Living in a Pandemic
The Coronavirus Pandemic has changed the landscape of each our lives. The world has become a vastly different as evidenced when we venture from our homes as people are wearing masks and staying far from us. Grandparents visit with their families from afar and no one gets a hug. No one shakes hands in a formal greeting – we bump elbows or place one hand over your heart with a kind nod of your head. We must plan our trips to the grocery store and fill our carts for several weeks – gone is the ability to safely return on a moment’s notice if you find something was forgotten or need an ingredient for a dish. Doctor are diagnosing via computer since people over 60 are not permitted in the offices unless it is a dire emergency.
There is much talk and curiosity as to what our “new normal” will look like. It will, however, feel and be the new abnormal for a long time. For me personally, the 7 plus weeks of being under stay-at-home orders brought me back to the 9 ½ years I cared for my mother in virtual isolation as written in my book One Caregiver’s Journey. I am a veteran at living alone. I have not become depressed, bored or anxious because it is a life I once lived and have had little trouble readjusting to my former self. I have observed as my neighbors complain loudly and struggle when the cleaning ladies cannot come, department stores are closed, or their weekly social activities such as knitting and reading clubs or bridge parties are cancelled. I try to patiently listen to all the complaints and watch as people grow restless, depressed or stressed. It is hard to be empathetic or compassionate. I am happy to navigate to my kitchen, to prepare a meal quietly and am content to watch television, read or get in a walk. I have continued to workout up to an hour daily with online videos offered by my health club. Frankly, I might not return to my health club for the convenience and satisfaction I have found exercising alone at home. During my walks I have seen families pushing strollers, people in masks talking and laughing across driveways, kids on skateboards, dogs wagging, elderly people pushing walkers with a smile and then I realize that not everyone is struggling. These people are finding balance in an otherwise uneventful day during a national health crisis. They are enduring and finding ways to enjoy life.
I have cleaned closets, drawers and cleaned out my storage cabinet in the garage! It seems there are always small jobs to fill the time and make the clock go around. The day passes. It is important that we take the time to check in with friends or relatives and to spend time with whoever checks in with you. In our high-tech world, we do not have to rely solely on a phone, we can FaceTime, Skype or Zoom, for example. That special connection will relieve the isolated feelings and can even connect us to events such as birthdays, weddings or anniversaries when we cannot physically be together. Stay connected, we are in this together.
This has been a very difficult time for people who have lost a loved one. Those who have passed away in the hospital or nursing home, were alone. No visitors have been permitted in facilities. My friend’s mother passed away in a nursing home – they put her belongings in a box to be picked up on the front steps of the facility, her body was sent to the mortuary where she was cremated and the mortuary brought her remains to the cemetery to be entombed – all without her husband or son. If you knew anyone who died from the virus in a hospital it was the same pain for their family. If you know a first responder (police or fire) or a nurse working in an Emergency Room or Covid-19 unit, you will understand the magnitude of the pandemic and the toll it can take on the people who are described with the word hero.
I have been vigilant to follow the guidelines to wear a mask when going out to the store and wash my hands frequently. However, now the stay-at-home orders are lifting and people are going out in droves. It is springtime and we are a restless tribe. If I had to give any advice, I would say be vigilant of your surroundings, pay attention if people are or are not wearing masks and whether or not social distancing is possible. In my city, businesses are opening slowly. I haven’t heard of anyone who hasn’t complained they need a haircut – will your salon follow the recommended protocol? Will your restaurant, shopping mall, gym, or local merchant follow the rules or will you feel endangered? Everything will all look and feel different than it did in February before the pandemic.
Overall, I believe that we are a strong, compassionate people. Each of us are in varying stages of restlessness wanting to return to a more recognizable life. And while we must take care of ourselves, the true sign of personal strength is what we can do to lift another human being. This is evident daily as people volunteer to sew masks for those working at the local church, food bank or soup kitchen. Colleges are using high tech equipment to make face shields for hospitals and medical personnel. It is necessary to remember that we are in the midst of a crisis and many of our fellow humans are struggling but we will endure and prevail and we will emerge stronger. Be safe.