Are there life lessons to be learned during this pandemic? You bet.
Albeit, it isn’t over yet. President Donald Trump warned last week that the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. will probably “get worse before it gets better.” Yup, kinda figured that out. The coronavirus isn’t going anywhere soon and, once again, this pandemic is forcing people to pause and reflect.
Well, maybe not everyone is pausing. As states began lifting restrictions of businesses and public areas, photos and videos of people gathering in mass began emerging on the news. Not only was I alarmed as an older American, but I felt that in the rush to get back to “normal,” people were missing out on learning valuable lessons about empathy and self-sacrificing.
In fact, the attitude of some people shocked me. For example, I heard about Elizabeth Linscott and her husband, Isaiah, from Kentucky who were placed on house arrest last week after Elizabeth tested positive for the coronavirus. The couple refused to sign documents agreeing to quarantine at home for two weeks.
“There is no pandemic,” Elizabeth stated emphatically. Really? A pandemic is defined as the worldwide spread of a new disease. With over 16 million people around the world diagnosed with COVID-19 at the time of this writing, doesn’t that qualify?
“If you’re scared, please do stay home, because I can’t put my life on pause because you’re scared,” she added in an interview with Good Morning America. I was floored. What about the people on the front lines – everyone from those in the medical field to grocery store workers – who are scared but forced to go to work? They don’t have the choice to “stay home.” Those more vulnerable still need to venture outside for essential tasks like buying food or medical appointments. I want to say, hey Elizabeth, we’re talking about 14 days out of your entire life when your actions could mean life and death for some people. Whatever happened to self-sacrificing for the greater good?
Yet, I fully realize there are some who agree with her statements.
Even after restrictions were lifted, for some “normal” life was still impossible. Older baby boomers and those with health issues were still advised to stay at home. And for those grieving the loss of a loved one, things would never be the same. Really, after a vaccination is available and we get to the other side of this pandemic, will our “normal” look the same for any of us? I don’t think so. Here’s a thought. When that happens, before running out to claim our lives back, maybe it’s time to admit that the pandemic has changed us forever – and some of it is worth preserving.
Ryan Seacrest joked, “If I start a New Years countdown will 2020 be over?” A funny joke, but perhaps because I’m older and know my days are limited, I wouldn’t give up precious time, even with its trials, to rush ahead to the future. If we use this pandemic as a time to reflect, there are important and unique life lessons to be learned.
Not that the coronavirus pandemic has been fun. I don’t want to be a Pollyanna here. Admittedly, it’s been torturous and overwhelming at times. As the death toll increases every day, the news is heartbreaking. I miss hugging my family and friends, traveling to new exciting places, and the blissful freedom of attending a boisterous, crowded concert. The dystopian sight of empty grocery store shelves, cities that resembled ghost towns, and people wearing masks was jolting as the pandemic began. I was forced to see the uglier side of humanity as some people hoarded food, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer. Scammers tried to take advantage of the panic. And there was the cruel phrase “boomer remover” that began trending on Twitter, aimed at us baby boomers who are more vulnerable to the virus.
On the lighter side, can we talk about grooming issues? As the weeks went by and it became obvious that visiting my hair stylist was out of the question, I thought maybe this was a good time to see what I looked like with gray hair. I was horrified. My husband, who at 60 is lucky enough to still have plenty of hair, looked like a mad scientist. So, there’s that. A bottle of Revlon and some hair cutting scissors did the trick, but not quite with the same results as a professional would achieve.
On some days, I felt productive and creative as I tapped into reservoirs of strength and inspiration. But there were also days I fought depression and anxiety, hated being confined to my house, ate a big bag of chips with a glass of wine to console myself, felt overwhelmed with news stories, and struggled to cope. I felt like it was all too much – and it was. The world hadn’t faced something like this in over a century. On top of all the tragedies, there was the devastating economic impact as small businesses struggled to stay open. Then, protests and riots broke out in a fight for racial justice.
It’s okay to not be okay sometimes.
And yet amidst all the turmoil, the pandemic required me to be quiet and still. To be content with my own company. To slow down and reflect on the more important aspects of life. With that in mind, here are some valuable lessons I’ve learned so far and changes I want to maintain, even after the pandemic is over.
I learned to:
* Embrace My Spirituality
My spirituality and reliance on God has become more important than ever. The coronavirus reinforced that life is uncertain and unpredictable. As a result, I’ve learned to depend on God more fully in order to retain a sense of hope, strength, patience, and endurance.
* Appreciate Loved Ones Even More
Along with the rest of the world, I’ve learned the value of human connections in a way not possible before.
Not being able to see family makes them all the more precious to me. I don’t miss going out to dinner and traveling to exotic places as much as I miss holding my 2-year-old granddaughter’s small hand.
I even became grateful for technology – which I have a love/hate relationship with normally – that allows us to stay in touch with our loved ones. Even so, I’ll admit that it’s not the same. I’m an introvert and not exactly a people person. However, I realize now that I took hugs from friends for granted.
On the positive side, with children home from school and parents working from their houses, families have come together, enjoying sports in the backyard, playing board games, riding bikes, and solving puzzles. That’s beautiful to see.
* See the Good in People
It’s true what they say. The worst of times can bring out the best in people. Amidst all the chaos, I saw courageous and selfless heroes emerge.
My husband’s colleague, Art, explained how his nurse, in her 60s who administers treatments for his health issues, bravely answered New York City’s cry for help in April and flew to the epicenter of COVID-19 during the worst of the outbreak. “I don’t know if she’s coming back,” Art said soberly. Thousands joined her.
Medical staff are still answering the call for help in areas hardest hit by the virus. Recently, U.S. Air Force doctors, nurses and other medical providers were sent to work in California hospitals, including Eisenhower hospital close to my home, to assist with a steep rise in coronavirus cases that is straining the healthcare system.
Delivery people and grocery store workers are willing to put their lives on the line to serve us. Many restaurant owners are donating food. Communities and neighborhoods provide encouragement to each other with signs and teddy bears in windows or positive messages written in chalk on sidewalks. People are fostering dogs to help out shelters. No one is immune from this virus and in some ways that serves to unite us.
* Savor Nature
Although I’ve always appreciated nature. I became more aware of the beauty of hibiscus flowers blooming in my courtyard, the tranquil sounds of birds singing cheerfully, or the desert night sky revealing all its myriad glories.
With a decrease in air pollution in our cities, the skies never looked bluer. Wildlife began to reclaim areas once dominated by humans.
It’s never been more true – nature calms.
* Be Grateful for my Life and Health
The pandemic taught me how precarious life can be and how vulnerable we all are as humans. Life itself should never be taken for granted – not even while enduring hardships. It was a sober reminder to take care of my health.
I have to admit, keeping my snacking under control while stuck at home is challenging, but I did develop some healthy habits I want to keep.
For example, desperate to get out of the house and into nature, I’ve never taken more walks and bike rides. Now that it’s too hot to exercise outdoors where I live, thanks to a friend, I’ve discovered the FitOn app with free exercise videos. After all, exercising not only helps our immune system, but can reduce the extra anxiety we’re all feeling right now.
I also learned not to stress over the small stuff. A pandemic puts minor problems into perspective.
* Become More Empathetic
During the initial panic, some couldn’t afford to stockpile food and toilet paper, which made me even more conscious of those out of work who lived paycheck-to-paycheck. Some people had to make the horrific choice of staying safe or risking their lives and going back to work to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Some chose the latter, and died as a result.
I think about the helpless and vulnerable seniors who are terrified in nursing homes and those with mental issues that struggle, even during normal circumstances, to overcome their fears. This gives me perspective. I know that the apprehension and uneasiness that I sometimes feel doesn’t compare.
The coronavirus taught me the value of making self-sacrifices that includes keeping a safe distance from people and wearing a mask for those more vulnerable than myself. Although there are exceptions, thankfully, the majority of people seem to feel the same way.
I’ve always known, but the pandemic reinforced the fact that giving back and focusing on others not only helps others but also provides a sense of well-being and peace.
* Live with Less
When the pandemic began, literally afraid to go grocery shopping, I began buying only essential things that would last two weeks. My husband and I were surprised to discover how well we survived with the basics on hand. We learned to decipher between needs and wants and saved money.
Like I mentioned before, I learned to dye my own hair and give my husband a trim. We looked okay. Fancy clothes and shoes became unimportant. We ate at home more and tried new recipes. And can we talk about saving gas money by not running around needlessly?
There are important financial lessons to be learned here.
* Laugh More
Keeping a sense of humor is important, especially during troublesome times. When I saw my husband’s worried face as I took scissors to his hair, well, I’ve never laughed harder. I appreciated all the funny memes and tweets about the bizarre ways we found to entertain ourselves while stuck at home and our obsession with snack foods. It’s true. Laughter is the best medicine.
I know we’re all burned out by now and in a hurry to live a “normal life” again, but let’s not forget all these life lessons. In reality, we know life won’t be the same after this pandemic is over but, as I pointed out earlier, perhaps that’s not entirely a bad thing.
I hope we’ve learned to never take for granted hugs from loved ones, grocery store shelves overflowing with food, the excitement of a crowded concert, and each deep breath we take.
I hope we continue to make our spirituality and spending time with loved ones a priority.
I hope we realize how little we really need to survive.
I hope we remember how strong and resilient we can be during challenging times.
I hope we emerge from this pandemic more grateful, kinder, and appreciative.
And I hope we never forget how to find light in the midst of darkness.