Covid-19 and Living in the Time of… I Just.

If you listen to anyone who is experiencing a terrible situation (tornado, serious illness, job loss) any my-life-went-off-a-cliff moment, you will notice how often they say, I just wish, or, I just want… Suddenly, the tiniest, taken-for-granted things become the most important. Trauma concentrates our focus down to the essentials. In this time of Covid-19, we are living in the time of just.

Before the tornado: I’m so annoyed about the delayed delivery of my new furniture.

After the tornado: I just want to sleep in my own bed.

Before the pandemic: I want to run away from my life and spend ten days on a Caribbean island.

After the pandemic: I just want my old routine back. I just wish I could grab my usual coffee with friends.

We all go along living the big-picture life, and it’s natural, it’s what helps us dream and strive. We lose sight of the essence of our lives, the things that often make it truly worthwhile. Suddenly, with the pandemic, the things we took for granted, and gave us such pleasure, are being eroded—we are living in the time of just.  Maybe one good result of this worldwide crisis will be to reset our thinking and help us focus on what really matters.

So how do we come to terms with our new Covid-19 reality? In my adult years, I have experienced several of these my-life-went-off-a-cliff moments. Some were of my own making (moving halfway around the world), and some were thrust upon me. Through all of them, I learned a valuable life lesson: the quicker you can move through the various (to borrow a concept) stages of grief, the sooner you can start to adjust to your new normal. And trust me, you will grieve. You will grieve for your old life, for how it was, even when you hope and believe your old life will return, albeit in a different form.

As towns and cities around the world introduce various levels of restrictions, I see my social feeds filled with people desperately trying to adjust. Some are in shock and denial. This is crazy. I didn’t sign up for this! There’s no way I can be a prisoner in my house for weeks, perhaps months. Some are bargaining. I won’t go to work, but I still want to go to the bar, so I’ll go when it’s empty. Then finally resignation. I’ve given up, so now I plan to lie around in my PJs, watching penguin videos and eating peanuts. You’ll know you are coming out of the tunnel when you hit the acceptance phase. This is when you can start to reconstruct your life and look forward with hope.

One of the most positive ways to improve your outlook is to think of others—an approach that is counter to some of the emotions being stirred up currently. 

Some suggestions: 

  • When you do shop, buy a little bit more than you need and donate it to your local food bank. 
  • If you have regular service people whom you tip, nail technician, hairdresser, keep those tips aside, and if possible, send them to the person via Venmo, Zelle, Slide, etc. 
  • If you have a domestic worker who cannot come in, but your salary keeps coming, try to keep their wages aside.
  • If you are ordering-in food, get a little more and leave on the porch of an elderly neighbor. 
  • If you are going to the supermarket, call elderly/vulnerable neighbors and offer to shop for them too. They can leave money and a list in their mailbox. If you live in a secure setting with fences and walls, phone them and offer to shop on their behalf. 
  • If your favorite spa, restaurant, salon, etc. are forced to close, try to buy some of their gift cards online. They get the money, and you can use the cards when they reopen.

For most of the world (and probably for quite a while), Covid-19 will be our new normal. This is our time to accept we are all in this together. 

Stay safe, stay sane, keep your distance, wash your hands.

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