Strange days indeed. Just now I found myself standing in my kitchen robotically spooning ice cream directly from the carton into my mouth as I gazed glassy eyed at my now eerily empty calendar. I don’t even like ice cream. I actually had to do a little head shake to wake myself up from my trance. I feel like such a cliche. But I don’t really have any idea how to deal with a real life pandemic. It’s my first one. Is it ok to eat all the ice cream now, or should I save it for when I’m quarantined for 14 days? I dunno. Help.
Wednesday night I watched Donald Trump’s ridiculous, worthless (and decidedly xenophobic) address and yesterday I read that even though he’s been exposed to COVID-19 (which he denies even though there are pictures–there are always pictures) he won’t get tested. And all I can think is that holy shit, we are totally alone in all of this. It is completely up to us, the general public–the American people–to heed expert advice, to follow the plans outlined by the WHO, to learn from what’s happening in Italy and to take matters into our own hands. If we are to flatten the curve here in America, we are going to have to make our own rules and agree to follow them as a united front. And in order to do that we are going to have to show each other a little love, because my friends this is going to be a lonely, nerve wracking, difficult and frankly exhausting task.
I don’t know about you but I hate the term “social distancing”. I am a social person. I like talking to people. I like being around people. I like hugs. Hugs are nice. Social distancing sounds like a punishment. But according to experts–scientists and doctors and public health officials–it is the very best way to help slow, and eventually stop, the spread of this extremely fast moving disease. It’s what we have to do in order to ensure we don’t end up like Italy. We have to sacrifice some human interaction now, so that this crisis doesn’t completely dismantle our health care system and implode our economy.
So here we are. This is our new reality for the next little while. It’s scary because it’s different and weird and changing every day and because lots of people are starting to panic. Because being told to stay home from work and keeping your kids home from school, shutting down the NBA, closing Disneyland, turning the lights off on Broadway, silencing music venues, emptying college campuses and (weirdly) stockpiling toilet paper all sound like end of days. But we have to remember that we aren’t hiding from the disease because it’s going to kill us. For most of us if (when?) we get it, we’ll feel like we’ll have a really bad flu and then we’ll get over it. We’re not doing it for us. We’re doing it for the elderly and persons with compromised immune systems who won’t be able to fight it and who WILL die. We’re doing it for families who have loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes who are facing visiting restrictions or bans. We’re doing it for hourly employees who don’t have sick time who cannot afford to take time off of work. We’re doing it so that local small businesses–shops, restaurants, hair salons and local retailers–don’t shut down. We’re doing it to preserve society as we know it. Because if we don’t it WILL be end of days. I mean, we won’t be zombies but we’ll be facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and we’ll be left with a healthcare system that’s in shambles which come to think of it might lead to all of us dying actually, so yeah maybe we will all be zombies after all. Yikes. So, there’s that.
Anyway, we agree, right? We have to practice social distancing and we have to take care of ourselves. But can we also agree to take care of others? If now isn’t the time for us all to put differences aside and work together for the common good, I don’t know when is. Loving thy neighbor has never been more important. Ironically, we’ll have to do it virtually or from a distance of at least 6 feet, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try our hardest and do our best to maintain human connections.
What does that mean? Check in with people you care about or ones you know to be alone in this world, or ones who you think might be struggling. A phone call, an email, a text message. Or take a few seconds for an extra long elbow bump and engage in real, meaningful eye contact when you do get to interact with others. Use kind words. Encouraging words. Hopeful words. Remind your friends, your kids, your colleauges that this will pass and we will get back to normal. Accept that life is going to have to change for a bit. Model good behavior. Follow advice when it comes. Don’t panic. Don’t! Take deep breaths. Deep deep breaths. Drink lots of wine. Oops, how did that get in there? But yes, wine.
Also, support your local businesses. Please. Small businesses are going to be hit the hardest, and without support they may never recover. Instead of going out to dinner buy some gift cards- you’ll be able to use them in a few months, when things return to normal but it will help keep restaurants afloat now. Or order take out. That’s a little riskier, but still so much safer than sitting in a room with a bunch of people. If a small shop tells you they’re being diligent about sanitizing, and you aren’t sick, drop in and buy something. Bring your hand sanitizer, keep your distance from other shoppers, but don’t be afraid to go. Or buy from them online if that’s an option. Or best yet, call them up and ask if you can buy and gift card and have it mailed to your house. But, please whatever you do, don’t stop buying.
And, finally–just be kind to each other and yourself. Be gentle. Be patient. Be accepting. Be tolerant. Be a good friend. We’re all going through this, there’s no avoiding it for anyone. We might feel differently about it, but we’re all affected by it. No one is immune (wouldn’t that be nice). But we’ve got each other (we really do). And we can come together, right now. So, let’s come together. Right. Now.