I have been very angry these past weeks. I have spoken harshly to joggers who would run up right behind me without warning and pass me as if social distancing did not apply to them. I have lost it when the wife of the jogger that cut right in front of me less than a few feet away, did the same thing as her husband, but from the other side. It’s hard to stay calm and keep oneself healthy when others fail to understand the potential harm of their actions. I tried to gauge when during the day it might be safer to go outside. I noticed there were fewer people on the street mid morning so I chanced it. Unfortunately, a small child on a scooter innocently passed within a few feet of me. When I spoke to the mother I was told ‘he’s only three.’ When I pointed out she was ‘the adult in charge’ I was again dismissed as being a crazy person and condescendingly told to “have a good day.” There are many other instances but there is no point in listing them all.
Today I’m working on forgiving these disbelievers. You see I’ve come to realize that, for whatever reason, they are still unable to accept what this virus can do. I understand their deep-rooted need to pretend that all is well and that their lives have not been changed forever. There is an innate desire within all of us to hold onto familiar routines when our lives change so dramatically. It’s almost like a knee jerk reaction. We can’t help ourselves. Denial (or pretending) let’s us feel like we still have some control over our days and this calms us. To shift our minds and our behaviours into this ‘new normal’ that feels somewhat like being thrown into a surreal sci-fi horror film seems to be in itself bizarre beyond words. It’s a lot to ask of anyone. I know.
I get the resistance to give up your Timmies coffee, to jog, to bike ride with your kids, to stand on the corner and chat with friends and to visit with family. I get that it’s hard to believe your life and the lives of your loved ones can change so much and so quickly. I too once could not have comprehended that this was possible.
Just as my late husband and I took our life and our future for granted so too did most of us before this pandemic, myself included. My ability to quickly adapt and live somewhat comfortably in this place of uncertainty comes at a very high price: the death of 5 family members in 6 years. It isn’t something I would wish on anyone. However, having lived a life where circumstances frequently changed rapidly and more often than not in a way I did not want them to, I understand it takes time to give up on what once was and accept what now is. Experience tells me that we will get there and that it will get easier.
I know that as I grow into this new way of living I need to be kind to myself. I hope you will do the same. I know I have done everything I can to reduce harming others, but then I understand the price of not doing so better than many. I hope that as those of you who are still struggling to accept this situation come to do so that you too will forgive yourselves for your own past actions that may have harmed others, if only by needlessly increasing their stress levels exponentially. I know you didn’t get it at that time.
Having said this, however, I do urge you to take this new knowledge and commit to being kinder and more considerate to those around you. More importantly, I implore you to accept that when we live together, whether it is in big cities, small towns or rural areas, that we have a responsibility to one another and that this responsibility will sometimes trump our personal wants and desires. Strive to look out for others.
Cut yourself some slack when you find that this is harder than you thought. You will fail. We all do from time to time. This is what it means to be human. If you’ve ever tried to establish a new habit in your life whether it be drinking more water, exercising three times a week or calling your mom weekly you already know how much work goes into making these simple tasks part of your every day routine. This is far more challenging.
Some of us are being asked to not go into work and others to understand that they no longer have a job to go to. Many are being asked to accept that the business they spent years building might fail. The sadness, the anger and the frustration we are feeling is grief. We are grieving for what we once had that no longer exists. We are coming to terms with the fact that these types of crises are possible and that they can affect all of us and our loved ones.
You may be feeling powerless. This pandemic will shake your beliefs around what you thought the world was like and your place in it. This too is grief.
And in the midst of all this loss we are also being asked to assume the additional responsibility of supervising our children’s education if not home school them. We are being asked to not hug our parents if you don’t live in the same household and we are being asked to make sure our children do not hug their grandparents. And right about now we could all use a good hug.
Grandparents, we are being asked to stay away from our grandchildren and children so that we do not succumb to this virus that they may be unknowingly carrying. This is hard, especially on this first holiday weekend of life in the time of covid-19. Somehow, losing this time where we usually gather with loved ones, makes it all the more real and more frightening. This too brings more feelings of loss and grief.
Sometimes I cry because I cannot see the face of my daughter in person or tip my grandson upside down, tickle his neck with kisses and hear the giggles that light up my heart. So I get that this is hard on all of us. I get that many are still struggling to come to terms with living a life filled with uncertainty. I know we will get it. The costs of not social distancing will all too soon show up in all of our lives. To those of you still unable to believe the importance of social distancing, I know you do not believe that you are doing anything harmful.
For all these reasons I’m forgiving those of you who over the course of the last month have trespassed into my 2 meter wide personal space. I’m choosing instead to be grateful that I am healthy, even though I no longer feel it is not safe for me to go out and walk in the sunshine. I know this too shall pass, even though far too many will die from this virus and some needlessly because others failed to stay home. I hope I will again hug my daughter, tip my grandson upside down, sit on my friend’s deck in the sun, walk on the beach and go out for coffee. I will be even more grateful for these simple pleasures and I hope that others will too. In the meantime, I will work dam hard to forgive when I see that some folks continue to fail at social distancing. It’s the only way for us all to move forward together.
Stay well and PLEASE stay home. Save lives.