We have technology that connects us, like the various social network platforms. As a result, we can often feel less alone. But this is an illusion. It is a paradox that we feel more connected but in reality, we are not. I say this because we have developed habits brought on by reacting to social media on a superficial level, “liking”, “thumbs-up” posts as we mindlessly scroll through our newsfeed.
Last year, I decided to mitigate this by creating an online community. It began as a social experiment as I encouraged the members of the community to interact on a deeper level. I have seen some success, a small percentage, maybe 1.5%. I have found that it is challenging to break people's habits by and large because of their belief in a lack of time to respond sensibly. The result often is not paying attention to the source, and without giving a second thought to what the person posting might be experiencing. If a post requires too much reading, often it is skipped completely. This behaviour can lead to an increase sense of isolation. It is the kind of lack of thinking that distresses me, especially in these challenging times when we need to depend on each other to get through it.
Early in March 2020, when the Covid19 shutdown started, and people were directed to “socially distance” themselves to protect those they loved and to stop the virus spreading that was consuming the world, they over-reacted. Hysteria was all-consuming.
Fear and panic swept many countries. Ordinarily well-behaved folks began a frenzy buying spree. Toilet paper disappeared off shelves in stores globally like people’s life depended on it. When that first happened, I – like many others - didn't know what the significance of toilet paper was. They didn't stop there; they began hoarding food too. The world had gone mad.
Others acted in disbelief, rationalizing this was some kind of conspiracy hoax perpetrated by the government to control people. Still others ramped up their religious rhetoric, saying that God will save certain people if only they believed. And, that when your time is up there is nothing you can do about it. These types of messages encourage hopelessness.
Those beliefs made some people behave recklessly and irresponsibly and they refused to isolate, refused to stop shaking hands. They actually reveled in their rebellion, like teenagers. Co-opting others to also disobey guidelines to reduce spreading the virus. I admit, it was frightening. it seemed surreal. This is our shared experience. Like 9/11. I kept hearing the phrase “a new normal”.
When hubby returned from a business trip that week, I immediately sent him down to the lower level of the house to self-quarantine. The following couple of weeks I disinfected after him, anything he touched I wiped down clean. If he came close and looked like he was going to hug or kiss me, I'd say quickly don't kiss me get away from me. He handled this very well, to him the welfare of his family was paramount. I appreciate how well he took it. My son was home from University this semester, which gave me a level of comfort and reduced my stress, knowing he was safe here with us.
At the beginning, I was consumed with the news on CNN, as the death toll began rising in China, and then Italy, US, and now Canada. I could not stop watching, it’s like rubbernecking when you see a car accident. My stress level was high. I began noticing a correlation between watching this unfold on the news in real time, and my anxiety level. And I decided to limit watching CNN. It worked.
I then realized that I am not the only one feeling this way, and began checking on people to ensure they knew I was willing to listen if they needed to speak to someone about how crazy and unreal the world was becoming. The uncertainty was escalating every day, as the number of deaths were being reported, and the economic sector responded like the masses, and people began panicking and selling off shares, the stock market fell, oil prices hit rock bottom. A recession was on the horizon. As people began self-isolating, businesses without their workers had to close leaving customers wondering if and when they will reopen. Schools cancelled classes. It was chaos. Hospitals were pleading with the government for essential emergency kits, like ventilators and protective gear. Even the 2020 Olympics in Japan got postponed.
All this uncertainty began to simultaneously weigh on people as the death toll continued to climb, and their confidence collapsed. We are just weeks into this “new normal” no one can predict how it will end. I have been keeping to my regular schedule of exercise, meditation, and journaling, keeping note of what I am grateful for, the only control I have is my response to this pandemic, is my own behaviour.
In this unusual crazy world more than ever, we realize how interconnected we are, and what we do affects others. In that realization we must strive for balance between doing no harm or harming others, while protecting our families. Even knowing we could kill others by unintentionally transmitting the virus to them with reckless behavior. it is an individual choice how you decide to behave. The choice is in our hands, as individuals we have to be responsible for our actions for the greater good.
Just like after 9/11, it becomes apparent that the human spirit is amazing, and our innate compassion comes out in times of catastrophe. Many do show up for others, helping and comforting. While it may seem like we are alone, we are all together in the same boat. We are not isolated. How this will end is completely up to us individually and as a society as a whole.