This week while working from home, I, like many across the globe, did a load of laundry. I pulled from the bottom of the basket clothes worn less than a week ago—jeans I wore during my last day in the office, leggings I wore to my last workout class, a shirt I’d changed into for dinner with friends. I felt a combination of sadness, fear and disbelief flood over me, realizing how quickly my wardrobe and reality had evolved in such a short time. These moments have become more frequent for all of us, as it seems each day brings news more drastic than the last. No one is immune to it. The loneliness, canceled plans—even weddings and once-in-a-life time trips—and fear for a loved one’s safety and well-being. While these moments are shared, everyone deals with this anxiety and uncertainty differently.
Whether you call it a chance to retreat and reflect or a global catastrophe, all I know is that within the fear and chaos, I am finding time to slow down, give people the benefit of the doubt, embrace the moments of humanity and kindness, and stay connected despite being isolated. Because of these flashes of compassion and comfort, there are several consistent reasons for which I am grateful.
Time to Make Breakfast
I was in a rush when I wore those jeans a week or so ago. My normal mornings consist of snoozing through several alarms, checking email immediately and racing to make my morning commute to prepare for work. Breakfast was a Larabar and mobile order from Starbucks. My partner, who is generally in a similarly rush, has begun using the time saved commuting to ask if I need breakfast and if we both need an extra breath before diving into another day. Eggs that previously went bad are now scrambled, and that extra second to ground myself, despite the uncertainty of the day ahead, feels longer.
The Realization That We’re All Human
I’m grateful my job is not reliant on a desk or a location. Although I miss interacting with coworkers and having face-to-face meetings, I’m lucky to be able to work from anywhere. I understand that’s not the case for millions of Americans, and the decisions our local governments have had to make to prioritize lives over livelihoods is unfathomable. While it’s tough to find the silver lining, I for one have gained a greater admiration and appreciation for buying local and supporting those who create. And for me, in my daily life, weekly calls that normally get straight to the point have loosened with the shared experience of working from home. People ask how you are not to fill space but because they really care. Dogs and kids have graced video conferencing calls, and teams find new ways to connect and care. The pieces of our lives that we’d swept up and hidden under the rug are no longer a sign of embarrassment or weakness. We’re all human and more than a voice behind a dial-in.
The pieces of our lives that we’d swept up and hidden under the rug are no longer a sign of embarrassment or weakness.
Kindness Coming from Unexpected Places
Before this all came to a head, I’d never experienced, or frankly had hardly imagined, what panic stockpiling would entail or what it would be like to plan my day around avoiding empty shelves at the grocery store. With my refrigerator running low and having witnessed a barren frozen food section at Trader Joe’s just a few days earlier, I set out to be the first person in line when the store opened before my work-from-home day started. I pulled up to find red carts snaked around the packed parking garage, with many people having set out to be the first in line much earlier than I had. My stomach lurched as I was again faced with realities of this new normal. It wasn’t until I finally made it to the front of the line that some nervousness subsided as I was greeted warmly by employees who offered me free flowers and a smile. Yes, it was a one-in-one-out scenario I wasn’t used to, but their kindness and joy reminded me of the ways we’re all trying to hand out some beauty while stuck in the darkness.
Staying Closer While Being Far
The irony is not lost that social isolation has given more of an incentive to stay connected. After moving out of my hometown three years ago, my once daily calls to my parents turned into weekly. Rightfully so, group chats with friends were more about plans for the weekend and there was less of a need to think about what people needed in the moment—whether it was a laugh or an honest question about how things are going. Since being isolated in my apartment, connection has been a conscious choice and something I no longer take for granted. With family and friends spread across states, I’ve been checking in more frequently and learning new things about what people fear, hope and need during a crisis. We all need different things right now, so I’m trying to figure out what that means for myself and those literally and figuratively around me.
No one would have ever chosen this. But my hope is that with time and distance, when we all undoubtedly come out of this, we’ll hold onto the empathy and have a greater appreciation for what it is that really matters.