March 26, 2020
I don’t know about you, but I have certainly been feeling the general angst in our world these days, and I find myself rather uncharacteristically on edge. There are seven of us living in our house – my parents, myself and my husband, our two young adult daughters, and an “adopted” family member – a young woman renting a room across the hall from our daughters.
Five of us are now home all day long. Two of us (my husband and one of our daughters) are the sole workers going into their respective workplaces, so they are essentially in isolation too, just at work rather than at home.
We talk every day about what we’re reading in the news, what the two of us out in the world are seeing as they travel the empty roads and line up outside the grocery store, duly positioned two metres apart from other people. We wonder what the future holds.
We ponder the impact of this pandemic on each of us – our daughters’ Grade 12 and university educations being disrupted; my having to meet with clients virtually in a line of work that begs for personal contact, and wondering whether there will be sufficient new work to provide continued income for my family; my husband bearing the weight of being the anchor at the office that is making it possible for the rest of the staff to work remotely; my elderly parents feeling the vulnerability of their age, and remembering all too well the impact of their own apocalypse – the Second World War.
We fret about the short term and long term global impact of a medical and economic pandemic about which so little is known.
Even the seven of us, who are so very fortunate, feel tense and uneasy. We each have worries we almost lack the vocabulary to articulate. We live now in a world of deeply unsettling uncertainty. How to cope, then, with this mounting fear and loneliness? How do we stop ourselves from taking our worries out on each other? How do we prevent too much togetherness from driving a wedge between us?
Be grateful: Our family continually expresses our gratitude for our relatively good health, for the comfort of the roof over our heads and the plentiful (although somewhat depleted) stock of food and sundries in our pantry, for the blessing of having our closest family members all under the same roof. I encourage you to find 5 things each day to be grateful for, no matter how seemingly insignificant. You will be surprised at how much of a difference it makes to live in gratitude, particularly when there is so much chaos and worry around us.
Be patient and kind: We do what we can to keep one another calm and hopeful. The golden rule in our home is to treat one another with respect, while still giving space to feel whatever we are feeling and express ourselves. Understand that each of us processes differently and that it is human nature to take out our feelings on those closest to us. Strive to be the voice of reason within your family and with your intimate partner. Be kind to one another. We are all a little more fragile these days. Know that and treat each other accordingly.
Be mindful of how others are feeling: Be an observer in your own life. Watch and learn from your own reactions. If you’re feeling off or if you’re struggling to make sense of what’s happening, know that everyone around you is as well. Treat one another with the love and compassion with which you want to be treated yourself.
Be ok with the uncertainty: Even at 17 and 21, our daughters still ask my husband and I for answers. It’s sweet. We’ve rarely had answers for them anyway! And these days, we have fewer answers for them than ever before. Instead, we dialogue with them. We ask them questions to foster their own curiosity, and we help them to be ok even when there are no answers. Help your family to be ok with the unknown. Find other ways to provide comfort and reassurance.
Be of service: Our daughters actively look for ways to help out – they do the grocery shopping for their grandparents and other seniors in their life; they did the massive spring cleanup in our yard for us; they clean their grandparents’ suite since outside help can no longer come to them. Look for good news stories about the positive things people are doing in their communities and help your family to find ways to be of service, even from a distance.
Stay connected even at a distance: As much as our generation disses the younger generations’ attachment to social media and their devices, we sure are grateful for it now! Support your entire family to stay connected with other family members and friends through social media. Form groups; share ideas and activities together; exercise, play games, play music in groups online.
Laugh, laugh, laugh: Our family has endured more than its fair share of challenges, even before this pandemic. What has been the secret to our resilience is laughter. Our family is blessed with the gift of dry wit. We laugh easily. We laugh loudly. We laugh frequently. We laugh together. Find whatever makes you and your family members laugh, and do it often.
We know that this time of uncertainty will end. We don’t know exactly when, but when it does, we do know with certainty, that the things we put in place now will hold more meaning later. Our resilience will withstand all of this.