Shifting to a new reality

In a matter of days, our world has changed and although the sun is shining outside and it looks like if we were to venture outside our neighborhood, things would be as we remembered it, that’s not the case.

Schools are closed, city facilities like libraries and recreation centers are closed, local businesses are shutting their doors (hopefully only temporarily) and simple household items such as toilet paper are no longer on the shelves. Things we took for granted are gone and there’s no way to know how long this “reality” will last or if it will ever go back to how we remembered it.

Will everyday life return to normal at some point, with some residual effects? (Like the fact that we still take off our shoes when going through security before a flight and not being able to meet loved ones at the gate; changes that came after 9/11.)

Or will we need to shift to a new normal?

There’s no way to know at this point, but one thing we do know for sure is that for now, life is very different. Simple pleasures, like having family and friends over, wandering through a library or bookstore, or eating at a restaurant, is not currently an option if we want to stay safe from COVID-19, the coronavirus that has spread throughout the globe. 

Thankfully, certain inventions over the past century have come in very handy these past few days, primarily the Internet and all the innovation that comes along with it. As people shift to working at home and children switch to remote learning, we are living in a virtual world that would have been unimaginable in decades past.

We’ve also witnessed the best and the worst of our fellow humans. I’ve read stories about people hoarding essential supplies then reselling them at much higher prices. Shoppers fighting over toilet paper. Teens spitting on produce in the grocery store, an act that in these days could potentially kill someone.

But fortunately, I’ve witnessed more goodness. My children’s teachers rearranged their whole curriculum to continue their students’ learning. Neighbors are trying to support local businesses whenever possible. Educators are working on making sure their students still receive meals if needed. Musicians are performing free concerts from their homes. Organizations that assist seniors are making sure their needs are being addressed.

It’s almost as if everyone’s differences have been stripped away from them. As the stock market crashes, many people may face financial difficulties that they’ve never had before. Wealth doesn’t buy an immunity to COVID-19. Nobody can go to Disneyland.  True, some people are quarantined in mansions with fine-dining food deliveries and others are wondering where their next meal will come from because they have been laid off or put on unpaid furlough. My hope is that there will be a wave of generosity covering the world and people who have will help those who don’t. 

I’ve already seen signs of this generosity. Companies offering free online services or classes to those who stuck at home. The generosity of healthcare workers who continue to risk their lives to treat people and save people’s lives. The employees in grocery stores who still show up for work every day.

We’ve also been stripped down to basic family units. Parents are spending more time with their children in one week than likely they did in the full month before. (And likely appreciating their children’s teachers more than ever before. How do they do what they do?!?!)

Events are being postponed or cancelled, including major lifecycle events such as weddings or bar mitzvahs. But babies are also being born, moments that we can celebrate at least virtually. Organizations are offering online classes and videos. Restaurants are offering to deliver meals. A cruise line is providing a ship that can be used as a hospital. 

All over the world, people are slowing down and feeling gratitude for the simple elements – family, food, a place to be with their family, an ability to connect to their loved ones, even if it’s over the phone or through a video. We are forced to stop our busy lives. There are no events to try to go to. There are no travel plans we can make. We’re all in this together. 

I’m so grateful that so many people have posted encouraging and entertaining words on social media.  Here are some of my favorites from this past week.

  • Cathy Heller, founder of the “Don’t Keep Your Day Job” podcast and author of the book of the same name: “My Thoughts on the Coronavirus.
  • Bob Baker, author of “The Empowered Artist,” who is offering online encouragement, performances, an improv comedy drop-in class and inspirational words.
  • Cari Cole recently offered free seats to her program for songwriters and musicians, which I just signed up for and can’t wait to learn what she has to say.
  • Those who posted the following: “Somewhere out there, there’s a kid who brought home the class hamster for the weekend. Their parents are not happy!” and all the other funny quotes and videos that are much appreciated.
  • I was invited to the “Parenting Under Quarantine” Facebook page – which now has over 16,000 members and offers online activities, tips and lots of humor.
  • All of those who have posted exercise videos online. I no longer have the excuse that I don’t have any time to exercise.

As we navigate these times together, let’s please try to be kind to each other. Please take care of yourself and stay healthy. Hopefully we’ll all be able to celebrate being together in person soon!

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