We’re in new territory with the COVID-19 pandemic. It may feel like World War III for those who’ve lived through war times. But most of us can’t recall a time when people were told to self-quarantine or shelter in place, when schools were closed and malls and movies were shut down. Yet here we are. The question is, what can we do with this forced hiatus if you can even call it that?
As we come to terms with the massive losses that have resulted from the COVID-19 outbreak, and there have been many, we can look for ways to effect change also. Now, don’t get me wrong, the loss of income, social contact and milestones have been life-changing. My husband and I, both educators, are living off of one paycheck right now while looking ahead to a summer with limited income. And, still, all of that pales in comparison to the major loss here, the loss of lives. So, what can we do when life as we know it has changed in both small and seismic ways? We can strive to make changes for the good in a bad situation.
Seeking the good
What does that look like? Well, it might look like organizing online support groups for our children, our workplace or a group outside of work. Anxiety levels are high right now, and offering and sharing support can help. It might look like ordering a surprise food delivery for a neighbor or a friend who’s feeling isolated, cash strapped and down on her luck right now. You’ll never know how far one kind gesture can reverberate. Whatever that looks like for you, small acts of kindness can make a difference. And that may begin at home.
Reclaiming home—and lost time
As a mother, wife, educator and commuter, I’ve found that, more often than not, my time is not my own. During most weeks, I’m suffering from a combo of sleep deprivation (from late-night grading after the family is put to bed), general fatigue from the demands of a long commute, and mind fog after expelling all of my mental energy in the classroom. Quite honestly, I often feel that there’s not much left by the time I get home to my family. And I know it’s not fair, then comes the guilt. But working remotely has shaken things up a bit. I’ve found time that I didn’t know I had and, for the first time in a long time, I feel really “tuned in” at home. I’m not saying that working from home will fix all of our problems, but at least it’s made me more aware of them.
Now, of course, telecommuting has its challenges, and I wouldn’t choose to do it permanently, but it definitely has some advantages. For one thing, for the first time in what seems like weeks, we’ve been able to sit at the dinner table as a family…and actually talk, really talk. It’s funny what a little (forced) extra time on your hands can do. And guess what? Our children are just as concerned about the Coronavirus as we are right now. This is our chance as parents and relatives to talk them through their fears and to help them to feel safe.
Checking our vitals
So, if nothing else, all of this COVID-19 pandemonium has forced me to not only check our temperatures, but to also check the vitals of my home life and my priorities. If everything was to be taken away today, what really matters? Well, for sure, I think we can start with our health. That’s a given, right? But then there’s also connection and affection and feeling truly valued. What do I want my loved ones to know about me when all is said and done? I want them to know that I care and that I’m here, that I’m truly listening and interested in the things that are important to them.
I suffered a devastating loss last year when my younger sister passed away suddenly, and that was the beginning of this time of reassessing my priorities. Well, now, today, in the age of this global pandemic, I have figured out what truly matters to me: making a difference. I hope you can do the same.
Regina Cash-Clark is a wife and mother of four (twins plus two) who lives in Somerset, Franklin Township. She teaches writing as a full-time faculty member at Ramapo College of New Jersey.
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