Updated: Apr 5, 2020
with thanks to Kathryn Patrick for some of these ideas
Yes, the pandemic is causing untold suffering around the world. Sickness and death, financial meltdown, increases in anxiety and depression, even breakdowns in democracy have all increased exponentially during the onslaught of this virus. Most of us know, at least intellectually, that it is likely to get worse before it gets better. But still, there are silver linings to this black cloud, and let's acknowledge them. The silver linings may even point a way for us to proceed when this phase of humanity's existential crisis passes.
We already knew we were going to have to make huge changes if we want to save our planet. How we conduct ourselves in a time of pandemic may show us how we can face some of our other scary challenges as a human family, like climate change. For example, now we are driving less, flying less and the Earth is a quieter place as a result. My guess is that when the data is revealed, we will have greatly reduced our carbon footprint because of these actions. Maybe even the birds and animals are breathing a sigh of relief as they participate in their spring migrations while we are locked down at home!
We're spending more time with people in our households. Parents who live with their children have more time for playing and reading, studying, doing chores, watching television, cuddling, talking about what is happening and really getting to know each other. No, it isn't perfect. Most parents still have to work, which is a real challenge with young children in the house. But more of those children are learning to lend a helping hand and to entertain themselves. Couples may feel like they need a break from one another. (I heard a joke about that. Dolly Parton said, "At the end of this pandemic some of y'all be beggin' Jolene to come take your man!") But maybe we are having more intimacy, honesty and appreciation. There is probably more arguing and fighting also, more boredom, more whining--but there is definitely more togetherness. And that's good, right?
If we live alone maybe we are enjoying our own company more without the pressure of feeling we shouldn't be alone. Maybe we can accept that we are alone and sometimes, at least, it isn't so bad. Maybe more people are calling to check on us (or maybe not.) But maybe we are reaching out to others more, rather than waiting for them to reach out to us. Maybe we are discovering our own resilience and strength and finding new ways to connect with our inner world.
More of us are preparing our own food and probably eating better. We're planning meals, soaking beans, combining proteins, making casseroles, enjoying slow food. We're trying new recipes and bringing out old favorites. I baked French bread yesterday. My daughter made an apple galette one day and a carrot cake the next, much to her children's delight. My husband found his grandmother's knish recipe. Rose Levine used to sell her potato and kasha knishes to the bungalow colonies in the Catskills in the 1950's but her grandson had never made them before. They were so delicious! We delivered some to our neighbor and left them on her porch. We are being creative with saving and repurposing things. Not using so much toilet paper. Making our own hand sanitizer. Hanging out the wash. Eating all our leftovers. Eating all our vegetables before they go bad.
We're gardening. Two days ago I planted peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and basil in the greenhouse and they are already up probably because for the first time in memory I'm around all day every day to make sure they stay moist. All morning my husband and I shoveled manure into our outdoor raised beds. My neighbor is double digging new deep garden beds. Another neighbor is building a chicken coop from scrap lumber that has been lying in a pile near his garage. We wave across the distance as we go about these pursuits.
From what I hear we are making more music, writing more stories and poems, painting more pictures, spending more time in the studio dreaming. These are less costly and wasteful activities that probably nurture us more than some of those pastimes we've had to give up. Maybe we are making masks or gowns for health care workers or participating in an online book group or learning to cut our children's hair. More of us are meditating, praying, reading poetry, learning to identify the birds we see from our windows or birdcalls we hear in the trees around our house. Some of us are avoiding the partisan divide more. With so much dire news that effects everyone, it can be impossible to watch the sideshows or listen to the carnival barkers. Sure, we need to be up-to-date. We may need to take political action, for example, to protect our rights or make sure our election happens. But, many of us are finding that instead of anger and outrage we want peace. We are learning to thrive in a whole new quiet.
When the noise and activities of our modern world ratchet up again, if in fact they do, let's resolve not to forget what we've learned. That will be our silver lining.
For wonderful inspiration, check out the Lockdown Series at premrawat.com!