We’ve cooked more, slept more, spent more time with family, cleaned out junk drawers and storage closets (I haven’t but heard that many have), worked in our PJ’s, watched more netflix and read more books. We’ve gone virtual with our meetings, book clubs, birthday parties, doctors’ appointments, our kids’ schooling, holiday gatherings, and workouts. Maybe we’ve grabbed the guitar that’s been sitting in our closet and started strumming it again. Maybe we’ve found our way to a sketch book, a painting canvas, or a journal, and allowed ourselves some more creative freedom.
Maybe we’ve also laid in bed at night, praying for slumber, but remained a restless, wide-eyed observer of our fearful and looping thoughts, and maybe in the morning we’ve hidden under our covers and cried and stayed in bed longer in order to shorten the day. Perhaps we’ve drunk more wine, eaten more chocolate, or potato chips or both. As we’ve try to make sense of this altered life that we are living right now and embrace the collective positive shifts we’ve made to bolster the health of our society and subsequently our planet, we simultaneously grapple with unprecedented amounts of uncertainty, sadness, loneliness, boredom, anxiety, and so much loss—the loss of lives and livelihoods, and the loss of the life that we knew.
After a month of sheltering in place, we are different. We cannot be the same. And we won’t be. We will be both elevated and scarred by living through this pandemic. But for right now, we are uncomfortable. We are struggling to find the ground underneath us. Kids are losing their structure, their education, their important milestones, their food security and the security of what tomorrow will bring. Time has taken on a different shape. No matter how we try to structure our days, the inability to go to work, school, the movies, restaurants, the mall, the park…is throwing off our biorhythms and leading us to feel that one day simply melts into the next.
When I spoke with my rabbi looking for some guidance and comfort, he told me that there is something very important that we need to be paying attention to right now. Something that he hopes we all will take with us when we get to the other side of this. As we are not in control of this virus, we can no longer think that our wants and desires are centrifugal forces that are of the utmost importance. They are not. This virus doesn’t care that we want to go back to work, that our kids miss their friends and now actually want to go to school, that my son is missing his last months as a high schooler and will not attend his senior prom or graduation or have the anticipated closure as he transitions to his next chapter. We do not get to make these choices right now. All we can choose is how we handle ourselves within this cloud of uncertainty. And all of this points us toward what the rabbi feels is an important character trait that most of us are wrestling with right now—humility.
This virus has humbled us all. Connected us on the most human level. This virus does not decipher what color, religion, sexual orientation you are, how much or little money you have, who you vote for, or where you live. There is no outsmarting or outbidding this virus. Individually and collectively, this virus has brought us to our knees. As Brene’ Brown explains, we are in a collective experiment in vulnerability, and this newfound vulnerability mixed with large doses of humility is what the rabbi hopes we will not lose.
Who are we when our certainty and known structure in life is taken away? I wish I could say I have shown up every day the way I intended to when this all started and I was forced to close the doors of ModernWell and have my two adult children move back in the house to make us a family of six again–four of us working from home and two high-schooling from home. I wish I could say that I have stayed calm, steady, and strong and that I have not had many moments where anxiety, sadness and fear caused me to retreat to dark places in my mind or snap at my loved ones. But it is said that in a crisis, any underlying issues tend to rise to the surface. Because there is nowhere to hide. We are forced to stare down our fears and insecurities, and our dysfunctions within ourselves and within our families. And it’s hard. To sit in this discomfort and to find the blessings in ourselves and in others and in the life we are living right now, which is the only one we truly have. But we keep trying.
The collective hurt and fear is real but so is our deepening perspective, self-awareness, and connection to the common good. My hope is that this shared experience and newfound humility and vulnerability will stay with us and continue to boost our overall compassion for ourselves and one another. Please kind to yourselves and each other. Embrace the present and all its joys, uncertainties, and discomforts as we continue to hope for and build a stronger and healthier future.