Lately, I have to focus on keeping fear from being the biggest thing I feel, thanks to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Some days I’m good. Others, I feel like I’m fighting off a heavy fog of anxiety. This is bad, this virus and its rapid progression across the world. I know. We should all be worried. But I also know that I have to find a balance between responsible worry and sheer panic.
I could never have imagined living in such strange times, and how quickly things escalate. Just a month ago, Jack and I, along with four friends, left for a week’s vacation in Mexico. We’d been hearing news of the virus in China for several weeks, but it still seemed so far away and somewhat irrelevant to us. Looking back now, I realize how easily my mind can brush off such grim warnings. Media hype has become so common that my first reaction to most news is skepticism. I remember while packing my suitcase, questioning whether we should cancel and stay home. The vacation was fully insured and we could have received almost a full refund had we chosen not to go. But just as quickly as the question came, it was swept away. I knew plenty of others who weren’t canceling vacation plans, and no one else in our group appeared to be worried. And so we went. The airports were busy as ever. The resort was full, and while there were daily reminders of the spreading virus, our tropical and relaxing surroundings kept it from weighing heavy on my mind. Our vacation was lovely and life seemed to march forward unperturbed.
One week later, by the time we were back home, the virus suddenly had the country’s and my full attention. Had our trip been scheduled one week later, I don’t think we would have gone.
I’ve been working solely from home for the past two weeks and expect to continue to do so for at least another month. Maybe longer. Who knows? If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to expect the unexpected. I’m grateful that working from home was already an option. It means that I already had a comfy workspace set up at home, and I’ve long been familiar with logging in to the company network through the VPN and managing my workload away from the office. Lucy Pie keeps me company and seems to appreciate having me around all day long, though I worry how all of our pets will handle our transition back to normal workdays when the worst of this has passed. Fortunately for Lucy, I have the benefit of working from home whenever I like and have typically done so one day per week. I have space in the company’s office here in Minnesota, but since the rest of my team is in Wisconsin, it makes no difference to them where I work. I’m contemplating staying at home more regularly in the long run. I’ve begun to really appreciate the extra time and sense of calm I gain simply by not having to leave the house for nine or more hours a day.
Since the rest of my team is usually together in the same space, they are battling feelings of disconnectedness and loneliness. Our boss set up a daily team meeting to allow us some virtual time together. We can talk about work, or things completely unrelated. I struggled a bit to relate to her during my early days on the team, but it’s become very apparent to me now how hard our boss works to make sure we are all in good places. She’s hyper-focused on her team’s mental well-being. Even before all of this, she always made it a point to begin meetings by asking how everyone is doing. When something is off, she wants to help fix it. She’s interested in our personal lives and likes to hear about our families and pets. She’s big on mindfulness and even went so far as to buy a meditation app for each of us, which has been a godsend for me during these past few weeks. Having worked in the past for a supervisor who lacked any sense of compassion, I feel fortunate to have landed where I am. This pandemic has allowed me to be much more in tune with my team than ever before. Feeling disconnected is my norm. The daily opportunity to bond with the team has been a significant blessing for me.
I’m also grateful that a year ago, I quit my gym and joined an online fitness community instead. I’ve had all of this time to gradually build a supply of weights and other equipment. I’m already part of an amazing online community that encourages and uplifts one another on a daily basis. My daily morning workout has been a lifesaver in helping to manage stress and anxiety.
Being somewhat of an introvert, as well as a homebody at heart, I know that social-distancing has been easier for me to manage than most. One of my coworkers is an extreme extrovert, and this is really taking a toll on her. I try to call her often, rather than email or send an instant message. She’s made it clear that actually talking with others is a necessity for her.
I worry about my kids and my hubby. Somehow, all of their jobs have been deemed essential and none have the option to work from home. While I’m grateful that all are fortunate to continue earning a paycheck, there’s a part of me that would rather just pull them in under my roof and keep them safe with me. The world is going to be a very different place very soon. I worry about their financial well-being and alternately remind myself that nothing else matters except that they stay healthy. Jack has autoimmunity with the potential to develop into an auto-immune disease. His doctor is closely watching it but I worry about his increased risk. Our kids have youth on their side, though we’re quickly learning that’s no guarantee either.
We’ve supplied ourselves with groceries over the past couple of weeks, but are by no means hoarding. Thankfully, I always buy a Sam’s Club package of toilet paper and had just purchased one before the craze ensured that TP would become such a hot commodity.
I’m trying hard to focus on gratitude during these days of isolation. My house has never been cleaner and the laundry is always caught up. And quite honestly, over the past few years, I’ve had a constant sense of unexplained pressure. My kids are all grown and I expected to feel more relaxed, and yet I always seemed to feel as if I was falling short somehow. If I was keeping up around the house, I felt bad that I wasn’t putting enough energy towards relationships with relatives and friends. The pace at work has been almost frantic at all times. And the more I heard about others’ experiences eating at new restaurants, seeing movies, visiting fun places, the more I felt as if I was falling short if I was living a quieter existence.
If there’s one thing that’s become apparent to me, it’s that maybe I needed to slow down and lower my expectations. I’d become so embroiled in trying to keep up with everything and everyone else that I’d abandoned almost all of the things that fueled my own soul. During these quieter days, I’m reading again, listening to audiobooks, online sermons, worship music, and podcasts that nurture my mind. Jack and I have found a series to watch together (rather than him spending time in front of the downstairs television while I sit in front of the upstairs t.v.) I’m so grateful that we had a relatively mild winter. The snow is gone and the temperatures have been warm enough to get outside and go for a walk, something I haven’t done in a long time. My neighbor and I have been meeting up during our lunch breaks to walk together (a healthy distance apart) and breathe in some fresh air while enjoying a change of scenery.
Something that occurred to me this week is that while the outlook seems so dire, many people are coming together, working to keep spirits up and support one another in whatever ways are possible. While there will always be many divides in this country … and the world, I appreciate the way people are virtually locking arms and creating a sense of community. I know the worst is yet to come, but we have to do the best we can to focus on the positives while we ride out this storm.