They say every cloud has a silver lining, and I believe that is true. We all know how much damage this pandemic has brought, so there’s no need for me to rehash that, especially since I believe we’re all on “negative news overload” these days. But I have learned a few things from this situation, and some of those lessons will serve me well long after this whole mess is over and done with.
For one thing, I will never again let my house be without a month’s supply of disinfectant, a freezer full of food, and tons of toilet paper. Before 2020, I thought that the way to prepare for a natural disaster was to have an adequate supply of flashlights, batteries, water and, if at all possible, a generator. If a snowstorm was predicted, I added bread and milk to that list. But this year, I’ve learned that the way to react to an new virus is to rush out and buy all the toilet paper I can cram into my shopping cart, as long as I leave room for a container of sanitizing wipes.
I’ve discovered that wearing a face mask isn’t as uncomfortable as I had thought, especially once I found some that fit right. (I’m not sure why I thought they’d be “once size fits all,” since faces certainly aren’t.) And as an added bonus, I’ve learned that when you’re a woman of a certain age, a face mask can hide a whole lot of things. Suffice it to say that I don’t have many wrinkles on my forehead, so really, a face mask isn’t such a bad look for me. If I could just get one that comes with an anti-aging cream on the inside of it, I’d be all set.
I’ve learned that politicians aren’t afraid to take advantage of a bad situation in order to get free publicity, especially during an election year. I suspect that most of the daily press briefings we’re seeing will last at least until November, even if this virus doesn’t. I’ve learned that some people don’t believe in following the rules, no matter how dire the situation happens to be. I already knew that many of us have a hard time listening to different opinions, but I’ve learned that when people are frustrated and afraid, their levels of intolerance can skyrocket. And since the things we say and do now are going to be remembered for a long time, it’s best to choose wisely.
But the most important thing I’ve learned is how much of what we think and feel during a crisis comes from our own particular situation and the circumstances we and our loved ones are in. As the saying goes, “We’re all in the same storm, but we’re not all in the same boat.” The pandemic and its quarantines are hurting everybody, but in different ways and to different degrees. Some of us are on a big ocean liner, barely feeling the waves. Others are in a tiny rowboat with no oars, being tossed around in the water and having no idea how, or if, we’re going to survive this. And most of us are somewhere in between those two extremes.
So at the risk of sounding like a broken record, all I can say is this: now is the time to be gentle with ourselves, and accepting of our emotions. It’s the time to be tolerant of others and to think before we speak, post, or act. It’s a time to be brave, even when facing very real fears. Because when we’re moving toward an uncertain future, as almost all of us are, one of the few things we know for certain is that kindness, compassion and wisdom helps. It always has, and it always will.