When Covid-19 hit, none of us knew exactly what we were dealing with. Was it a blip on the radar? An anomaly that would pass quickly and without leaving much damage in its wake? Or was it a metaphorical storm front, bringing heavy winds and flooding in its wake? Or like the asteroid that hit the planet long ago, wiping out most species in its wake?
The truth is that for some of us, life has continued with some semblance of normalcy during these last few months. For empty nesters who are otherwise healthy and who have the capacity to work at home, Covid-19 might have felt like a blip. For others, these last few months felt like a hurricane plowed through our lives, leaving damage and requiring that we “do” life differently with respect to work, play and personal concerns. Finally, for some, there has been unprecedented damage to the fabric of daily life. Work has stopped. School has stopped. Connections with the whole world have been restricted to four walls and possibly a virtual lifeline.
HOW we have experienced the advent, adversity and aftermath of Covid-19 with its demands on our energy, engagement and focus shapes the way we feel impacted by all of the shifts in our routines. Uncertainty and upheaval have become the default. Disruptions to daily norms have impacted families, neighborhoods and society at large. The felt impacts of more rules to follow, more results to fear and more reactions to manage have been depression, detachment and real distress.
In education, students have lost critical windows of learning. In the home, families have lost critical economic, emotional and energetic engagement. Everything takes extra steps. Wear a mask. Don’t go out. Parenting now also includes home based education, reduced care support and restricted social access. These limitations in the form of fewer options and greater responsibilities to comply with regulations have increased ambient stress.
The truth is, families just aren’t feeling too great. The baseline levels for abuse, depression, neglect and violence are higher in recent months. Cramped into our homes and apartments, it makes sense that more of us will snap. We’ll have a harder time sleeping. We’ll worry more. We ‘ll raise our voices to our spouses, coworkers and children more. We’ll probably even yell at our cats, dogs and other pets. Some will hit children, pets and spouses. Violence is a real concern, whether it’s verbal or physical.
Companies aren’t doing too well. Lots of people are figuring out how to work from home who haven’t ever had to do so before. Coworkers and bosses are navigating virtual meetings while kids are at home. Anxiety is understandably higher, along with frustration and anger. Most of us look a little rough around the edges compared to the way that we normally show up for work. Tendencies to have conflict, engage in more passive-aggression and micromanage are higher. It’s natural to vent or disengage. Loss of productivity and a felt sense of professional competence and satisfaction are real concerns.
For those who are still working in their normal setting in education, government hospitality, manufacturing, medicine, retain and transportation, there is enhanced potential for exposure to Covid-19 at work and in other settings such as childcare. Just trying to get to work and perform the role now comes with exposure to more unhappiness from the public, clients and coworkers. Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms have their Hall of Fame stories that should really be Hall of Shame: it seems like somebody is losing their perspective, inhibitions and basic civility daily. Endless arguing and even fighting about wearing a mask. (Or forgetting to wear a mask, if you suddenly meet up with someone, like I just did!)
There are Big Questions that we really, really NEED answers to! And we just don’t have them. Not now, not for everyone and not correct, consistent or even comprehensive answers. All of this NOT knowing/ NOT knowing how- NOT having/ NOT having enough- NOT doing/ NOT doing enough is getting to us. Since we can’t really get one clear ANSWER; we’re stuck with muddling our way through the messy middle of this Era of Covid-19.
We don’t know when it will end. We don’t know when we’ll have effective treatment. We don’t know when there will be a vaccine. Or better testing that’s consistently accurate, affordable and available. Meanwhile, we still have to get ON with peopling. Professionaling. Parenting. Friending. Educating… We have stuff to do! So how do we get better? Being better… doing better… feeling better… THAT kind of better.
We’re going to have at least TWO different worlds to focus on. Our individual experience and our collective experience. In all likelihood, there are MANY felt experiences going on all at the same time inside of us and all around us. Many perspectives that frame many felt experiences that generate many stories are all going on simultaneously. We have to maneuver from story to story, role to role and perspective to perspective.
We can lean into the idea that we dwell in two or more worlds for a while. Picture it like two stories are being written. One is dark and challenging, with griefs. The other is bright and glowing, with joys. Let each story be a repository for the emotions and energies that are part of their respective plots. In time, like living bones, these stories will knit themselves together and fully integrate, forming one whole glowing narrative that is all resonating with the wisdom, love and positive energy that comes from within. Even if there are many stories in both categories, they will eventually form a whole, clear single one again. Clarity will return. Charity will continue. Our constancy in the face of these challenges will make that possible.