While I find myself daydreaming a lot lately that I am walking on white sand waters, the irony is that the lockdown has actually reminded me of how we can all go on with so little.
Of course I write this now as one of the privileged who actually get a choice on the matter. I grew up poor and have worked my way hard to achieve some success in my career, so I know firsthand that for many of our marginalized, “little” means making do with what is passed on from a government amelioration program to get you by for the week. As a business owner, our company is faced with uncertain times as we continue to suffer daily losses from the abrupt closure of our Farmery restaurants—and though we have some income trickling in as we shifted to online deliveries, it is barely enough to get our salaries paid. What do we do about the employees who are running out of the salary and leave advances? To many, post quarantine life will have to go on its usual state, social distancing likely not an option in the daily public transportation commute, as businesses try to regain lost income and break even.
As we near the end of the seclusion period, many will still be scared to step out of their homes and go back to the daily grind. I know at the back of my pessimist mind that during a store visit I will be worrying about bumping into an asymptomatic person and in turn get infected—or worse, pass it on to my household. For those with pre-existing conditions, COVID posed a direct threat, but just as important could be the possibility of a mental illness pandemic as well, especially for those with underlying and unresolved problems.
While it is always best to treat oneself clinically for mental health issues as medication may be vital--for some, breathing into a paper bag could still work. Maybe we can start fine tuning our mindset by not counting the body bags on the news. It’s good to know how many have fallen ill and died, but in reality, if it did/does happen to you or someone you know, what can you do but go through the motions? Self-quarantine, observe your symptoms, go to the hospital, and pray for the best—without wanting to sound heartless. While keeping informed watching TV and reading reputable online media is half the battle for public safety and health precautions, our mind health should also maintain a top priority as panic attacks and cabin fever anger the world.
In doing so, try not to romanticize what used to be humdrum. Missing bumper-to-bumper traffic? You may think it’s sexy now, but try and remember the times you’d drive through what seemed like an endless parking lot. While you probably “should have gone on that ________ binge one last time,” remember that while you are alive, life goes on, chances are more than second, and what may be an insurmountable mountain now will eventually turn into a molehill.
Establish a daily routine that doesn’t involve just lounging in your PJs. Shower, learn a new skill, repurpose leftover food, exercise, clean your home, organize files, catch up on missed work, video call with your family and friends, join a bible study group or fundraisers, sleep/nap like the baby you’ve always wanted to go back to being, and if you can afford it, shop online and support small businesses. It is with a clear and renewed mind and surroundings that we can approach the future with more confidence and happiness. Perhaps that acquired skill leads to a new career?
Congratulate yourself on small victories, like actually having stayed home and helping flatten the curve. For those who are used to at least 45-hour work weeks and being active, that was no small feat. It has messed up our systems and comfort zones, and we may very well be feeling useless and anxious as to what the future holds as far as our incomes and tenure. But maybe there is some respite in being in the same boat with the rest of the world?
For those of you with marital or relationship woes, maybe now is not the best time to be a statistic in the body count for Corona divorce? Nor the time to finally express your feelings to a spoken-for coworker? I feel like this deserves a post on its own, because a lot of our emotions are going haywire, and we are fixated on that ‘it’s now or never’ proposition that this virus seems to be pushing us towards. However, seeking pleasure in any form does not always equate to long term happiness, so execute your decisions with trepidation.
You can still try to read a few books. Digital, borrowed from a friend who earmarked some steamy pages, doesn’t matter what format. Ameliorate your vocabulary, and finally have another vital use for Siri. “Siri, what is ‘tenacious?’” It is YOU, as you pore through some Dickens or Austen. I heard somewhere that reading makes you smarter? Can’t hurt to be that.
I wanted to quote “The Paradox of our Age/Time” from “Words Aptly Spoken” by Dr. Bob Moorehead, former pastor of Seattle's Overlake Christian Church. This was reportedly published in 1995 as a collection of prayers, homilies, and monologues used in his sermons and radio broadcasts:
The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.
We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.
We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.
These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.
Remember, spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever. Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side. Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.
Remember, to say, “I love you” to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you. Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak, and give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.
P.S. Heartfelt gratitude to our frontliners who risk their health and sanity everyday for the greater good. You are our heroes.