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8 Life Lessons Learned From the Coronavirus
Are there life lessons to be learned during this pandemic? You bet.
Although, it’s not over yet. President Donald Trump warned last week that the coronavirus pandemic in the US is likely to “get worse before it gets better”. Yes, somehow I made it up. The coronavirus is not going away anytime soon, and this pandemic is once again making people stop and think.
Well, maybe not everyone stops. As states began to lift restrictions on businesses and public areas, photos and videos of people gathering en masse began to appear in the news. Not only was I upset as an older American woman, but I felt that in the rush to get back to “normal” people were not learning valuable lessons about empathy and selflessness.
In fact, the attitude of some people shocked me. For example, I heard about Elizabeth Linscott and her husband Isaiah from Kentucky who were placed under house arrest last week after Elizabeth tested positive for the coronavirus. The couple refused to sign documents agreeing to a two-week home quarantine.
“There is no pandemic,” Elizabeth stated firmly. Really? A pandemic is defined as the worldwide spread of a new disease. Since more than 16 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with COVID-19 at the time of writing, doesn’t that fit?
“If you’re scared, please stay home because I can’t put my life on hold because you’re scared,” she added in an interview with Good Morning America. I had the floor. What about the people on the front lines, from the medical industry to grocery store workers, who are scared but forced to go to work? They don’t have the option to “stay at home”. The most vulnerable still have to go out for essential tasks like buying food or medical appointments. I want to say: Hello Elizabeth, we are talking about 14 days of your entire life when your actions can mean life and death for some people. Whatever happened to self-sacrifice for the greater good?
However, I fully understand that there are some who agree with her statements.
Even after restrictions were lifted, a “normal” life was still impossible for some. Older baby boomers and those with health issues were still advised to stay home. And for those grieving the loss of a loved one, things will never be the same. After vaccinations are available and we’re on the other side of this pandemic, is our “normal” really going to look the same to any of us? I do not think so. Here’s a thought. When that happens, before we begin to reclaim our lives, perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that the pandemic has changed us forever — and some of it is worth preserving.
Ryan Seacrest joked: “If I start a New Year’s countdown, will 2020 be over?” Funny joke, but maybe because I’m older and know my days are limited, I wouldn’t give up precious time, even with its trials, to rush to the future. If we use this pandemic as a time of reflection, there are important and unique life lessons to be learned.
Not that the coronavirus pandemic has been fun. I don’t want to be Pollyanna here. Admittedly, it has been excruciating and overwhelming at times. As the death toll rises daily, the news is heartbreaking. I miss the hugs of my family and friends, traveling to new exciting places, and the blissful freedom of attending a raucous, packed concert. The dystopian sight of empty grocery store shelves, cities resembling ghost towns and people wearing masks was jarring at the start of the pandemic. I was forced to see the ugliest side of humanity as some people stocked up on food, toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Fraudsters tried to take advantage of the panic. And there was the outrageous phrase “boomer remover” that started trending on Twitter, aimed at us baby boomers who are more vulnerable to the virus.
Can we talk about grooming issues? As the weeks went by and it became clear that a visit to my hairstylist was out of the question, I thought maybe now was a good time to see what I would look like with gray hair. I was horrified. My husband, who at 60 is lucky to still have a lot of hair, looked like a mad scientist. So here goes. A bottle of Revlon and some clippers did the trick, but not quite with the same results as a professional would achieve.
Some days I felt productive and creative when I tapped into the stores of strength and inspiration. But there were also days when I struggled with depression and anxiety, hated being in my house, ate a big bag of chips with a glass of wine to comfort myself, felt overwhelmed by the news and struggled to cope. I thought it was all too much – and it was. The world hadn’t seen anything like it in over a century. On top of all the tragedies, there was also a devastating economic impact as small businesses struggled to stay open. After that, protests and riots broke out in the fight for racial justice.
It’s okay to not be okay sometimes.
And yet, amidst all the turmoil, the pandemic required me to be quiet and calm. Be satisfied with your company. To slow down and reflect on the most important aspects of life. With that in mind, here are some valuable lessons I’ve learned so far and the changes I want to keep even after the pandemic is over.
* Embrace my spirituality
My spirituality and trust in God has become more important than ever. The coronavirus reinforced that life is uncertain and unpredictable. As a result, I have learned to rely more on God to maintain a sense of hope, strength, patience, and endurance.
* Appreciate loved ones even more
Along with the rest of the world, I have learned the value of human connection in a way that was not possible before.
Not being able to see my family makes them even more precious to me. I don’t miss dinner parties and trips to exotic places as much as I miss my 2-year-old granddaughter’s tiny hands.
I even became grateful for the technology I usually have a love/hate relationship with that allows us to keep in touch with our loved ones. Even so, I’ll admit it’s not the same. I’m an introvert and not really a people person. However, I realize now that I took my friends’ hugs for granted.
On the plus side, with kids home from school and parents working from home, families have come together playing yard sports, playing board games, riding bikes and solving puzzles. It is beautiful to see.
* See the good in people
It’s true what they say. The worst times can bring out the best in people. In the midst of all the chaos, I saw brave and selfless heroes.
My husband’s colleague, Arta, explained how, in her 60s, his nurse, who was treating his health problems, bravely responded to New York’s call for help in April and burst into the epicenter of Covid-19 at the worst of the outbreak. “I don’t know if she’ll come back,” Arta said soberly. Thousands of people joined her.
Medical workers are still responding to requests for help in the areas hardest hit by the virus. Recently, US Air Force doctors, nurses and other medical providers were sent to work at California hospitals, including Eisenhower Hospital near my home, to help with the surge in coronavirus cases that is straining the health care system.
Delivery workers and grocery store workers are willing to put their lives on the line to serve us. Many restaurant owners donate food. Communities and neighborhoods encourage each other with signs and teddy bears in windows or positive messages written in chalk on sidewalks. People raise dogs to help in shelters. No one is immune to this virus, and in some ways it serves to unite us.
* Enjoy nature
Although I have always appreciated nature. I was more aware of the beauty of the hibiscus flowers blooming in my yard, the peaceful sounds of birds singing merrily, or the desert night sky revealing all its myriad splendors.
With the reduction of air pollution in our cities, the sky has never looked bluer. Wildlife began to reclaim areas once dominated by humans.
It has never been more true – nature is soothing.
* Be grateful for my life and health
The pandemic taught me how precarious life can be and how vulnerable we all are as humans. Life itself should never be taken for granted – not even when you are going through hardships. It was a sobering reminder to take care of your health.
I have to admit it’s hard to control my snacking when I’m at home, but I developed some healthy habits that I want to stick with.
For example, desperate to get out of the house and into nature, I never went for more walks and bike rides. Now that it’s too hot to exercise outside where I live, thanks to a friend, I’ve discovered the FitOn app with free exercise videos. After all, exercise not only helps our immune system, but it can also reduce the extra anxiety we’re all feeling right now.
I also learned not to stress over the little things. The pandemic puts small problems into perspective.
* Become more empathetic
During the initial panic, some couldn’t afford to stock up on food and toilet paper, which made me even more aware of those out of work living paycheck to paycheck. Some people had to make the terrifying choice of staying safe or risking their lives and going back to work to keep a roof over their head and food on the table. Some chose the latter and died.
I think of the helpless and vulnerable seniors who are frightened in nursing homes and those with mental problems who, even under normal circumstances, struggle to overcome their fears. It gives me perspective. I know the fear and anxiety I sometimes feel is beyond comparison.
The coronavirus taught me the value of self-sacrifice, which includes keeping a safe distance from people and wearing a mask for those more vulnerable than me. While there are exceptions, thankfully most people seem to feel the same way.
I’ve always known, but the pandemic reinforced the fact that giving back and focusing on others not only helps others, but also brings a sense of well-being and peace.
* Live with less
When the pandemic started, literally dreading grocery shopping, I started buying only essentials that would last me two weeks. My husband and I were surprised to find how well we survived with the basics on hand. We learned to decipher needs and wants and saved money.
As I mentioned before, I learned how to color my own hair and cut it for my husband. We looked good. Beautiful clothes and shoes became unimportant. We ate more at home and tried new recipes. And can we talk about saving gas without running around?
There are important financial lessons to be learned here.
* Laugh more
It is important to maintain a sense of humor, especially during difficult times. When I saw the worried look on my husband’s face as I took the scissors to his hair, I have never laughed harder. I appreciate all the funny memes and tweets about the weird ways to entertain at home and our obsession with snacks. It’s true. Laughter is the best medicine.
I know we are all burnt out now and rushing to get back to “normal life” but let’s not forget all the lessons of this life. In fact, we know that life won’t be the same after this pandemic is over, but as I pointed out earlier, maybe that’s not all bad.
I hope we have learned to never take for granted hugs from loved ones, grocery store shelves overflowing with food, the excitement of a packed concert, and every deep breath.
I hope we continue to prioritize our spirituality and spending time with loved ones.
I hope we realize how little we really need to survive.
I hope we remember how strong and resilient we can be in times of challenge.
I hope we come out of this pandemic more grateful, kinder and more grateful.
And I hope we never forget how to find light in the midst of darkness.
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