Toilet paper. ✔ Paper towels. ✔ Hand-sanitizer. ✔ Cat Food. ✔ Pasta, beans. ✔
All good. I’m ready. We’re in this together, right? Let’s all hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.” Okay, we have to skip the hand-holding, but we can wave at each other from a safe six-foot distance. We’ve got this.
But we don’t feel okay, do we? That anxiety gnawing at the pit of your stomach. The thump, thump of your heart racing even when you’re lying in bed. The inconsolable sadness. They say what we’re feeling is grief. Grief for the loss of the world we once knew, fear that we will lose our loved ones, and helplessness to do anything about it.
Over the past two months we traveled through denial, the first stage of grief. Denial is why people wait too long to evacuate in hurricanes, ignore tornado warnings because the skies look blue, and rather than listen to credible sources, seek comfort in social media friends who support their ill-informed belief that coronavirus is no big deal. It’s just the flu right?
As a public information officer (PIO) trained to respond to natural disasters, mass shootings, and terrorist threats, I’ve witnessed denial and how it impacts lives. Even I was skeptical of COVID-19 at first. However, my disaster preparedness training taught me to be ready so I did extra shopping in January when coronavirus was barely a blimp on the national news.
Fast forward to April when even the most adamant deniers have seen the light and jumped on the Stay-At-Home bus. Friends who just weeks ago who refused to believe it any more serious than the flu, now are screaming on social media for people to stay home. Funny how an invisible enemy suddenly becomes real when it hits home and people are dying among us.
Now we’re hunkered down, imprisoned in our homes, isolated from loved ones. We keep in contact through technology, but we can’t touch them, hug them. We’re alone, unemployed, or working with the constant fear of bringing the virus home to expose family members.
As Dylan said, the times they are a-changing’. We now know people who have coronavirus. The invisible virus that was once some ethereal concept on the news has invaded our personal lives, and it’s real. When this hell is over, people we work with, people we worship with, people we love may not be here.
Our priorities change in times of crisis. Things we once clung to as important suddenly take a back seat to necessities like food, masks, and sanitizer. Even the perception of time changes.
Life has slowed. We’re no longer frustrated being stuck in traffic, rushing to a meeting, or juggling the stress of everything on our to-do lists. Life in the fast lane is paused. Time has become irrelevant. Dinner at six is dinner whenever I get around to it. No worry.
Living in isolation, not knowing how or when this will end, is uncharted territory. We all are struggling with our own fears, financial struggles, and uncertainty about how we’re going to survive or even if we will survive.
Coronavirus an equal opportunity killer. It doesn’t matter your age, zip code, race, religion or politics. In a world where people are so divided and divisive, it’s the one common denominator that we all will experience. None of us knows if we will come out on the other side. We travel this journey alone. And if we make it, what will the world be like?
We’re watching history unfold in real-time. The year 2020 will be indelibly written in future history books, the year that the heart of the world stopped beating and everything went silent. Eventually, the heart will beat again. We will recover, perhaps a little sadder for lost loves ones and struggling to survive financially when it’s all over. We will survive and the world will move on like it did after the 1918 Spanish Flu.
The key is to come out of this better people, more caring, more concerned with the health and welfare of all our brothers and sisters, rich or poor, black or white, republican or democrat. This is a human crisis that may bring this world together. Someone hit the reset button, and we can either go back to the self-centered, divisive world we knew or forge a new path. All we can do is to love each other, support each other in their pain, rally behind each other, seek to rebuild, and remember the lessons learned about the value of human life — everyone’s life. Mitakuye oyasin. We are all related.