As I sit at my computer, I find myself profoundly distracted. I am working hard to focus on things but my mind wanders and my body tenses. The world we are living in right now feels out of sorts. I try hard to find the joy and laughter and beauty in the day but there are moments of anxiety, worry, and fear that sometimes take over. I talk to family, friends, Echo Lakers and many people are feeling similarly disoriented and trying to adjust to this temporary new normal. I try to bring my focus back to my laptop. I hear the ding of my text message. I keep typing. I feel the buzz of my phone as a notification comes in. My mind wanders to thoughts of the impact of COVID19 on camp. I think about my family, my friends, and all of the camp families isolated in their homes. I think about sickness and health. Sometimes when I think of good things, I even feel guilty. Should we be thinking of good things right now? The answer, of course, is yes. We are imperfectly perfect human beings living in uncertain times. We are allowed to feel all of it, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and we probably need to feel all of it. We need to ride the wave and be kind to ourselves. We are all grieving. We are grieving the lives we used to live, the school and work we used to go to, the in-person social interactions we used to have, and the way life used to feel not quite so scary. We are grieving lives that we absolutely will get back but right now do not have and we have to go through all the feels.
The stages of grieving are denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance. These are not linear but rather things we will all feel while missing the lives we so recently were living, and the unexpected and sudden way that all changed. You may feel some feelings more than others. You will have moments, hours, days, that you feel each, and then back again. But, with every moment of acceptance you can hold on to, you begin to move forward. Now acceptance does not mean you are happy about it, ok with it, or feel 100% over what you are missing. Acceptance means that you are aware that your loss is real, and you have to adjust to a new normal. That is what allows you to move forward, acceptance.
My mind wanders again. I start to think about all the milestones and life events that are on hold, or postponed, or just look different. Babies being born, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs postponed, weddings rescheduled, graduations on hold, sports teams not playing, performances gone dark, and residents in nursing homes unable to be visited. Maybe instead of looking at things as “cancelled” we can look at it as stockpiling fun to happen at a later date. When I look out the window, I see buds on the ends of the branches on the trees. The grass is beginning to sprout. Ice is melting on the lake. The world is moving forward, and we must too. I am distracted from my thoughts by the beeping of horns. Cars driven by local teachers are going down the streets with rainbows and positive messages drawn on their windows. These little things bring so much joy. I think about the Facetime and Zoom calls I’ve been on lately. I think about the texts and emails coming in more frequently now. I think about all those who are finding ways to do good for others or spread a little joy. What I find myself wondering a lot is, with all of this necessary and important social distancing right now, can it actually bring us closer?
With the vital stay at home orders, immediate families are spending more time together. Board games and card games are being played. Walks around the block are being taken. Families are watching movies together. Quality time is being spent more than ever as parents are becoming teachers and siblings are becoming friends. Extended families, across multiple generations, with various levels of technology comfort, are logging on to video chats so that they can see each other as they laugh and chat and try to figure out how to see their entire face in the frame. Friends are reaching out to each other in creative ways. Texts, emails, social media, even sending letters in the mail. Friends are checking in on each other for big reasons and small reasons and finding ways to socialize online. Virtual drinks and meals are happening. People are watching shows together in their own homes. The biggest thing that I have been thrilled about is the increase in empathy I have been seeing these days. Teachers, doctors, nurses, grocery store workers, and pharmacists are being hailed as heroes. They are heroes. The world is grateful for the everyday people that are at the heart of what makes the world healthy and growing. People are sharing resources, lessons, performances, classes, and reading books online. Our communities have now grown to expansive levels beyond towns, school districts, and even states. We may be socially distanced at the moment, but from where I sit, people are more connected, empathetic, and communal than ever. That’s not a bad side effect if you think about it.
Yes, with the current state of the world we are feeling distracted as our minds wander to worry and wishes of control over the things we just cannot control. But, we can consciously choose to weave in moments of joy, hope, and laughter, from the increased connections, empathetic outreach, and broader sense that we are all in this together. Our busy, scheduled, pressured lives have been put on pause but in our current back-to-basics mode we have the opportunity to find the simple joys and reconnect with what is truly important. People are important. Health is important. Sunshine is important. Perspective is important. Gratitude is important. Empathy is important. Connection, especially in a time of social distancing, is not only important, but essential.
Right now, I can’t totally prevent the distracted thoughts of worries and “what ifs.” What I can do, though, is consciously seek out and embrace the moments of joy. I can plan acts of giving or outreach to others. I can show kindness every single day. I can get out into nature. I can move my body. I can be kind and thankful to the people in my world, near and far. I can put positivity and fun on social media. I can take a deep breath and be kinder to myself. I can find ways to laugh more, say “I love you” more, and be the best version of myself that I can manage, as often as I can. And I accept that sometimes I can’t. We can get through this together. In fact, together is the only way we can get through this. Social distancing may feel unusual and upsetting now, but I believe that when we get to the other side of this, and are no longer socially distanced, we will all be closer, and maybe even happier, for it.