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8 Life Lessons Learned From the Coronavirus
Can life lessons be learned during this pandemic? You bet.
However, it is not over yet. President Donald Trump warned last week that the coronavirus pandemic in the US will likely “get worse before it gets better.” Yes, I know a little. The coronavirus isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and, once again, this pandemic is forcing people to pause and reflect.
Well, maybe not everyone pauses. As states began to lift restrictions on businesses and public spaces, photos and videos of people gathering in large numbers began to appear in the news. I was only concerned as an older American, but I realized that in the rush to return to “normal” people were missing out on learning valuable lessons about empathy and self-sacrifice.
In fact, the attitude of some people shocked me. For example, I heard about Elizabeth Linscott from Kentucky and her husband, Isaiah, who were placed under house arrest last week after Elizabeth tested positive for the coronavirus. The couple refused to sign documents agreeing to quarantine at home for two weeks.
“There is no epidemic,” Elizabeth said emphatically. Really? An epidemic is defined as the global spread of a new disease. At the time of this writing over 16 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with COVID-19, isn’t that right?
“If you’re scared, please stay home, because I can’t stop living my life because you’re scared,” he added in an interview with Good Morning America. I was overwhelmed. What about the people on the front lines—everyone in the medical field to grocery store workers—who are scared but forced to go to work? They don’t have a “stay at home” option. Those more vulnerable still need to go out for essential tasks like buying food or medical appointments. I mean, hey Elizabeth, we’re talking about 14 days of your entire life when your actions could mean life and death for some people. What happened to self-sacrifice for the greater good?
However, I fully realize that there are those who agree with her statement.
Even after the restrictions were lifted, some “normal” life was still impossible. Aging baby boomers and those with health problems were still advised to stay home. And for those grieving the loss of a loved one, things are never the same. Indeed, once a vaccine is available and we reach the other end of this pandemic, will our “normal” look the same for any of us? I don’t think so. Here’s an idea. When that happens, before running out to claim our lives back, maybe it’s time to admit that the pandemic has changed us forever — and something of it is worth preserving.
Ryan Seacrest joked, “If I start a New Year’s countdown, will 2020 end?” A funny joke, but perhaps because I am old and know that my days are limited, I will not give up precious time to move forward into the future, even with its trials. If we use this pandemic as a time of reflection, there are important and unique life lessons to be learned.
Corona epidemic is not fun. I don’t want to be a Pollyanna here. Of course, it has been torturous and overwhelming at times. This news is heartbreaking as the death toll is increasing day by day. I miss the joyous freedom of hugging my family and friends, traveling to new exciting places, and attending a boisterous, crowded concert. Empty grocery store shelves, towns that looked like ghost towns, and masked people were shockingly dystopian as the epidemic began. As some people gathered food, toilet paper and hand sanitizer, I was forced to see the ugly side of humanity. Fraudsters tried to take advantage of the panic. And there was the cruel phrase “Boomer Remover” that started trending on Twitter, aimed at us baby boomers who are more vulnerable to the virus.
On the lighter side, can we talk about grooming issues? As the weeks went by and it became clear that seeing my hairstylist was out of the question, I thought maybe it was a good time to see what I would look like with gray hair. I panicked. My husband, who is lucky enough to have a lot of hair at 60, looked like a mad scientist. So, there it is. A bottle of Revlon and some hair cutting scissors did the trick, but not with the same results a professional could achieve.
Within days, I felt productive and creative as I tapped into reservoirs of strength and inspiration. But there were also days when I battled depression and anxiety, hated being confined to my house, ate a big bag of chips with a glass of wine to comfort myself, felt overwhelmed by news stories, and struggled to cope. I thought it was all too much – and it was. The world had not faced such an event in more than a century. On top of all the tragedies, there was a devastating economic impact as small businesses struggled to stay open. Then, there were protests and riots in the fight for racial justice.
It’s okay to not be okay sometimes.
And yet in the midst of all the turmoil, the epidemic required me to remain calm and quiet. To be satisfied with my own company. To slow down and reflect on the more important aspects of life. With that in mind, here are some valuable lessons I’ve learned so far and hope to retain even after the pandemic is over.
* Embrace my spirituality
My spirituality and trust in God has become more important than ever. The coronavirus has reinforced that life is uncertain and unpredictable. As a result, I have learned to rely completely on God to maintain a sense of hope, strength, patience, and endurance.
* Appreciate loved ones more
With other parts of the world, I learned the value of human connection in a way not possible before.
Not being able to see my family means all of them are very precious to me. I can’t stop holding my 2-year-old granddaughter’s little hand, going out for dinner and traveling to exotic places.
I also became grateful for the technology – with which I generally have a love/hate relationship – that allows us to stay in touch with our loved ones. However, I will admit that it is not the same. I am an introvert and not really a people person. However, I felt a hug from friends now.
On the positive side, with children home from school and their parents working from home, families have come together, enjoying backyard sports, playing board games, riding bikes and solving puzzles. It is beautiful to see.
* See the good in people
What they say is true. Bad times can bring out good things in people. Amidst all the chaos, I saw brave and selfless heroes emerge.
My husband’s colleague, Art, explained that his nurse, in her 60s, who treats his health problems, bravely responded to New York City’s call for help in April and flew to the epicenter of COVID-19 during the worst of the outbreak. “I don’t know if she’s coming back,” Art said confidently. Thousands joined him.
Medical staff are still responding to calls for help in areas hardest hit by the virus. Recently, U.S. Air Force doctors, nurses and other medical providers were sent to work at hospitals in California, including Eisenhower Hospital near my home, to help with the massive surge in coronavirus cases that is straining the health care system.
Delivery people and grocery store workers are willing to put their lives on the line to serve us. Many restaurant owners are donating food. Communities and neighborhoods encourage each other with signs in windows and teddy bears or positive messages written in chalk on sidewalks. People are adopting dogs to help shelters. No one is immune to this virus and in some ways it serves to unite us.
* Taste nature
I have always admired nature though. I became more aware of the beauty of the hibiscus flowers blooming in my yard, the soothing sounds of birds singing joyfully, or the desert night sky revealing its myriad glories.
With the reduction in air pollution in our cities, the sky has never looked bluer. Wildlife began to reclaim areas once dominated by humans.
It has never been truer – nature is silent.
* Be grateful for my life and health
The pandemic taught me how uncertain life can be and how fragile we all are as humans. Life itself should never be taken lightly – not even when faced with hardships. It was a calming reminder to take care of my health.
I have to admit, keeping my snacking under control while at home is a challenge, but I have developed some healthy habits that I want to keep.
For example, desperate to get out into the house and nature, I never took many walks and bike rides. Now that it’s too hot to exercise outside where I live, thanks to a friend, I discovered the FitOn app with free exercise videos. After all, exercise not only helps our immune system, but can reduce the extra anxiety we’re all feeling right now.
I also learned not to stress over the little things. Epidemics put small problems into perspective.
* Become more empathetic
During the initial panic, some couldn’t stockpile food and toilet paper, which made me even more aware of the unemployed living paycheck-to-paycheck. Some people had to make the terrible choice to stay safe or risk their lives to return to work to put a roof over their head and food on the table. Some chose the latter, and died as a result.
I think of the helpless and vulnerable seniors who fear nursing homes and the mentally challenged who struggle to overcome their fears even in normal situations. It gives me perspective. I know that the apprehension and uneasiness I sometimes feel is incomparable.
The coronavirus has taught me the value of self-sacrifice, including keeping a safe distance from people and wearing masks for those more vulnerable than myself. Although there are exceptions, thankfully, most people feel the same way.
I’ve always known that, but the pandemic reinforced the fact that giving back and focusing on others not only provides others but also a sense of well-being and peace.
* Live with less
When the pandemic started, literally scared to go grocery shopping, I started buying only essentials that would last me two weeks. My husband and I were surprised at how well we survived with the basics on hand. We learned to have needs and wants and to save money.
As I mentioned earlier, I learned to color my own hair and trim my husband’s. We looked fine. Fancy clothes and shoes became unimportant. We ate a lot at home and tried new dishes. And can we talk about saving gas money by running unnecessarily?
There are important financial lessons to be learned here.
* Laugh more
Keeping a sense of humor is important, especially during difficult times. When I saw the worried look on my husband’s face when I put the scissors through his hair, well, I’ve never laughed. I appreciated all the funny memes and tweets about our quirky ways to entertain at home and our obsession with snack foods. This is true. Laughter is the best medicine.
I know we’re all burned out by now and in a rush to live a “normal life” again, but let’s not forget all these life lessons. Indeed, we know that life won’t be the same after this pandemic is over but, as I pointed out earlier, maybe that’s not an entirely bad thing.
I hope we’ve learned to never take for granted the loved ones, the grocery store full of food, the excitement of a crowded concert, and every deep breath we take.
I hope we continue to prioritize our spirituality and spending time with loved ones.
I hope we understand how little we really need to survive.
I hope we remember how strong and resilient we can be in challenging times.
I hope that we will come out of this pandemic more grateful, kinder, and grateful.
And I hope we never forget how to find light in the midst of darkness.
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