We’re all in this together. You see the phrase everywhere and it’s comforting to know that everyone else on our globe is experiencing the same pandemic. We are all doing our best to ride out the waves of this Covid-19 storm. But are we really in this together? Our individual situations can make staying afloat feel very different.
Some of us are diving in and surfing on top of the biggest waves, perhaps even learning new skills. Some of us are swimming freestyle, slicing through the swells with our heads down, stroke after stroke, exhausted but determined to make it through the tumultuous waters. Some of us are secure in fortified boats, or even yachts, with stocked kitchens, life vests, nowhere to go and lots of leisure time on our hands. Some of us are in leaky dinghys, tattered and bruised, only managing to hang on by sheer will. And some of us are experiencing all of the above at different times, depending on our moods. And then there are those of us whose lives have and will be lost at sea, unable to resurface for air once the waves hit, unable to be comforted by family and friends.
Although sharing my thoughts helps me process, and hopefully the words resonate with someone else, I have had my hands suspended over my keyboard for weeks, unable to decide what to write. Because although we all share love and care about one another, I am sensitive the the fact we are all experiencing this same pandemic in very different ways. And perhaps my thoughts and words are not what people want to hear.
What do I say that will comfort my friends who have recently lost their loves ones and are mourning alone? What do I write that might ease friends who are ill right now? How about to the friends who are consumed with caring for sick loved ones? What do I say that might help friends whose quarantine experiences are completely overwhelming for any number of reasons? What do I write that might resonate with friends who would give anything to be able to shelter-in-place but instead must work, exposing themselves to the virus? What do I say that will support friends who may be in dangerous quarantine situations? What do I share with friends whose family members are unreachable and whose fate is out of their control? What do I say that might comfort those friends who are not sure how they are going to pay next month’s bills? What do I write that might console people who have lost the opportunity to enjoy their much-anticipated life events, like proms, graduations, or bar mitzvahs? What do I say that might resonate with those who are healthy, feeling grateful, and perhaps even taking advantage of a slower, more relaxed schedule?
I realize that it is so important to me that I not offend anyone or make assumptions about others’ current experiences in this pandemic, that I have been holding back from expressing myself at all. I can only hope that it’s true that you can’t say the wrong thing to the right person.
I find that I, as many others do, feel pressure to live a purposeful life, to give back to the world in a meaningful way, proud that I am living a fulfilled life. This feeling sucks right now. Not only do I need to manage this extraordinary time in my own unique way, but I have to listen to my inner critic telling me that I’m not living up to its expectations. Throughout the years I’ve wondered how I would respond to different challenging times and can’t help feeling like I’ll be defined by my actions or inaction.
But when I can look at the situation objectively, removing my self-involved thoughts, I know that we will not be defined by how industrious we’ve been. We are not being judged. We will have done what we needed to do, just by surviving. There is no need to be thriving. At the end of the day, when we finally emerge from the stormy seas and are lying on the beach, gasping for breath, looking around at the post-pandemic world for the first time, it will not be important if we barely showered or stuck to our same morning routine. It will not matter if we became an expert in a new skill or had spent our time watching Netflix. What we will all be compelled to do is to seek out our loved ones who we’ve been waiting to see (and, is it possible, hug?) We will all be more resilient, having faced this crisis in our individual ways, using our own personal instincts, abilities and skills. We will all be wiser, having learned our own lessons, that will stay with us as we continue our lives.
Right now I am navigating the choppy waves of this pandemic by feeling grateful for everything that is going right in my life right now, because I am very aware that at any minute this could change. There is this cloud of illness and potential death hanging over our heads. The anticipatory anxiety of a life that can change on a dime, at any minute, is causing me to live very much in-the-moment. If a family member or close friend gets sick, I know my life will transform. If I get sick, life in this home and for my family will change. I know that the mundane things that I do these days are luxuries. I am not yet saving the world. I am not yet honing a talent. I am, however, appreciating my simple walks around the block with my daughter more than ever – each one creates a new memory for us and has a different flavor. I am appreciating a bubble bath like it’s an exotic vacation. I appreciate being able to read a book or watch a show. I appreciate the ability to cook and eat in the kitchen instead of being isolated in my bedroom. I appreciate, counting backwards, that the trip to the market didn’t get me sick. I appreciate every time I interact with my parents. I try not to take any of it for granted. I don’t want to look back to think, “Wow, I didn’t realize how good I had it and how carefree I was able to be.” I do realize. And I try not to feel guilty for not being in more dire straits.
So what do I say to those who are having very different experiences? I say that I love you and I care about you, as you navigate this very challenging time in your life. I am humbled by people’s vulnerability as they post publicly how overwhelmed they are, and I’m lifted by the supportive feedback. I am impressed by those who are caring for others in the home or out of the home. I share love with and learn from those who are ill and appreciate that they’re sharing their journey toward recovery. I understand and still adore those of you who don’t have the energy to respond to a text or phone call. I thank those who share inspirational thoughts and funny posts. I am here for you. I can use the energy that I still have, to send you healing energy. I am here to laugh with you – let’s get those endorphins going. And I am here to listen to you and to cry with you. I may not be able to touch you, but I can be with you. And I know that when I need it, you will be here with me. We are all in this together.