Shiny objects in the darkness

I tend to be more New Agey when faced with natural disasters or personal struggles. I’m one who always looks for a life lesson from challenges beyond my control. It’s not that I’m a cheerful optimist. I need to solve the problem, even if the only explanation I can construct is something intangible. The COVID-19 crisis is no different.

And there is a bright silver lining in this global nightmare. The environment is bouncing back because of these lockdowns. Maybe our carbon emissions never go back to what they were. Maybe the Universe unleashed this disease to save the planet because we wouldn’t do it. Or it’s really all just because some Chinese guy ate a bat. I don’t know. But what I do know is that it is a good thing China’s air pollution is no longer visible from space. Swans and fish have returned to Venice’s formerly murky canals. It’s something positive. Humans are the real plague on this planet, not locusts.

Sure there are selfish assholes out there. They hoard more toilet paper than they would use in a year. They insist on their workers putting their families at risk or not get paid. Or they make their workers pool sick leave or take unpaid leave when they have the means to pay them. They still go out and socialize because they believe this is all a liberal hoax and everyone in Italy is a crisis actor. The President gets on tv and laughs that his staff is calling it the “Kung Flu.” Just like Dick Cheney, that man is proof that only the good die young.

I admit I’m a little bitter, sure. I waited 12 years to get three weeks’ vacation and the money to spend it. That just seems like a massive prank by the Universe. My temper is getting short, and this thing hasn’t even hit us yet. I think Americans are starting to realize that. The waiting and bracing for it is extremely unnerving. I cope by sharing memes, making jokes, and drinking moderately (or not). Humor is my defense mechanism.

Most of us have never been in war, and have never lived under circumstances where we’ve lost our freedom of movement. It’s not comfortable at all. It’s not something we will do well with if it lasts for months. I just want to take a damn vacation and not have to worry.

As triggering as it is seeing this news 24/7 on Facebook, the posts in my feed also show that we need human interaction right now. I know–it shocked me too. For someone as friendly as a rabid porcupine, I didn’t expect to need people. I’ve had to be strong and independent for 10 years, only depending on myself. But right now, just being able to share helps. Writing these posts and getting comments on them helps. None of us are alone in this, and there is strength and comfort in that. Being so connected is often a curse, but it is also reassuring to hear there are others who feel the same way or have a perspective that eases the tension, if only temporarily.

I think there is another bright spot in all this. Living through this situation will bring people closer together. This pandemic strips away all distraction and pretense, and underneath it we are all just scared people huddling together not knowing what will happen tomorrow and if everyone we love will still be here. For someone like me, who has to control every aspect of my daily life, this is living a nightmare. And we will all learn from this the true character of the people around us — who really cares about us and who is just a superficial character in your daily sitcom/drama/horror movie of a life. I believe those bonds will deepen and make our relationships stronger once this passes.

This crisis will bring out the worst in some people, but it will bring out the best in most of us. And not only will that be a turning point in our collective society, it will be most apparent in our individual lives as our view of what’s important to us is upheaved and destroyed. It isn’t lots of deliveries from Amazon Prime, or our jobs, or political ideology. It’s more basic than that. And I look forward to coming out the other side of this and exhaling. And after I exhale, realizing that I am free from all the trappings I was locked into prior to this. I think we will all do that. This is a stark, brutal reminder that tomorrow is not promised to anyone.

Having endured this, we will never be the same. And I’m hopeful that feeling lasts for all of us. Well, only the ones who aren’t being assholes right now.

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