Silver Linings, Covid19 Edition

Silver linings in the time of Corona

I’m collecting inspirational stories of how people the world over are dealing with being quarantined, what they’ve experienced and how this crisis is changing them. I will add them here to my blog as I find them. 

In any disaster, there are always silver linings. There’s always something to be grateful for, no matter how hard things get. Of course there’s also fear, anger, bargaining —all the stages of grief. Those are part of the human condition. But so is joy, laughter and sometimes even rising up from the ashes.

Important note:  These posts aren’t meant to downplay the crisis that’s unfolding around us—us meaning the entire human race.  They in no way take away from the very real pain, fear and grief that so many are feeling.  They’re meant to uplift, inspire and show that life goes on, even in tragedy.   We are literally—the entire world—all in this together. 

My first story is from the fabulous Jenny Simanowitz, in her own words:

I get up and shower, put cream on my face and deodorant under my arms. Why do I wear deodorant? Nobody’s going to get near enough to smell me. For that matter why bother to shower? Every day? Probably no one needs to shower every day anyway and much less in a time when the only person you’re going to meet is yourself. The cream, ok, that’s understandable, that’s an investment for when we will again be meeting our friends, going out for dinner or working and we don’t want to expose a fully withered, wrinkled face to the world.

But why change clothes every two days? For whom? I’ve heard that some people are staying in their pajamas all day. I find that perfectly sensible. It saves washing and it saves time. Or rather, it saves washing because the last thing we want is to save time. On the contrary, we are looking to do things that take as much time as possible. People have started taking baths instead of showers. They say it’s to relax but I think that they’re doing it to prolong the washing period, which isn’t necessary anyway (see above)

And cleaning the apartment. I’ve read proud accounts of appartments that are shining like never before. Not a trace of a cat hair or a breadcrumb or a scrap paper anywhere! I say, what’s the point? Nobody’s coming to visit anyway.

I also put on my hearing aid as soon as I get up although I probably won’t be talking to anyone for hours. I don’t need my hearing aid sitting at my computer. But it’s habit, maybe even a good one because I believe your hearing gets worse f you don’t wear it.

We’ve been trained in these rituals and we hang on to them. It’s a good education in how we humans hang on to our habits even if they no longer serve a purpose.

Some rituals certainly help you to keep sane in this time of isolation. I do a bit of yoga every day, I go for a walk, I prepare at least one tasty meal although I’m the only one eating it (my partner is doing his crisis time in Portugal) and theoretically I could live on fried eggs on toast. I’m so used to cooking meals for two that I cook far too much. Then I eat it all up, more from boredom than from hunger.

And because it takes more time.

Love in the time of corona. 

And just like that …it was gone.

The invisible enemy that took all we held dear and left mass destruction in its wake. 

It took a toll.

It took our loved ones. 

It took our energy. 

It took our last collective nerve.

It took our bravest people.

It ground us down to our very core, reshaping us into something new. Something different. Something…stronger.

It tore our systems apart.

Our ways of life.

Our healthcare system.

Our education system. 

Our work structures.

Our finances.

We stopped work. 

We stopped school. 

We stopped consuming. 

We reached out to neighbors. 

We looked to the helpers. 

We became the helpers. 

It changed us. 

We were resourceful.  

We were creative. 

We cooked more. 

We drew. 

We sewed. 

We played again.  

We laughed through pain. 

We rediscovered joy. 

Remembered what’s real.

We were heroic.

We saw our families with fresh eyes. Interacted deeper and more honestly.

And the skies rested. 

And the planet breathed. 

Animals returned.

The factories were still. 

The churning churning burning just…stopped. 

Everything reset. 

We looked at nature as a gift.

We asked, do I need all this stuff? Does it bring me joy? 

We rethought our systems. 

Made them better. 

More just. 

For a moment in time, the entire world paused. 

And it was terrible. 

We suffered. 

We reeled. 

And yet. 

We came together.

Remembered our humanity. 

Met our neighbors. 

Asked for help. 

Were resourceful. 

Were resilient. 

It killed us. But It also rebuilt us.

In the face of death, we remembered how to live.

My friend wrote me this morning:

‘A total devastating shit show for our world. I’m scared and my anxiety has spiked. I try to be outside each day. Walking. Breathing in fresh air. I hope you’re doing the same. Sending love and safe healing wishes to you and our world, Mother Earth 🌍🌍’

I want to hug her and tell her everything is going to be fine. But she’s half a world away, and we aren’t supposed to hug anymore. I want to assure her this too shall pass, as I believe with my whole heart. But sadly I think it’s going to get much worse before it gets better.

I’m no scientist, but I’ve been reading posts and articles by people much smarter than me who say that if the US and Europe is going to avoid Italy, China or Iran’s fate (bless them) we need to do things NOW! Not tomorrow, not in three days, but today.

Austria has put strong measures in place, but I fear people aren’t following them. When I went to do my last shopping yesterday, people were out at bars, restaurants, cafes—not that far from each other. And I keep reading how young people in the US are lining up to go to clubs. Do they not read the news? Do they not know that we need to #flattenthecurve? Do they not have older people in their lives, or even friends with pre-existing conditions? Why don’t they care? (I was young once, I get it.)

I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom. I’m also seeing small miracles. Strangers in my usually reserved city were talking to each other! People were polite, kind and helpful to one another even as they were panic shopping. Silver linings abound. We need to be realistic, take the threat seriously and #stayathome, because just washing our hands more ain’t gonna cut it. But there’s so many instances already of kindness and love (dare I say oneness?) coming out of the darkness. Look at the Italians—who’ve been through pure hell—turning music into communion and laughter from their balconies. They’re showing us that no matter how dark it gets, we will get through this.

People are beginning to realize that we’re all connected. We’re all in this together. Viruses don’t care about borders, economic status, or political affiliations.

The world is changing, and with change often comes great heartache and sacrifice. But there’s also beauty and reason for hope: people are riding their bikes instead of driving; they’re helping small businesses, and families are bonding at home. In certain Chinese cities, people can look up to a blue sky for the first time in who knows how long. Mother Earth is getting a much-needed break.

We can all do our part to move faster through these scary times, like helping an elderly neighbor (from a distance). But the best and easiest thing to do right now is to just stay at home. Social distancing works. Self-quarantining is vital if you have symptoms.

Remember there’s people in much worse circumstances than ourselves, and they’re also facing this virus, and from much less-privileged conditions. the faster we move through this, the more it will help them and the less the burden on the whole system will be.

I’m going to tell my dear friend what I’m telling myself: bad times end, new beginnings grow out of fear and darkness, and growth can be born from madness. Breathe, go for walks (separately!) Skype with friends and family, LAUGH, and know, this too shall pass. But we have to work together.

#stayathome #distanceyourselves #drinkaquarantini!

#stayhealthy

Rumi, the Persian poet, famously wrote, ‘the wound is where the light enters you.’

Wounds of the past don’t kill us but make us stronger. Sure, they leave a scar, but that only proves that you went through some shit, and survived.

Wear your scars with pride! You’ve overcome ! You won the battle! Scars are a trophy; a symbol of your strength and endurance. Don’t hide them. Celebrate them!

A lot of people warned me after my recent issue that I’d probably have a scar. They said it in this serious voice. I told each of them, ‘yeah I hope so!’ I want proof of this battle! I want a reminder that I’m strong and can handle whatever life throws at me.

Whether from: Breast cancer, childbirth, injury, operations—whatEVER: Be proud of your scars! They show that you won the battle!! ❤️👏🏼💃🏿🥳

Are YOU proud of your scars?

P.S.

Of course some wounds are invisible. But whether physical or emotional, if you view your challenges from a different angle, that’s where learning and understanding come in (ie, the light entering). Don’t ask, ‘why did this happen to me’ but ‘what is this teaching me? What is it doing FOR me?’

Will you let in the light or become bitter from the fight?

Things I learned or remembered while in the hospital

  1. Wash your hands. I washed mine and used the hand sanitizer until they were red and crackly. But they were always clean and I didn’t bring home any extra illnesses.
  2. Be your own patient advocate. Docs and nurses are busy busy busy. They’ll forget a dosage or maybe even give the wrong one. Check every time or have your loved ones do it. Write a list of questions so you don’t forget during doctors’ rounds.
  3. Have faith in your body’s ability to heal. It’s always working hard for you. And same with doctors: trust but verify. Believe the protocol is working and trust the people administering it, but don’t forget number two.
  4. Docs/hospitals make zero connection between what they feed you and what’s happening in your body. I learned this years ago but was starkly reminded when I saw stage 4 cancer patients eating ice cream. I get that at a certain point people should eat whatever they want, but isn’t it common knowledge that cancer loves sugar?
  5. Laugh when you can and keep a light heart. Gallows humor isn’t for everyone, but it helped me get through a rough time. My sense of humor, oddly enough, came roaring back during this time.
  6. Don’t pay for a private room. Hospitals are lonely places, especially at night. Your roommates can keep you sane. Human connection is everything when you’re sick.
  7. Sleep when you can, because it’s hard to get rest in that setting. They’re up your butt all the time: take your temperature, take your medicine, here’s some food, here’s a shot (and not the fun kind). And they wake you up at 6am for no reason!
  8. Bring some comforts from home. Everyone made fun of me, but I had my hub bring me an essential oil diffuser and it helped keep me sane. And people loved it. (There was NO fresh air— the window didn’t even open a crack!)
  9. Music and earphones will keep you sane. Meditations, music, cat videos.. whatever brings you joy.
  10. This was a new one: if you ever want all your Tupperware back, get admitted to hospital.
  11. Really think about who you tell, at least at first. You’re in there to rest and recover, not worry about other people’s feelings about your illness or to get loads of visitors.
  12. Use it as a wake up call. Life is precious, and even if you believe we have many lives, you’ll only have this one once. Who was it who said, ‘Nothing focuses the mind like a hanging’? Get your priorities straight.
  13. Always have a will, even if it’s not finalized. No matter how old you are. Even if you don’t have kids.
  14. Once you’re out, you’ll appreciate the little things again: your own bed, a hot shower, fresh air. Good health of course! Appreciating the little things in life allows for more goodness to come in. I can’t emphasize this enough. The little moments in life are all we have, really. That and love. Appreciate those you love. Friends, family, your pets. Love is why we’re here, after all.

Perspective

The photo on the left is the view from my hotel room in Bali. On the right is the view from my hospital bed a couple weeks later.

Life can change in an instant. We all know this rationally, but few of us really take in that message, myself included. Sure, when young, talented, famous people die, we’re shocked. We think, ‘Wow, if HE (or she/they) can die so young and in the prime of his life, then of course a lesser human being, (me) absolutely could.’ And it scares us and gives us pause for a day or two. We may hold each other a little tighter for a minute. But that fades quickly. No, it usually takes something that hits even closer to home like losing a loved one unexpectedly, getting a bad diagnosis, or having an accident for it to really hit home.

When I got back from Bali, I somehow developed an abscess and it became badly infected (staph infection). I went to the ER and they admitted me after taking a blood test and seeing that my inflammation markers were really high. I was there for a week. I’m healing now thankfully but it was pretty scary there for a few days. I’m just sharing because I want to remind people how fragile life is. There’s a meme that says, ‘ The problem is, you think you have time.’ And I don’t think its meant to say, YOU DON’T HAVE ANY TIME YOU’RE GONNA DIE SOON! but I think its saying, time goes by so quickly. we are distracted and busy with our jobs, our to-do lists, etc, and we forget to take time to do the things we really love, or tell people how we feel. It would be tragic if your life or that of someone you love came to an end suddenly and you didn’t share how you felt. Don’t let that happen. Be vulnerable, risk feeling stupid; it’s hard but its worth it. You will never have to think, ‘if only I had done or said x…’