14 Mar Two things can be true at once
Thoughts on the Coronavirus
Wednesday afternoon felt like the end of days. I wrapped a coaching call and re-entered reality. And what a reality it was.
The day before (Tuesday), I had tried to catch a falling knife, and the market punished me with a -10% print.
I then walked outside and our garage was flooding.
I looked across the street and saw a fallen sycamore tree sprawled upon my neighbor’s car.
WTF is happening, I wondered?
Then, I looked a bit further and saw my two girls giddy with joy. To them, SoCal’s first rainfall meant Peppa Pig time:
A pandemic was storming our shores. And to our two little angels, muddy puddles were the only thing that mattered. Two diametrically opposed perspectives of the world. And both were both true.
My brain finds this particularly hard to process.
Then – within minutes – we learned that the flooding was caused by my two-year-old turning off the water pump. The tree (miraculously) did zero damage to the car.
And the next day, the -10% turned into a +10%.
Yet, as the week proceeded, in every conversation and article I found this recurring duality. Two things can be true at once.
A tale of panic and prudence
Let me put aside the storytelling and Giphys for a moment. To call it surreal and eerie masquerades the truth – there have been countless moments this week when our family’s been beset by fear, anxiety and confusion. Our five-year-old has been acting out, and we suspect that she’s intuiting that something feels off. Sorting through information and dis-information has been draining.
Like RadReaders across the world, our family’s trying to strike the right balance between panic and prudence – and absolutely erring on the side of being overcautious with our social interactions (but not toilet paper).
Many of our readers are members of the Sandwich Generation. Yes, I’m calling you middle-aged. But more importantly describing the dual responsibilities of having young kids and aging parents.
Every day we’re grateful AF that the Coronavirus has spared our littlest ones (???); yet concerned for our aging (and oft stubborn) parents. Two things can be true at once.
It’s truly remarkable that with a finger snap, a million (ish) tech employees in SF can be sent home indefinitely to work remotely; yet social distancing for most working Americans is not a financial reality. Two things can be true at once.
And let’s not forget the countless medical professionals who are tirelessly walking into the fire, who by putting themselves and their families at risk. They are the heroes.
Put your oxygen mask on first
So what should we do? I’m reminded of the airline safety videos (ht @Tara Schuster) where the parent calmly puts on their oxygen mask, before putting it on their child. While seemingly selfish, Schuster writes, “we do not do well when we are not taking care of ourselves.”
So please take care of yourself and your families.
Trade the Twitter feed for a DIY YouTube HIIT workout (this one’s a banger).
Check in on your partner often, they’re probably internalizing a great deal of fear.
Carve out a lot of time to reassure your little ones that they are safe. Let them talk about their worries while building their confidence by sharing your own coping skills.
Remember that social distancing does not mean social isolation. Call, text, FaceTime the people you love as often as you can.
Schuster adds that taking care of yourself isn’t selfish – “we do it for those around us” who are depending on our help during these unnerving times.
Channel away that anxious energy
And that’s the first step. As we fortified the Manley-Hy household, this bit from Ann Helen Petersen helped me zoom out:
“I think most Americans are conceiving of “preparedness” merely in terms of how to amass the goods necessary for one’s family to live for several weeks. That’s certainly the main way I’ve been thinking of it, in part because it’s the easiest (and, as Americans, we’ve been trained that the best way to make ourselves feel better about a vague fear = buy things). But that mindset reinforces a deeply unhelpful, un-civic-minded attitude: if I’m fine, everything’s fine.”
Petersen implores us to “channel some of the anxious energy away from reading articles on the Internet” towards:
Thinking about who in your life and in your community will certainly need help or assistance. Who can you talk to now to make a plan to help them later? (With supplies, with groceries, with their pets or children) If you’re able, can you donate to your local food bank, or donate additional supplies to the homeless shelter? Can you buy things from local businesses, restaurants, and artists now, so that things might be less lean for them in the months to come? If you’re someone who’s high risk, how can you be honest with yourself and others about it? If you’re able to work from home and still pull your normal salary, can you commit to still paying someone who provides you with a service (a housecleaner, a dog walker, a hairdresser, a yoga teacher, etc) even if they have to stay home?
(Here’s my first attempt at a list of ways to give back, please send me any additions.)
Last night, I was group texting about a parental rotation to “teach” our kindergartners during the school closure. I got giddy thinking about how I would try my hand with money trees to explain compound interest to a bunch of 5 year olds.
It brought back Sebastian Junger’s main thesis from the book Tribe: During calamities like war, natural disasters (and pandemics), societies become collectively happier and stronger. Adds Junger:
“The beauty and the tragedy of the modern world is that it eliminates many situations that require people to demonstrate a commitment to the collective good.”
Two things can be true at once.
I’m wishing each and every one of you you health, prudence and love.