COVID-19: The Biggest Villain

So, what’s going on in the world? Anything fun happening? Any big plans over the next few weeks?

Oh, right, I forgot. COVID-19. It’s here, and it’s absolutely messing with life as we know it.

COVID-19 is the big villain in the room, and we’re all dealing with it in our own ways. Some of us have been laid off or put on furlough or forced into situations where hours have been drastically reduced, others of us work in healthcare and are on the frontlines of the outbreak every day (thank you, thank you, thank you). Parents of school-aged children have been thrust into the role of teacher, sometimes while also trying to fulfill their regular work responsibilities, except from at home. Others are trying to figure out how to care for elderly family members without potentially exposing them to the virus. And then there are those who are stuck at home alone, without anyone else to physically share their time with. 

None of these circumstances are easy (let’s face it, they all kind of suck out loud), and many of us are dealing with a few of them at once.  All while being trapped at home, with nowhere to go, nothing to do, and the power of the almighty couch staring us down and sapping every bit of our energy.

Interesting how it’s harder to find inspiration when you seemingly have more time on your hands, isn’t it?

Even tasks that seem like they’re going to be distracting ending up becoming perversions of themselves and end up more depressing than anything else.

Take, for example, my trip to Costco yesterday. I was excited to go. Really. It had been a few weeks since my last trip to the store, and I was just excited to get in the car, go for a drive, and look upon faces both new (fellow brave shoppers) and familiar (those Costco employees you manage to see every time you walk in the store).

Well, it didn’t take long for the trip to wear on me. First, driving out there, I noticed a distinct lack of cars on the road. Sure, I saw some, but enough. Not nearly enough. I wanted more.

Let’s be honest, I would’ve been okay with a traffic jam.

There also weren’t many cars in the shopping center parking lots I passed. With all business other than those deemed essential ordered to close, well, Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts had some traffic, but every other store I saw? Not so much.

Then I got to Costco. First, I pumped gas; for the first time ever, I was directed to a particular pump—one that had just been sanitized. I mean, good on Costco; every time a car pulled away, a member of their team would run over, sanitize the station, and then allow the next car to pull up.

I was glad to see it, but still…another reminder of how different the world is right now.

Then, walking into Costo, well, I guess lines are so long first thing in the morning, they created an extensive labyrinth just to get in the door, much like you’d see while waiting in queue for a ride at DisneyWorld. I started by picking up my freshly sanitized cart (thank you again), and then walking past the entrance and around the side of the building, turning here, and then there, and then there again, and then wrapping around this and that, before showing my card at the door and heading on in.

Again, all of this is a good thing, but wow, it’s so different than normal.

Once inside, some fellow customers were in masks, and others were speed shopping at an insane pace. There were no lines of people waiting for samples. Shoppers weren’t bumping into each other as they moved up and down the aisles. It was plainly obvious that people just didn’t want to be in there.

It wasn’t a wanted, desired errand for anyone. It was a chore.

I especially didn’t want to be around anyone elderly. I didn’t even want to know that they were out, that they were risking themselves potentially coming into contact with the virus, so as I passed anyone who appeared to be older, I held my breath.

Let me repeat that: As I walked past anyone who appeared to be older, I held my breath. That’s how scared I was of potentially infecting someone: Even though I had no symptoms and was showing no sign of having contracted the virus, every time I entered the vicinity of an elder, I held my breath for fear of breathing on them.

What the fuck, anxiety?

Pretty quickly, I became one of the people who wanted to get out of the store as quickly as possible. I had left the house searching for a bit of normal, but once there I realized I was experiencing one of the most far-from-normal experience I’ve ever had.

But maybe that’s the point. Maybe our normal right now is…abnormal. We’re all battling situations that make us nervous, anxious, and uncomfortable. Half the time we don’t know which way is up or what responsibility we should take on next. Juggling priorities has become an Olympic sport (one that you now have until 2021 to train for). And yet many of us are still beating ourselves up because even though we’re just a few weeks into quarantine, we haven’t yet perfected our new normal. We haven’t pinned down the new essentials, the new schedule, and we’re scrambling to fulfill all the different responsibilities that are now crammed into the day.

When it gets too much, when anxiety starts to win, just remember to stop and breathe. Stop. And. Breathe. You are one person. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t even have to be close to perfect. Just try your best. Give each day your all and each moment in each day its own attention. All those responsibilities that are bearing down on you? You can handle them, not at all once, but one at a time. And if you stumble and fall, if you don’t get everything accomplished that you wanted to…so what. Fuck it. You’re going to be home tomorrow anyway, right?

2020 is shaping up to be the most challenging year many of us will ever experience. Take a second to realize that, to understand what it means, and to give yourself a break.

Stop. And. Breathe.

Welcome to Villain Complex

We are our own worst enemy. The villain that lurks inside of us is worse than any villain we’re likely to come across. We put ourselves down, hate how we look, unfairly compare ourselves against others, second guess choices, replay past decisions in search of a magically better present or future, and basically hold ourselves to an incredibly high standard that is almost impossible to live up to. Then, when we fail to live up to that standard, we beat ourselves up even further and start the cycle anew.

That’s when the villain within really starts to take over. It pounces on our vulnerabilities and takes advantage of our weaknesses. It chips away at the small cracks in our self-esteem and widens them a bit at a time, until what was once just a tiny fissure develops into a massive fracture than can be so terribly difficult to heal.

The constant pressure we put on ourselves to be the perfect parent, child, significant other, friend, employee, coworker, citizen…it attacks the best version of ourselves while at the same time diminishing our very real accomplishments.

Yes, some days aren’t flush with triumph—but even our less successful days are filled with small achievements worth celebrating.

This is why it’s worth taking a small amount of time every evening to look back on the day and think on those victories won. Did you skip that afternoon cup of coffee and instead save money by refilling your water container? Did you massage your partner’s shoulders and immediately feel their tension slip away? Did you help your daughter understand and complete her homework? Did you manage to calm dad’s nerves? Did you aid in keeping that project moving? Did you put a smile on a friend or co-worker’s face?

All of those are small victories. They’re ways in which you helped win your day, and they can be building blocks for even larger victories down the road. No, none of the above are what anyone would consider heroic actions—but how many truly heroic actions do we perform in a day, a week, a month, or even a life?

The answer for most of us is, not very many. (If we’re lucky, we don’t need to perform very many.)

Maybe if the majority of us performed more obviously heroic actions, our villains wouldn’t have so much power over us. If we were all healthcare workers performing life-saving procedures, firefighters catching kids jumping out the windows of burning buildings, or police officers keeping our streets safe, maybe our villains would have a hard time showing themselves. Maybe then they’d stay hidden.

Maybe, but doubtful. Ask your local doctor, nurse, firefighter, or police officer about their own internal villains, and you’re bound to learn that their villains are as strong or stronger than yours.

Hopefully, over time, this blog will give us tools to defeat our villains while, at the same time, giving us strategies to highlight our best sides. And the first step to conquering our villains is simple: acknowledging that they exist. The sooner we take ownership of our villain complex, the sooner we can begin the fight against it.

What’s more heroic than that?