Right now, the world waits. Ever single person on the planet is watching as a microscopic entity with the power to destroy us silently, stealthily, sneaks undetected, waiting for its next host to infect, and all we can do is wait.
By this point, much of the world is experiencing a quarantine of sorts. Of course, we don’t call it that. We say we are “social distancing”, and are trying to limit contact with other human beings who don’t live under our roof, while some of us are deemed “essential”, and have to venture out from the relative comfort of our homes and families to care for other who we don’t even know, and who might not even appreciate our sacrifices.
We are waiting in lines to get into stores that we used to walk into without a care in the world. We are quickly learning how to estimate in our heads just exactly how far six feet is, and that in reality, it isn’t far enough to feel even remotely safe. In the United States, we are quickly getting accustomed to unfamiliar and uncomfortable scarcity as we check back day after day for daily essentials that we took for granted before. I don’t know about anyone else, but I honestly would have never guessed in a world that seemed to laud oil and gold as the modern currencies of kings and dignitaries that toilet paper and hand sanitizer would be some of the hottest commodities on the market, let alone that people would actually get into physical fights over the stuff. I have also had a personal epiphany that I have been taking something as simple as soft paper on a roll granted for my entire life; save, perhaps, when it ran out in the washroom, and I had to holler for one of my family members to bring in some more. It also makes me chuckle how damned determined we are to ensure a hearty supply of something that our ancestors survived for millennia without, since it was only commercially available since 1857. All I can say is kudos to those branches on my family tree who came before me for their ingenuity and hardiness, in more ways than one.
On that note, however, and not to make light of anything, I am not naive. I know that there are many bad things happening right now. Domestic violence is up exponentially around the world as people are forced to spend time cooped up together, sometimes in confined spaces, under extreme duress. I know that people have lost their jobs, are worried about their livelihoods, and are terrified about if they would survive being infected with the dreaded COVID-19 virus. People who are on the front lines- first responders, medical professionals, grocery store and pharmacy employees, truck drivers, the military, and many more- are walking out the door every day wondering if today is the day they get infected. Single parents are trying to do it all with no break. I get that things are tough.
Personally, I especially understand and commiserate with those who are facing layoffs and furloughs. Job loss, and the incredible stress that comes with it, was one of the main driving forces behind why I started writing. When everything in our financial house seemed to be careening out of control, and nothing I did seemed to make any difference, is the time I first escaped into a world in my head that I could dictate as I pleased. So, believe my sincerity when I express my sympathies to those who are struggling right now with how to keep the lights on, gas in the car, food on the table, and get medicine and health care for those who need it. It isn’t an easy row to hoe, and it definitely takes a toll on one’s well being, emotions, health, relationships, and family. Speaking from personal experience, make sure to take some time for self-care, and give yourself a break now and then. Find something that gives your soul a chance to recharge, whatever that might mean to you.
That being said, there is a reason I did not call this blog entry “The Simple Life”, because there is nothing easy about what we, as humanity, are undergoing right now. There is fear, trepidation, worry, anxiety, stress, and too many other negative emotions currently collectively swirling to ever imply that existence is a breeze at this point in time. In fact, my kids keep saying that they wish we weren’t living through a defining moment in history, and I have to say that I quite agree. Instead, I am hoping that amidst all of the struggle and difficulties, we can come out of this with a greater appreciation for the simple things that had perhaps gotten lost in the hustle and bustle of modern life, and discover those little hidden gems of tenaciousness in the human spirit that we have heard about from our grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generations, but maybe thought never made it any further down the genetic line to us.
Personally, I am amazed by that indelible human spirit I am witnessing rise like a phoenix from the ashes. I see people getting up every day and going to work to ensure that others- strangers- have what they need. I have watched as people saw a need for personal protective equipment for our medical professionals, and got out their sewing machines to help, using fabric they had saved for reasons special to them, constructing mask after mask. These women (and I am sure some men) behind their machines are party akin to a modern-day revival of Rosie the Riveter, rising to the call of service to give their fellow man what they otherwise wouldn’t have in order to fight the battle. When the supplies of fabric or elastic have run out, I have witnessed others donating what they have to the cause, and once that was used, people using incredible ingenuity to make due with what they had left- ribbon, strips of fabric, etc.- and made it work, a la the Great Depression, when our relatives repurposed and reused everything they had. “Waste want, want not” has quickly become a revived battle cry that was thought unfathomable only a few short months ago in a sea of consumer abundance.
I have observed people buying extra groceries at the store for neighbors who can’t leave the house, or couldn’t find what they needed on the day they went, but it was available the next. When people are desperately searching for the ever-elusive toilet paper on social media apps like NextDoor, my heart has been warmed by the multiple generous offers from strangers “to spare a roll” when all they share is the same zip code. There are reports of Shipt and Instacart employees going above and beyond to find specialty items for those on special diets, and people leaving signs and treats for the hardworking delivery drivers who are bringing us the items we need from places like Amazon.com, where the workers are continuing to show up everyday and getting it done.
So, if any of us were wondering if some of that genetic chutzpah of our forefathers trickled further on down the line, I would shout a resounding, “YES!” Life is stressful, complicated, and uncertain right now, but it has also given us an opportunity to get in touch with our simple, beautiful human side that longs to connect with others, and perhaps felt largely lost before this event in our highly competitive and sometimes self-absorbed world. We have become connected in a way that only happens when something unprecedented makes us realize our collective fallibility, perhaps for the first time, and we lift our heads up and realize that we really do need each other to make a functioning society: 9/11, WWII, The Great Depression, and so on.
We are also coming to terms with the fact that many modern conveniences are just that-convenient. They are time savers: ways for us to cram even more into an already overly-crowded day. However, now that it is no longer easier to just jump into the car to buy items we were too busy to make before, I am seeing people all over my social media proudly showing off their homemade breads, cakes, pies, cookies, pastas, meals, artwork, and just about anything else we had laid to the side in our crazy modern lives. This return to the basics has been fueled by necessity when we couldn’t find what we would normally buy on a store shelves, or even when we are looking for a way to get our mind off of what is happening around us. While it takes us longer, that has also been the point: it has also given us the gift of time. Because we don’t have anything more pressing to do, we are spending time with our families making fun memories, pushing ourselves to try something we wouldn’t have spent the energy on before, and taking the opportunity to develop hobbies and talents that may have otherwise lain dormant because we wouldn’t have had the time to “waste” on something that we could have just picked up somewhere.
So, while life as we know it has been turned on its ear, and things are stressful and worrisome, when we step back and look around, perhaps we can see the small silver linings amidst the chaos. Maybe when we go back to “normal”, whenever that happens and whatever it looks like, we will be able to better appreciate this time of stepping back to a life of simplicity, and remember that there is great value in spending time and energy on more than just the Rat Race.
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