The weather was grey, but I set out on a morning walk down the boulevard of my town. Goal: find a good place to be alone and do some writing. Out in the distance I saw a man walking in the opposite direction, toward me. He was tall and wore long black coattails, boots and a black hat. As he continued walking he reached for the scarf that lay around his neck and, covering the lower half of his face, plotted a course to my left. I stepped out to the empty street on my right. When finally we met and passed each other from a safe distance, we nodded our heads in greeting. Within a few moments the encounter was over, yet there was something about it that left me with a lingering, eerie feeling. Perhaps it was my mind conjuring up a scene from an empty landscape of the Old West (seriously, the streets were otherwise empty and the guy reminded me of Wyatt Earp). Or that without any words spoken between us, we knew exactly what was expected of us and filled our roles perfectly.
This is our day and we are experiencing life in the time of the coronavirus.
Living with a worldwide pandemic has been a far-reaching experience for everyone. Even those of us not directly affected by sickness, death or unemployment have experienced sweeping changes to our lifestyles, living out versions every day of what we’re seeing in the news in our own homes, jobs and lives. Certainly what we’re experiencing has opened our minds to thoughts and questions that we never considered before. One friend of mine put it this way – she said it seems like her life has been given a “reset button” - an opportunity to change things up and to re-think what is really important to her. I’ve been doing my own thinking and have come to two conclusions: The first is that I am struck with the many positive outcomes I have seen. The second conclusion is tied to the first and really is a question: How will I live differently once this is all over?
Before the pandemic, I sometimes felt that I was cramming as much as I could into each day, with many of those activities being non-essential. The shelter-in-placer order basically forced me to SLOW DOWN, and even took away the ability to do some of those unnecessary things. With less on my plate to do and to think about, I’ve felt more peace and have been better able to care for myself.
I’ve witnessed families finding new ways of engaging with each other: taking walks, riding bikes or playing ball in their front yards. For indoor activities I’m guessing that crossword puzzles have become a hot, new form of entertainment; the other day I noticed a completely sold-out puzzle section at my local Target!
We are living differently than we were before. Perhaps with this different living we are redefining for ourselves and for our families what is actually necessary to keep us entertained or keep us happy.
One thing I have really appreciated during this time is the increased solidarity I’m seeing across the U.S and the world. How ironic that it’s our physical separation from other human beings that has provided us with a compelling, shared experience. Add to that experience the common goal of knocking out this virus and you’ve got a strong sense of unity spreading across the country and world.
And speaking of the world, of no small consequence is what is happening with our planet; with the humans doing some serious hunkering down, Mother Earth has been put toward a path of healing. She is boasting better air quality, clearer skies, clearer oceans and even an awakening of wildlife. Experts have said this is like a grand, unexpected experiment in nature. I think the results are nothing short of extraordinary.
It’s clear that this strange time has definitely had its benefits, yet we can also see that the drastic changes which led to these benefits have put millions out of work and devastated our economy. A double-edged sword, it is. The question is begged: Is there middle ground? Can we find a way to restore our economy in ways that will still allow for some of these newly implemented practices to be carried forward?
Over the last month millions of employers have utilized technology and other creative means to allow employees to work from home. It is amazing what we can do when we apply our minds to a problem. I’m no economic expert, but I am sure that a sustainable work-from-home model is one key to the improved situation I’m envisioning for our future.
I know what I will try to carry forward in my own life. As far as society is concerned, it remains to be seen what will happen once this emergency is over. We’ve seen a glimpse of the good that is possible; it’s my hope we will find a way to carry at least some of it forward.
Cindy works as an employment development counselor, and is a mother and grandmother. She has lived in Sonoma County for 28 years.