Covid-19’s Silent Victim
At this point every single person you come across has watched this pandemic rob them of something important. Maybe it’s time or control; it could be experiences or travel; maybe it’s social interaction or celebrations; or, worst of all, maybe it’s the life of someone they love. Some of these things are glaring and evident, but there are some that are sneakier. Things that have snaked their way into our daily outlook that we haven’t even realized are there. Those are some of the most frightening cultural side effects of the pandemic—the ones we don’t see until it’s too late.
It seems since the start of the pandemic with every passing week, there is a new huge “thing” that we lose control over or that is added to our plates. First it was temporary closings of businesses and schools. Then it was shelter in place. Next a scramble to figure out how to keep “essential” businesses open. Followed by a desperate attempt to flatten a curve that was already well out of control. Then the furloughs came and then the e-learning and then the cancellation of summer children’s activities. Next businesses tried as hard as they could but had to close their doors forever. Further still came the never-ending debate of how to send our children back to school and how to keep our parents working.
It is difficult to see the end of all this, and all these stages we have been through over the past 6 months seem to continue to add line after line on the list of things people are responsible for in life. We now see how beautifully simple a responsibility list of Family, Work, Self, and Friends used to be. Now the list includes working under extreme conditions (economically, socially, or demand-wise, etc), educating children, keeping self and family safe (in a way that makes sense to that person), keeping a close watch over personal mental health in a world where we have been forced into isolation even when we are “together”. All of the sudden our responsibility list can no longer be described in a few, single words.
Personal Responsibility vs Personally Important
People crave balance. I think that most people achieve that balance by figuring out how to draw their energy from the things that are most personally important to them in life—which used to parallel their responsibility lists closely: family, faith, friends, career, for example. But when that list stops being simple and grows, I think we subconsciously veer toward attempting to distribute our energy evenly across all of those things. Hoping to reinforce some control as everything starts to feel more and more overwhelming. Someone close to me told me they were given advice recently to divide their energy in equal parts across family, work, and self. I think this approach is completely backward.
This is a time where we need to separate our responsibility list from what is personally important. Right now, during this time, those two things are no longer the same. Accept the responsibility list for what it is; accept that you may not have total control over the things on that list and that the list will probably cause you to expel extra energy. Do not add what’s personally important to you to that list and allow those things to expel your energy. Accept your responsibility list as a tank that will take energy, and elevate what’s on the list of things most important to you as the tank where you draw your energy. This is how we can all survive the pandemic and all that comes with it.
E learning, a stressed spouse, a sick relative all will require you to spend energy right now. That’s okay. Those things are on your responsibility list. Don’t let that list trump the JOY that your family gives you to fill that energy right back up.
High demands as everything reopens, adjustment from being on furlough to re-entry to the workforce, safety in the workplace, and coordination in this new environment will all require you to spend energy right now. That’s okay. Remember the things—even if it’s ONE small thing–that bring you joy and fill that energy back up. Hold on to that as tight as you can. Write yourself a reminder note and post it on your desk if you have to.
New expectations from the world around you, loneliness or a feeling of isolation even though everything is “back open”, a responsibility list that feels beyond your control. Those things will require you to spend energy right now. That’s okay. What makes YOU feel good? Not what makes you feel good considering pandemic restrictions or considering the limited time you now have. . .but what is deeply rooted in you that the pandemic can’t touch. Is it your faith? Your exercise routine? Is it meditation? Remember what it is, hold on to it, and elevate it so that it fills your energy back up.
It’s difficult to find ways to encourage others and your SELF during this pandemic. We are in an unprecedented situation. No one knows the answer and no one can see the solution. Maybe there isn’t one. But if you can stay focused on drawing your energy from the right places and encourage those around you to do the same, we can get through this. And we will be better for it someday because we will know ourselves better than we did before.