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.