In early January of this year, when my son was five months old, I was chatting with my friend Katie, who asked how the baby was sleeping. I told that he was sleeping pretty well and I was getting up about once every night to feed him. Then I recounted the story from sometime in the middle of the previous night of how I was lying awake in my bed thinking how sweet it was to be hearing my baby playing me lullabies on the musical bear in his crib, lulling me back to sleep through our shared wall. Katie looked at me and laughed, “Oh, Wynne, you are such an optimist!!” Until that moment, I hadn’t even realized that in the story, my baby was the reason I was awake in the first place.
I’m such a congenital optimist that I frequently don’t realize how much it colors how I see things. It’s the times of trouble in my life like divorce, miscarriage, and the sudden death of my father when my optimism has faltered that have enabled me to see how much I rely on it to keep me motivated to lean in to challenges. And now this coronavirus crisis, with the long days confined with and worrying about how to support two kids under five, has taught me a great deal more about optimism. First, I’ve learned that to protect others, a little fear is necessary and even helpful. Second, just as worry feeds on those tired and fearful moments, positivity is fueled by a good night’s sleep. And finally, I’ve learned that resilience is a muscle that we can strengthen when we count our blessings.
Here are my top five things that the coronavirus crisis has made me thankful for:
1. Humor. I laughed out loud at something someone posted on Facebook that we are all three to four weeks away from knowing everyone’s real hair color. Or the giggle I got when I realized that encountering a “close talker” might be a thing of the past now that we are all so aware of social distance. Humor often forces out that big laugh so we can breathe deeply and get the fresh air we need to keep going.
2. Change. We all are getting a very clear opportunity to think about and choose what truly serves us. It’s so rare that we all stop going places long enough to take a look at whether these places are ones where we really want to go. This crisis will pass, it will be marked by great sadness for deaths and loss, but it is so significant that things will not go back fully to the way they were before. This is an opportunity to be more intentional about how to go forward in both big and little ways.
3. Technology. Humans are great at innovating, and watching how we are using new and old (like the phone) technology to stave off isolation, share with others, and get things done in this time is heartening. Once we were told we can’t get together so as to keep others safe, we are forced to adapt to perhaps less preferable means, but we are transforming under pressure.
4. Authenticity. Whether it is because we aren’t able to get our hair done or because we are getting glimpses of our colleagues, friends, and acquaintances at home with interruptions from their children and loved ones, we are seeing less of a divide between “public” life and “private” life. Seeing each other in new and different ways may teach us that facades are not necessary, and in fact they hinder our greatness. In the end, we can choose to keep opening to that authenticity.
5. Connection. The spread of the virus shows us how interconnected we are. We can’t see the direct effect of the germ we could be spreading, and we also can’t see the direct effect of the cheer and joy that we spread. Smiles and gratitude are also infectious and transmittable at up to 10 feet or more. We need to remember that long after this crisis is gone.
I’ve found that in my fifty years of life, optimism has never prevented me from hard times and heartache. But like with faith, it helps me rise up and find a way to live a life worth living after I’ve fallen. This crisis is huge and hard and sad, but I’m positive we will get through it together, laughing, changing, innovating, being real, and spreading cheer all the while.
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