A few months ago, I wrote that “we are all protagonists in our own stories,” a concept difficult to understand amidst the contradictory assertion that “we are all in this together” and the hoarding of food and supplies. Nonetheless, I push myself to acknowledge the psychological explanations behind behaviors I do not fully understand. I acknowledge the pitfalls of failing to validate the feelings of others. I acknowledge that we all have our own problems and anxieties related to, exacerbated by, or unrelated to the current global pandemic. And I set forth that we can maintain our own perspective about those problems and anxieties without putting ourselves in competition with one another.
While I am one of thousands of teachers transitioning material to an online platform, I am far more concerned about the fact that my grandparents (who live in Ohio) have to enter a hospital every day (5x/week for seven weeks) so that my 89-year-old grandfather can receive radiation for his bone cancer—a valid concern by most people’s assessments. And I am mourning the cancellation of my May wedding—a “shallow” and maybe even “selfish” concern by others’ assessments. Meanwhile, some of my (local and distant) colleagues are overwhelmed by and unprepared for the new demands of their jobs. Workers in many industries find their livelihood at risk. Parents face increased tension and complexities between work and family obligations. Healthcare professionals face safety and ethical concerns that seem to increase and change every day. The stakes are different for each of us. Our losses are not the same, but they are losses.
So, I encourage us to do what we can with the limited control we have over our daily lives in this moment: acknowledge our fears for what they are in relation to the evidence we have to support and undermine those fears (as any therapist would suggest), to take recommended precautions, to (when possible) make contingency plans, and to contemplate both the realization of our fears and more hopeful outcomes. Remember that while we are all experiencing a global pandemic, we are experiencing it differently. Remember that our behaviors affect others, whether or not we come into direct contact with them. Most of us were unprepared for our lives to change so drastically so quickly (even if temporarily), but I encourage us all to remember to be kind and empathetic and generous with our hearts and with our resources.