The funny thing about this crazy development of social distancing and societal quarantine is that… I’ve sort of been living this way since I left the corporate world at the end of 2017. For me, aside from my excessively fierce protection of my father’s safety and wellness (wearing a mask and washing my hands three times more often), not much has changed in our tiny universe.
If it weren’t for the very real threat that is lurking nearby and ready to pounce, it might feel as if the rest of the world was finally catching up to our grand discovery. If I could ignore the ‘why’ of the situation – the risk to mortality and the heartbreaking financial implications that come with it, I might be happy for those who may be closer to learning what I have learned… that we really can live simply and be joyfully content and peacefully happy, with less. Less shopping, less spending, less working, less eating out, less driving, less square footage, less stress.
Three times a day, I walk up the street to my parents’ house to ensure that all is well. I give Pop his pills, refill his cup, fix him breakfast, and if Mom isn’t up, I’ll start the coffee. The first visit is just before noon, as their sleep habits are off. I come back again around 5pm to see if Pop is hungry. Sometimes he is, and sometimes he isn’t. I don’t push it. I offer options, but if he is not swayed by an offer of a sandwich, chips and salsa, or a piece of cake, I do a quick rotation of small tasks, then walk back home.
Around 9pm, I head back over, and don my mask before entering. This time I stay a bit longer, as the routine has multiple tasks. I check his blood pressure and oxygen level, give him his pills (without the blood pressure elevator, if his numbers were good), prepare and serve his dinner (if he’s hungry), and then the dogs have their day. They each get their treats, Sunshine gets her pills with peanut butter, Tina gets to finish what’s left, I ensure there is a safe path to the bathroom for Pop (no dog toys to trip over), lock all of the doors, wish everyone a good night, and then step outside to walk home, having immediately removed my mask.
I haven’t had regular television in 15 years. I never see commercials, political ads, or the news. Except… when I go to my parents’ house. The news is almost always on. This isn’t a problem in the sense that we have differing beliefs, because gratefully, we are of similar values and minds. For me, the problem is simply that I am physically sickened by what is happening in our country, and I can feel my blood pressure rise every time the news proves that it really can get worse. While my Mom feels it is important to know what is going on, I don’t disagree, and yet… it feels physically impossible to torture myself with reality sometimes.
And yet, it is the news that informs me it is time to reach out to friends and loved ones and keep them close… from a distance. It is the news that alerts me to the probability there is more happening in some people’s lives than making their lives small and hunkering down. In my distant Tribe alone, we have one beloved who is a Physician Assistant for an outpatient clinic at a large hospital. She is now in charge of one of five Covid-19 Testing Tents in her city, and she is doing everything she can to stay safe and avoid taking something home to her family. Another one of our beloveds is a microbiologist, who is working in a lab to benefit our nation and her community. And another one of our beloveds, who has had a persistent cough and recent pneumonia diagnosis, is awaiting test results to determine if her illness is related to this virus (originally told it would take 72 hours, and now has been told it will take 7-10 days to get results). One of our beloveds was poised to visit us with his family from Japan, when all flights were cancelled. Together, we felt the disappointment and relief, to know our reunion would be delayed while they were being kept safe from current risk and chaos.
I don’t know how to begin to comfort those who are losing their jobs. When it happened to me twice before, the shock and sense of betrayal of forced freedom eventually led to something better than previously imagined. I can only hope for such an outcome for others.
Since last year, I have been supported by a tiny portion of my retirement savings through 72T, and I am choosing not to look at the losses in my portfolio. While I am sure it will recover in time, I really don’t know what this means for my future and my ability to remain fully present in caring for my parents.
What I have decided is that fear-based thought is detrimental to my well-being, and if I allow stress and worry to affect my health, I will not have the strength to keep my parents and myself healthy and safe while our nation’s healthcare warriors fight tirelessly to slay the beast.
It seems our grocery stores are starting to recover from the panic hoarding that recently occurred. My neighbor just texted me to share that our local grocery has “a crap load of toilet paper” this morning (ha!). I’m not going to rush out to buy some, because my parents and I have enough for now, and we want to be sure that it is there for those who need it.
And there’s the crux of this situation. How have we become a people who would choose to buy more than we need, keeping necessities from others? What is the psychological hole we are trying to fill by spending our hard-earned income on stuff we don’t need? I don’t mean the bulk buying, like our memberships at Costco which save money in the long run. After all, that’s why we don’t need toilet paper during the tp-apocalypse. But when I started living small, after leaving the corporate world 2.5 years ago, I realized just how wasteful my spending had become. Living on a quarter of my past income informed me that I really could live with less and be quite content. Ultimately, the human desire for more, more, more is what got us into this mess, where viruses carried by animals whose habitats have been stolen are finding a way into the lives of those who were not content with ‘enough’.
One article I’ve read was very informative on this topic:
Staying home and caring for my parents altered the size of my circle. My whole world revolves around a tiny section of my geographic location. I can walk to their house, and it is a short drive to the two grocery stores we frequent. Dad’s doctors are all a short distance from home, and we’ve been lucky that he hasn’t had too many needs to leave home since last summer, beyond regular check-ups and getting new glasses. So, this self-isolation thing we are facing now feels like our normal, with the exception that I am now insisting to do all of the shopping that Mom once handled herself.
The weird part is experiencing the world around us starting to calm and quiet. Where we live, traffic is a constant. Whether it be the main road that borders our neighborhood, or the major highway that cuts through it… our surroundings are nearly always inundated with multitudes of people in a rush to get somewhere. I remember how strange it was to experience silence after 9/11, when the skies and roads were desolate, as we cried together or alone for the unknown and all that had been lost. It wasn’t unlike the silence that comes with a storm curfew during hurricane season, as bands of chaos threaten to topple trees and spawn tornadoes, and we hold our breath until it passes.
But a two week stay-at-home order will begin in our county tomorrow night, and I’m beginning to imagine how surreal our days and nights will become. I suspect our world will get oddly quiet. I didn’t see highway construction to be listed as an essential service, so I’m curious to see if my house will be vibration free for a while, after years of constant work on this expansion project. I’m kind of looking forward to actual stillness.
The thing I’ve learned about silence is that it invites self-reflection. Since choosing this simple way of life, I have had the time to dive into old wounds and lift the source of suffering. Once on the surface, I could offer the light and love that it deserved, to bring healing. I have studied death and dying, and have made peace with the bringer of our mortality, and now find nothing to fear. I have nurtured a mindful practice of writing and centering with meditation and breath work. And now, I am conveniently in the midst of learning how to hold space – for myself, for my community, and next week, we begin learning more about how to hold space in complexity. That seems like divine timing, if you ask me.
So, perhaps, if you are finding that you have time on your hands without the regular distractions of typical daily living, you might consider going deep. Hold space for your frightened inner child, and offer that sacred being the loving support it has always longed for. In solitude, we are offered the gift of discovering that we really are stronger than we previously imagined. Don’t be afraid of the darkness. Be courageous enough to ask others to sit with you there. We may be separated for a while, but we are never alone. Speaking our truth in vulnerability is our super power right now. Don’t hesitate to reach for what you need. Someone else is sitting in their own darkness seeking purpose, and you might just be the light they need.
Interestingly, the tools that have become our escape mechanisms enabling us to disconnect from the real world, through computers and smart phones, now offer us what we need to visually connect with what is really important… our loved ones. Explore them! You can meet face to face through Messenger, Zoom, Skype, or 8×8, to name a few resources for free video conferencing.
If you are frightened or worried, I am holding space for you, and asking you to see that you are not alone. We are beginning to receive news of fatalities related to the viral reach in our own part of the world, and knowing someone who knows someone who knows someone… makes this spreading darkness finally feel real. One day soon, the degrees of separation could be zero.
Each day, I feel fear rise, and I honor it, then let it go. I offer my shadow self the same love and compassion I give the outward parts of my being. It is the one thing I can control, for now… how I respond to uncertainty. I can be of service to others by remaining present in this moment, while focusing on the unknowable future serves no one.
May you find peace in the cycle of seasons, which show us year after year how nature blooms and falls away, then blooms again. This season of cold discomfort will pass, and we will emerge stronger and better than before. It is the way of nature, and (to quote my Tribal Crone) we… are all just mammals.
Wishing you and yours safe and WELL during this surreal moment in our shared history. Thank you for walking (at a safe distance) this path with me.