What I'm learning from COVID-19: A pandemic of connection.
We are surrounded by stories of war-like conditions in hospitals in China, Italy and Iran. We've seen photos of brave women and men treating the ill and dying, choosing between who gets a ventilator and who doesn't because of the massive shortages of medical equipment. We've seen panic, fear and grief all around the world.
In Winnipeg, in just 6 short days we have gone from 0 cases of COVID-19 to 15. Until March 12, Winnipeggers were feeling immune, at least I was. Our landlocked, frozen province became part of pandemic with it's hot spots across oceans... impossible! I didn't think my tiny little prairie city was important enough. I was still thinking this thing was just a "bad flu". I've never known such rapid change in such a short amount of time. Every hour, every day is a new adjustment, a new reality. A pandemic, not "just a flu". Business closures, toilet paper shortages, cancelled events, school and daycare cancellation, no handshakes, don't touch your face, wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.
I feel scared. I feel heartbreaking sadness for China, Italy, Iran, Spain, South Korea and so many other countries who are only beginning to see the effects of the novel virus. And I feel scared for Manitoba and for Canada. This is brand new for us. In 3 months, what will we be feeling? Nature is in charge right now, we are getting sick, and for now we don't know if or when we will be safe to hug each other, see friends and family abroad or high five our neighbour. That's lonely. It's like I'm starving and no one is offering me something to eat.
And then we have moments like this:
And we're not scared for a minute and we don't feel lonely. Just like having a delicious meal, our bellies are "full" with connection. I have experienced moments of laughter where the fear melts and we are comforted. I have had friends bring food and video calls where my daughter talks on and on to her grandparents about her day. My belly is getting more and more full with meaningful moments of connection.
We are made for connection, our bellies are empty without it. The beauty that I am seeing in the midst of grief, sadness, fear and confusion is the realization that we need each other. Being without close physical presence but finding new and creative ways to be with our neighbours, our coworkers, our families and our friends will be rewarding and transformative for many of us.
How? Try the obvious: FaceTime, Skype, text, phone calls, emails, Snapchat, DM, send funny memes.
What about the not-so-obivous?
--> Begin a daily gratitude practice through journalling, meditation or prayer.
--> Work on radically accepting what makes some of your relationships difficult with friends/coworkers/family (...mostly family though, am I right?). Think of their qualities that are difficult for you to handle as thought they are leaves blowing by in the breeze, coming by but then blowing away and disappearing. Or imagine changing the channel or watching them as snowflakes falling from the sky and disappearing into the warm autumn grass. Be cautious that you are not radically accepting harm or emotional abuse in your relationships.
--> Choose forgiveness when appropriate and helpful. Practice 'Loving Kindness' meditations to change how you think about someone who has hurt you. (Look for some on YouTube!)
--> Know that you are worthy of being treated with love, care and respect in all your relationships and give those gifts back to the ones you love. You are a rockstar- know it, own it and be it!!
--> Step out in vulnerability to initiate connection with those you love. Stick your neck out and be the first to call or text. Tell people that you love and care about them, cook for them, write them a poem or a song, take a run or exercise "with" a friend by sharing
your workouts over your app of preference, plan to watch something at the same time and text about it as it's happening. As we know from Brene Brown, vulnerability opens you up to the possibility of hurt... however normally we get the opposite of hurt- we are set free in our relationships and our spirits to love and risk our emotions even more. Our bellies are filled.
Happy connecting... and reconnecting.