a situation as daunting as COVID-19 can provide very important lessons.
Which leads me to ask myself, what can I take away from this experience?
On my search for the silver lining, I have found the following 5 benefits and lessons:
1. STRENGTHENED FAMILY BONDS (including pets!)
This experience has given me more time to spend connecting with my family. I have had the opportunity to go on long walks with my 18-year-old son, Teddy, every single day, which is something I never seemed to make time for before the quarantine. This has been very special for both of us. I have also had time to work with him on specific independent living skills. Somehow I never carved out enough time during the day to work on doing laundry or cooking a simple meal, but having a grasp on these skills is crucial for him now that he is an adult and wants to live as independently as possible in the future. We have also had the time to sit down and watch movies and YouTube videos, which is something that I know he really enjoys, but I never allow myself to do (there’s usually too many chores to be done, and not enough time to do them!).
I also feel blessed that my high school junior is home because it has given us ample time to laugh, talk, hang out, and connect. He’s almost 17 but I still love being able to take care of him, and I look forward to cooking his favorite meals and even doing his laundry. I know that my time with him is dwindling, so being afforded this opportunity has been a blessing. Because my oldest has already spread her wings and flew to the University of Oregon, I am very well aware of how precious each moment with our children is.
Having my daughter out of state has been very challenging for me during the quarantine. It’s times like these that I most want for her to be close, to watch over, nurture, and protect. This was the first year ever that we have been apart for my birthday, so I spent a good portion of it crying and missing her. But, I know she’s safe, happy, and healthy, and that’s all that matters right now. Also, since she’s quarantined as well, I can pick up the phone at all hours of the day to check on her and talk. It’s not perfect, but it’s something.
My husband’s job is deemed essential, so he has been working throughout this time. But when he comes home, I’m not stressed or rushed, which gives us time to relax and sit down together to talk over a glass of wine before dinner each night.
I’ve also enjoyed long phone calls with my parents, family members, and friends. I haven’t seen my mom since the quarantine started 3 weeks ago, and I really miss her, but I have seen my dad a few times and that’s a blessing. This has been a good reminder of how much I truly value my relationships with my loved ones, and human connection in general.
I have also been appreciative of the extra time I have to spend time with my 4 dogs. I’m usually not home very much during the day, and even though they have each other, the run of the house, and a big backyard to play in, I always feel guilty leaving them. I can see how delighted they are that I am home all day, and that makes me happy, because they are my family, too.
An added plus – because it’s been proven that petting a dog helps reduce stress, being around them more means I am better able to cope with this challenging time.
2. A GREATER SENSE OF COMMUNITY
I have to admit, I live in a neighborhood where many people stay to themselves. There are no block parties or community gatherings, and there’s no going to the neighbor’s house to borrow a cup of sugar. Instead, there are many in my community who judge others by what they have, and not by who they are. Unfortunately, living here for the past 18 years has felt like a game of “survival of the fittest”. But I’m tired of playing that game, which is why my husband and I are looking forward to moving as soon as we are able.
But something has been different within the last few weeks.
On my walks with my son every day, most people who have never given me a second glance have waved hello as we walk by. Some have even asked how we are doing, and to take care. I recently made a story on Instagram about how difficult it has been finding gluten-free foods for my son during this time, and the next day, there were gluten-free cupcakes at my door. That same neighbor (who’s always been one of my favorites) also offered us some gluten-free flour and her bread maker to use. An angel from above.
Many members of my community have also put bears in their windows as a sign of solidarity. I haven’t seen too many homes with Christmas lights, but at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if I begin seeing more.
These are not just blessings, they are miracles!
And I know this is not going on just in my neighborhood. I have a friend who goes to the store as soon as it opens to buy supplies – not for herself, but for her friends and family that are unable to do so for themselves. Another friend of mine regularly sends me uplifting videos and funny memes, all in an attempt to provide some much needed levity to this experience.
Ordinary Americans are showing incredible kindness and generosity during this time. Just turn on the evening news to hear numerous heart-warming stories of American philanthropy. It is clear that our society is woven together and sustained by ordinary people, such as grocery store employees, medical professionals, construction workers, and truck drivers. These are the people who are making life possible during this time, not the celebrities, politicians, or corporate CEOs.
We live in a polarized world, but I’m left wondering, could the coronavirus change that?
3. A DEEPER APPRECIATION FOR ALL THAT I HAVE
Not for one moment during this pandemic have I thought about what I don’t have. On the contrary, I have spent a lot of time thinking about all that I do have. It is always my daily intention to live my life in a state of thankfulness for my many blessings anyway, but this experience has deepened that gratitude.
This is true for the big things, like the gift of life, my family, and our health, but it’s also true for the little things. Never have I ever been more appreciative of having enough food to eat, a warm house to live in, and beautiful clothes to wear.
I’ve also had a greater appreciation of living in Northern California. While many throughout the country are unable to go outside because of the weather, there hasn’t been one day when the weather here has precluded me from going outside, exploring the many hiking trails in my neighborhood, and enjoying the nature around me. Now, does that make the ridiculously expensive price of our homes here worth it? Well, I’m not so sure about that…
I’ve used the phrase many times before, but I have never truly understood the meaning of the saying, “it’s the small things” before this pandemic.
4. REST AND REJUVENATION
I think it’s fair to say that I am somewhat of a “Type A” personality. I’m highly focused on my goals, multitask constantly, and truly dislike wasting time. For these reasons, I usually feel guilty every time I sleep in. Even on my many sleepless nights (hello, insomnia), I still wouldn’t allow it. As a mom, my attitude has always been that there’s just too much to get done in a day to waste time sleeping in! But our current situation has helped ease my guilt and stress about sleeping in because there’s nowhere that I need to rush to in the morning. While I still have many nights where I am wide awake for hours, now I can make up for that deficit by sleeping in. It’s been remarkable how much better I’ve felt after allowing myself just a little extra sleep each day. And, because sleep can boost our immune systems, there’s no better time to do more of it.
Now I am also afforded more time for self-care. I have time to meditate, read, write in my gratitude journal, and soak in a bubble bath for as long as I want. Having the opportunity to focus on my personal wellness – emotional, physical, and spiritual – has allowed me to rethink my priorities and develop a truer understanding of what really matters to me at this time in my life. Before the pandemic, my days always moved so fast that I’d be too exhausted to take the time for this kind of internal work, so I am deeply grateful for this opportunity to do so.
Slowing down my fast-paced life has also meant that I have been able to work on projects that I have been meaning to get to, and complete tasks on my “to-do” list. This brings me peace and a sense of accomplishment. There’s nothing better than crossing something off your list!
5. AN OPPORTUNITY FOR SOCIETY TO REINVENT ITSELF
I have to admit that it initially crossed my mind that maybe the worldwide coronavirus is God’s judgment on mankind. I immediately thought of stories such as Noah’s Ark, where God wiped out a society of sinners.
I was comforted by Pope Francis’s meditation on the meaning of the COVID-19 pandemic and its implications for humanity. He said that the pandemic is not God’s judgment, but rather, a call for us all to live differently. Addressing God, the pope said, “it is not the time of your judgment, but of our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others.” The pope believes that our current situation forces us to see that God is calling us to love more and live differently.
While we probably aren’t going to face a Noah’s Ark level of destruction, I think it can be argued that we, as a society, have been lured away from what truly matters and have not tended to our ailing world.
Perhaps the lesson learned from the virus is that it may be time to reinvent ourselves, rethink what is truly important, remedy our ways, and then adjust our routines so that we can collectively make this world a better place.
With challenges come new opportunities for growth. And, many positive changes have already occurred, proving that in the middle of a crisis, many people will rise to the occasion and do what they can to help others. That, I believe, stripped down to its core, is the true character of the American people.
We live in a polarized world, but I’m left wondering, could the coronavirus change that?
I believe everything happens for a reason, and have made it a practice in my life to look for the silver lining in all experiences that I have, no matter how difficult.
Over the years I have learned that attitude is everything. It is the catalyst to rising above the many challenges life throws our way. None of us ask for hardships and pain, but our response to trying times can make all the difference. And, with the right attitude, we can find unexpected benefits and lessons.
The coronavirus seems to be unstoppable. It is devastating, and has already had catastrophic consequences. But, on its face, it is a temporary moment in time.
The lessons learned, however, are lasting.
What will you take away from it?