I’m sitting here on the couch, casually peering out the window into the subdued vista before me. A gentle springtime rain cascades down from the sky, permeating every social surface, vivifying the plants and animals with streams of anticipated nourishment.
I keep hoping that the rain, somehow, has antiviral properties in it, like a panacea to wash away the residues of human activity. I want to drain the world back into normalcy.
But what an illusive idea that is…
When was the world ever normal? What would that even look like?
And so, my wishful thinking settles into strength and sobriety. Times like these call for a certain kind rationalistic grit—or rather, a type of perseverance that is both supple and steadfast.
Within the large canon of Buddhist adages, there is a popular zen saying that “the obstacle is the path.”
I try to remember that this too is a necessary part of our plight.
How many headlines have you read recently about the novel coronavirus? Is there really even anything else going on in the world right now?
I close my eyes, draw in a deep inhalation, and slowly, I relieve the pressure built up through my exhale.
I feel distressed. The world is mournfully trying to rise above this silent atomic assassin. The labored breathing of the afflicted becomes sympathetically synonymous with my own.
I am—we are—afraid.
But I can assure you, there’s a lesson in all of this.
So what do we do with this mess?
What's With All the Hullabaloo?
Right now (and for the next couple of months ahead) all we will want is to be held.
No matter whether its by a lover, a friend, or family, there is love expressed, in its purest sense, between the basic exchange of tangible body warmth. We want our heads to be cradled, our bodies clutched tight, and a protective kiss to make it all better.
But isn’t it amusing that the very thing which we are most calmed by is also that which we are being asked to avoid?
With the enfeebling 5-day incubation period of COVID-19, the worst we can do is to spread this virus without even knowing we have it. It’s a contemptible contagion, undoubtedly, but we must see it for what it is.
There is no intelligence to this virus. At least, not like you or I exhibit intelligence.
COVID-19 doesn’t have some maligned agenda to target the elderly, or those with compromised immune systems. It is simply carrying out its normal function of sustained replication. Its objective, akin to everything else in the natural world, is to prolong the continuation of its existence.
We, however, are the vehicle for that subsistence.
In my opinion, people aren’t just afraid of this novel coronavirus; they’re afraid of having to deal with the burden of responsibility to counteract it from spreading.
Just as the global populace won’t choose to reduce its carbon footprint until the threat of natural disasters is real, a fair amount of people won’t choose to stay inside during a quarantine unless you threaten them with fines, prisons, or guns. It’s like that one kid on the playground who’s misbehaving, inevitably spoiling it for everyone.
And no matter how antithetical an imposed quarantine seems to our inflated sense of individual liberty, right now it’s our only shot at neutralizing the spread of COVID-19. That’s just how it has to be.
*Eat your heart out, spring breakers*
How to Stay Sane During an Apocalypse
Okay, it’s probably not going to be the end of the world, but if we’ve got to stay inside, our primary current of concern should definitely be the state of our mental health (as it should always be).
So you can’t go into public (honestly, please just don’t if it’s not necessary) and you’re off of work (good for you).
Unless your struggling with money (in which case, you should utilize these resources), then you’ve got plenty of time to fill your day with whatever it is you like!
Here are some ideas to help you keep your sanity in tact during the quarantine:
1. Creative projects
Remember all of those projects that you say you haven’t had the time for?
Yes, those same creative ideas that you’ve had stored away in the dusty attic of your mind. Well, now you finally have the time for them! Paint a picture, write a story, build something, sew tiny mittens for your cat and see how long it pouts for after you try to put them on it.
Don’t say that you aren’t creative. Everyone is creative! Most of us just forget that we are when we start working too much. Take a chance. The key here is to just make something, anything—even if you think it will probably suck. Because, ultimately, even if it does, you’ll feel good for doing it.
2. Contact friends and family
Nothing feels better during times of strife than talking with others and learning that you’re not going through it all alone.
Pick up the phone, call your family, type up a lengthy email or instant message, write a letter if you have to. Reconnect with people you haven’t talked to in a while. It doesn’t necessarily have to be anything elaborate. Just letting someone know you were thinking about them and that you wanted to wish them well is usually enough to brighten the day.
Remember that we’re all going through this together. Learning from another’s unique position and how their coping can be highly insightful.
3. Go into nature
Permitting that your region’s shelter in place order hasn’t completely restricted the ability to go outside, now is a great time to go for a walk or a bike ride.
It’s still important to maintain at least six feet of distance from others, and to avoid public spaces, but getting some fresh air isn’t necessarily off of the table. Exercise, in general, is a great method for easing that growing sense of cabin fever.
By getting out and stretching your legs you’ll be able to take your mind off of the news for a little while. As the seasons change and temperatures grow warmer, there’s tons of comfort in listening to the sounds of chirping birds and watching the buds on the trees grow with each passing day.
Look on the Bright Side
Even the darkest clouds passing over have a silver lining.
Although I’m certain that anyone would wish this away if they could, it’s important to find the benefits of change in this environment of uncertainty. Surely, the way we work, live, and travel will never be the same, and I can hardly begin to make a fair guess as to what the world will look like when this cloud blows over.
We may not be able to enjoy the same types of privileges we once had. In fact, we might face greater travel restrictions, more thorough forms of monitoring, and a deepening economic recession.
But, we may also see the world coming together to tackle the challenges of the future. If our nations realize the difficulty in trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19 alone, there may be more incentive to work together as a global community, rather than devolving into nationalistic tendencies.
From the aftermath of the coronavirus scare, our species may find greater interest in working together to solve things such as: ending world hunger, protecting the oceans, going carbon negative, and preparing for an increased presence of artificial intelligence.
It’s easy to see that the world won’t be the same, but it can, in fact, become better. In solidarity with a quote laid out in this article, “The old world is dying and the new world struggles to be born. Now is the time of monsters.”
Be Auspicious, Not Anxious
It seems that, in times like these, all of the monsters are coming out from under the bed. Friends and family are losing their jobs, the economy has taken a swan dive into new lows, people are getting sick, and we have no idea how long this is going to last.
It’s easy to feel the turmoil in this entire situation. But we’ve got to find ways to handle this historic event with the prospect of advantageous outcomes in mind.
In addition to utilizing this time to strengthen our creative impulses, learn new skills, become healthier, and establish deeper connections with one another, there are positive financial moves available as well.
Primarily, I can think of two that may be in good fortune:
1. Location independent income
If you’ve ever dreamed about living and working from anywhere in the world, that reality may have just got significantly closer.
Over the past few years, there has been a growing trend with companies allowing some (or all) of their staff to work from home. What once used to be reserved only for specialized workers has now become popular in a growing majority of employment opportunities.
The possibility of working remotely will certainly increase as social distancing procedures impact businesses. During the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 50% of American businesses have asked their staff to work from home.
There are certainly challenges that come with working from home, but for some, the potential of making an income with little more than a laptop and an internet connection can spur a whole new sense of freedom. Travel may be on lockdown at the moment, but when those restrictions loosen, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility to work from anywhere with a WiFi connection.
Imagine renting a beach house for a month, then flying in to see your relatives for another month, and then attending a conference in some other part of the world, all while making a remote income. Though some may see the instability or lack of an office as a nightmare, it’s clear that a location independent income can have tons of benefits.
If you’ve just recently lost your job, or if you were already in the market for a new job, try looking into the various remote positions starting to crop up. Now, more than ever, you don’t need to have special privileges to land a remote position with a great company.
2. The stock market
You’ve probably heard that stock prices are plummeting right now. In fact, the market has not seen this big of a drop in decades, and for a good reason. Due to the uncertainty around the coronavirus outbreak, investors are panic selling their stocks.
Now, I’m certainly not a financial expert by any means, but to me, all of this signals tremendous opportunity.
If you keep in mind that the fluctuations in the stock market are all relative, and that the market will eventually slingshot back upward, the ultra-low buy-in costs for most stocks right now will inevitably rise back up in their total value.
In other words, the stock market has extremely low discount prices right now. As long as you invest in reputable companies, when the stock market rises again you’ll likely see huge returns on your investments.
Of course, you shouldn’t spread yourself too thin. It’s advisable to have enough in your savings to cover your bills for the next few months. But if you do have a spare expendable amount in your savings, buying in while the market is low could prove to be profitable in the long run.
If you’re interested, consider signing up through this link to my brokerage account with Robinhood (as we both get a free stock simply for the referral).
Keep Calm and Quarantine On
Shameless plug aside, it’s important to remember that no one planned for COVID-19.
We’re all doing our very best to stay afloat.
In the following weeks, and in all likelihood, over the next few months, we’ll continue to see more people getting sick. This global contaminant is not going away anytime soon. Our friends and family might catch it, or you and I might catch it. As far as we know, no one is immune.
It’s important to stay up to date with how the world is handling COVID-19, but you also can’t be looking at the statistics all the time—those will only bring you a deeper sense of anxiety.
Be responsible. Express your creativity. Exercise daily. Stay connected. That’s how we’re going to beat this.
It’s also not the worst thing we could be dealing with though, you know? We’re all just kind of alone together, and that makes this that much easier.
Besides, we could be dealing with some flesh-eating disease instead. I think we could all attest that a zombie apocalypse would be immeasurably worse than what we’re currently experiencing.
What matters right now is that we take this time to prioritize what’s important in our lives. Write them down. Frame them.
Because we may never have a chance to slow down like this again.
This Isn't the End (But It Is the Last Section)
Despite the fact that I was earnestly looking forward to launching into 2020 with plans of full-time international travel, I’ll be putting my plans on hold. I honestly cannot say with any sincerity that anyone should be traveling for leisure at the moment.
Again, the very best that any of us can do right now is to stay sheltered and keep ourselves creatively occupied.
Exactly how long the immediate effects of this outbreak will remain with us is uncertain. But, perhaps, one element of all of this is slightly more clear. The world needed to slow down.
Our progress was going unchecked, and our technological developments were becoming morally ambiguous and adrift in their trajectory. We needed to start pacing ourselves, and to think about where we are heading in the future.
Perhaps, even, on an individual level you were beginning to feel aimless, unable to keep up with a rapidly accelerating society.
That’s why we needed to slow down—so that we could begin to keep up.
Thank you for reading.
P.S. Do you have a creative way that you’ve been keeping yourself occupied during the quarantine?
Please share it below in the comments!
Stay strong everyone. Remember to scrub under those fingernails.
We’ll get through this together.