Amidst a global pandemic.

The past few weeks have certainly been quite the wild ride. As our local and global communities went from watching COVID-19 from afar to experiencing its impacts first hand.

This virus has gone from something happening to other people, to something happening to us. Here. At home.

And it’s been a rollercoaster ride for the ages.

My experience started in early March with an expo that I was scheduled to attend being postponed (and later cancelled) at the very moment that I was at the airport checking my bag to board the cross-country flight to California. After that instance on March 3rd, the pace of change that came to everyday life has mirrored the experience of slowly riding a rollercoaster to the top of its first free fall. The chain grinding below as the cars reach the peak position, creaking, groaning, with anticipation building, small changes in the path of life that were not very noticeable until we started to crest the top and build that initial momentum around March 12th.

Last week was the initial free fall as the coaster makes its largest drop to the bottom and everyone screams. It definitely took me by surprise and life as we have known it unraveled. I knew people were starting to get worried, but I did not realize the true force of the storm that was about to hit.

It all started with a ‘quick’ stop to a grocery store on Friday evening the 13th – when I discovered a situation much like the run on the bank scene in it’s a Wonderful Life. The shelves had been emptied and many of the people that had panicked and visited earlier in the past day or so had scooped up all the meat, frozen veggies, cans, flour, oatmeal and every other shelf-stable good they could get their hands on.

What was left in the store was still being scooped up by the cartful without much regard for others and their own needs. I grabbed about 3 or 4 items which were not what I had come in the store for – I had come for Chicken, Oatmeal and some baking supplies (chocolate chips and peanut butter) to make cookies – but left with 1 jar of peanut butter and a single cup of yogurt that I could find. I started to feel like the woman in that scene that only asks for $17.50 from the bank to get her through as I stood in line and looked around at the full carts and some of the people wearing face masks.

This experience in the grocery store left me shocked, feeling a little anxious, and really sad. There was no way that every person with an overflowing cart needed that much food in the short term. There were many selfish actions being demonstrated and made me really wonder how our neighbors would treat one another if there was a major disruption or larger event that took place to actually restrict the supply of products.

Would our neighbors reach out and help one another, or will we see people turn inward, hide in fear, and develop an ‘every-person-for-themselves’ mentality? While I would like to live in the former world, I am afraid we ultimately have the scales tipped toward the latter end of the spectrum.

This is an event that you would hope would bring people together. A common and widespread experience that is impacting every day life for every one of us. No one has been left unscathed by this invisible threat that is spreading through our communities.

As the week progressed, the enemy has grown greater and the fear amplified. An ongoing, and growing set of decrees have been announced on how best to fight against this enemy known as COVID-19.

Initial guidelines to stop shaking hands, to wash your hands, and keep a safe difference grew in momentum that turned into decrees to work from home, for gyms and movie theaters to close, then hair salons, spas, malls, and other recreational spaces, events, activities.

Followed by orders to stay home and shelter-in-place for the foreseeable future until the government deems that ‘the curve has been flattened’ or that you are allowed to continue to work and function since you have been deemed as ‘essential’ to the daily lives of the citizens (i.e. basic human needs of shelter, water, food and health care.)

It’s been an unsettling couple of weeks. Our world is turned upside down. We’re all being forced to do things differently, to adapt to the new normal, and in most cases to just slow down. Our ‘normal’ schedules that included watching sports, running errands, shopping and filling every moment with activity have been cleared. A new normal is emerging. One of staying at home, filling the days with other actives – building, reading, learning new skills, cooking.

My hope during this time is that people are able to embrace the change.

This pandemic is going to impact the world – the true outcome is unknown.

We all have to be comfortable with the only constant that has emerged in our lives – the consistency of change.

I am hopeful that this change will be a change for the better.

Change for a kinder, slower world. A more appreciative world.

That this forced mass upheaval may just make us all realize just how scheduled and busy and hectic the structure of our lives really are. We may all realize that life can be lived differently, and maybe that the different is better.

More home cooked meals, more time together, more time for reflection, time for peace, time for truly feeling our way through life instead of the numbness that comes from over-worked, over-stimulated, and over-scheduled lives.

Embrace the change amidst the upheaval. Soak it in. This may just be what the world needed. And since we would not stop and pay attention, we have all been forced to sit down and pay attention.

Stay safe, be kind, and take care.

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