Love In the Time of Covid-19
For the first time in 100-years, the earth is experiencing a pandemic. The majority of humanity is operating from a framework of love for fellow humans by staying home and waiting out the most dangerous phase of contagion. In this strange new reality of social distancing we are all being heroic in our choices of retreating into isolation or sprinting toward the frontline, as an act of love.
The most obvious are hospital workers that are in the trenches every day, threatening their own health and depriving themselves of interactions with family members. Images of scrub-adorned providers with bruised faces in the shape of medical masks are flooding media with "thank you for staying home, because I can't". Videos of city-dwellers all over the world hanging out their windows at 7pm for uproarious clapping as hospital shift-change happens, are just as easy to find. Appreciation seems to be contagious too.
Then there are law enforcement, postal workers, grocery store employees, and other workers who may or may not have compromised immune systems but need to go into work for a paycheck because they're deemed "essential". Wage disparities over who gets to stay home and who needs to go out, or who needs to quit to take care of the kids are major stressors significantly threatening essential workers, and making scary times scarier. Appreciation for them should receive more attention, and hazard pay. Until then, what kindness can be exchanged with a note on the package they pick up or words of gratitude in the check-out line?
Less obvious are the mental health providers, always working in private hearing all the secrets and fears people can't share with loved ones, even when the world is "normal". Now, working through virtual sessions (telehealth), they keep folks from needing elevated resources and the physical health threat that face-to-face care brings. They are working to alleviate in others the same symptoms that the therapist is likely also feeling to some degree - loss, depression, anxiety, loneliness. They work as guides and points of emotional safety in the dark corners of what it means to exist, helping people make meaning they can live with rather than perish by.
As a therapist working in those dark corners, I want you to know that we will not perish. Based on everything I've seen and heard from clients during this pandemic, I feel immense hope. We are more united than we think when dealing with the same threat. We are holding more empathy for others, more consistently, and with deeper consciousness and choice. We are flattening the curve. We are powerful!
Specifically, I see it in the dual-income family that just lost one income, but because they can still "get by", they've elected to pay some extra childcare or housekeeping payments even though they're not utilizing those resources. I see teachers and parents coming together to say "put your kids emotional health first...hug and play". I see couples who were considering divorce rekindling the friendship they still have, and appreciating it now more than ever. I feel the loneliness of clients without partners, who have adopted an animal or adopted some forms of technology to reach out to friends they haven't regularly spoken to in years, because they're prioritizing their mental health unabashedly. I hope these things won't go away when we return to our offices, schools, and social networks. I hope we remain rattled enough by covid-19 that we prioritize differently.
What I do know from 15-years of helping people make fundamental shifts, is that change doesn't occur until the body accepts the reality of suffering, and instead of being lost in it, excavates it. Once we sit with our feelings and empathize with ourselves, we have the ability to extend empathy to family, community, humanity, in a way that no longer causes us harm. An honest love - one that is done with healing and choice - isn't finite; it's one of those regenerative energies that gives onto itself. If this strange time helps us strengthen our understanding of this concept, the next 100-years will have a much healthier trajectory.