Covid isn’t going anywhere, no matter how much we might wish it were otherwise. This long, drawn out ordeal isn’t anywhere near over, and the toll it’s taking on us gets worse every week. We’ve all lost something, big or small. Jobs, loved ones, schooling, events, the ability to go out without worry or restriction, and just the general predictability of everyday life have all been lost. It’s tragic and terrible and enough to make you want to rage and cry. But may I make a suggestion? Instead of constantly thinking about all that’s been lost, try to think about what you’ve gained.
Let me be clear: I don’t intend to minimize or gloss over any loss suffered by anyone. Everyone deserves to mourn their losses in their own way, and in their own time. However, there comes a point in a long, drawn out event like a pandemic where constantly dwelling on the losses hinders your ability to move forward in the new reality. (And I sincerely recognize that there’s a huge difference between the loss of a loved one vs. the loss of a smaller thing like a wedding reception or vacation. Once can be replaced, the other cannot. Such losses are very different from one another and require different coping mechanisms. For the purpose of this piece, I refer mostly to the smaller, replaceable, losses.)
I know many people who wake up every day lamenting some aspect of our new existence. Masks, the loss of theaters or in-house dining, sports, missed vacations, having to work at home… whatever it is, they dwell on these things that are no longer the same. Even if the things are more annoying than life-altering, these people cannot let them go.
As a result, they live in perpetual misery. Yes, the world is profoundly screwed up right now. Wildfires, hurricanes, disease, politics (I could lump politics in with disease, actually)… Every time you turn around some new dumpster is on fire. And we all certainly have cause to live in some amount of misery. I’ve never been the most Pollyanna-esque person, either, and the current mess makes that even more challenging. But we can choose to look beyond the misery just a bit and focus not on the (near constant) losses, but on the things we have gained.
And we have gained some things.
fifteen ten pounds of lockdown weight. Ahem…*
Your gains are probably different from mine, but here’s the list of things I try to focus on when it all seems to be too much.
A slower pace of life. Lockdown isn’t a disaster for me. I actually enjoy being forced to slow down and knowing that my introvert tendencies are socially acceptable for once. I can say no without explanation, and having less to do is a blessing.
Being outside more. I’ve always been a walker, but now there’s something sweeter about it. I’m more attuned to the changing seasons and the nature around me. I see more animals and insects now that walking is both entertainment and exercise. Rather than doggedly clocking off the miles, I actively participate in the walk, seeing and smelling the world around me more than ever. Speaking of nature…
Nature has made a small comeback. With less of us traveling and blowing up our carbon footprints all over the place, nature has made a small comeback. Is it enough to reverse climate change? No. But it does give me hope that we humans can realize we can live on/with less travel and crap and maybe begin to make a serious difference in the state of the world.
Work from home is becoming a thing. We’ve had the ability to WFH for years, but employers haven’t embraced it. But now… They’re embracing it. Maybe not all, but enough to make a difference in stressful and polluting commutes. I have hope that this adoption will continue.
Shopping is so much easier. I hate shopping and have always done as much online as I can. But there have always been those things that I have to go to a store to get. The great news is that stores have stepped up their online games and I can get almost anything I need now. For those few things that require a store trip, I can do curbside pickup. It reduces Covid exposure, but also saves a ton of time and stress. Here’s to this trend continuing into the future.
The world is more sanitary. I’m not a huge germaphobe, but neither have I ever loved shaking hands, hugging distant friends/relatives, etc. I don’t enjoy being close to people in lines or buildings. Public places have always seemed like they could use a little more cleaning. Finally, we’re getting there. Germy person to person contact is greatly reduced. People and businesses are cleaning more often and thoroughly. It’s nice.
People are finding substitutes for unnecessary travel and events. This goes along with my climate hope, above, but goes a bit further. I hate that everything had to be done in person. A five-minute contract signing? Let’s fly you out to NY for that. Need to tell you one tiny thing related to the project you’re working on? Oh, you have to come to our offices for that because we can’t do it on the phone. A business convention where we spend three days convincing you to buy our product? Let’s all go to Vegas. People are discovering how unnecessary much of this is. It’s easier and cheaper for all parties to do this stuff over videoconference or other online options. Not everything has to be in-person and it’s liberating to know that I may never have to go to a conference/meeting again.
Appreciating the small things, and what I already have. Little things make me happier now. Just being able to see my parents is huge. A trip to the library to pick up some books curbside is actually an event to look forward to, not just an errand. Working my way through my unread books, games, and hobby materials makes me happy. I have so much, in so many ways, that it’s hard to complain about petty stuff like masks or not being able to go to a movie.
More time together. Now that we’re all home all the time, we have plenty of time to get to know each other again. It’s a bit like a dress rehearsal for retirement, and since we haven’t killed each other yet, things are looking good.
Time to get stuff done. All those crap jobs around the house that we’ve been putting off? Done. With plenty of time to “do,” we’ve pretty much eliminated all the nagging little jobs and we’re staying on top of anything new that comes up.
No, none of this makes the world easier to live in, or the current circumstances easier to bear. But maybe, just maybe, thinking of the positive gains instead of the losses can give hope and a shine a little light in the darkness. Make your own list of things that have changed for the better and focus on those, rather than dwelling on the things that aren’t the same. Change is hard, but there’s often beauty in it, as well.
(Image by Gino Crescoli)