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Last week I didn’t write a blog post. I didn’t feel like it. We’re in what, week 5, 6, of self-quarantining and social distancing depending on where you live? I thought about writing many times but couldn’t figure out what I would say, I was feeling so numb and overwhelmed about the whole life thing right now. Talking to some friends and family, I know I’m not alone in entering this next stage of what the experts are calling trauma.

There is so much noise and negativity lately, it’s difficult to sort through and separate the valid from the garbage at times. These days articles and posts by the dozens come in every day about the ever-depressing news about our national leadership, sickness, and the varying financial pain. I’ve been trying to balance all of that negative with the outstanding goodness of our local community banding together to show hope and support with lights on their homes and stars and hearts in their windows. I’ve been trying to focus on the good of my children and how lucky we are to have a home to stay in during this where we don’t have to fear abuse or hunger, and am grateful there is enough space where I live to go out for a walk safely. Balance seems to be the key word that keeps rising above all else since COVID-19 hit the world. Such a complex word right now for many reasons. Balance.

One of the biggest concepts that stood out to me last week was from a friend’s post on social media. The post referred to how we keep hearing that we are “all in this together.” Every person in the entire world is experiencing coronavirus – this is a mind-blowing fact. That said, we must remember that not everyone is experiencing this in the same way. People in refugee camps are experiencing this much differently than my family and I are. People in my own town, just down the street from me are experiencing much greater stresses and worries about health, safety, finances, and food than we are facing. People in New York City are experiencing this much differently than someone in the middle of Eastern Montana. Your experience is not the same as anyone else’s.

What does “we are all in this together” really mean then? What can we do about these discrepancies in experience? Remember empathy? And love? And kindness? And we can’t say we are expressing our opinion with all of these things and then be incredibly selfish and judgmental. I have seen this happen in the past week and it was infuriating. It’s like saying, “no offense, but.” Just because you say “no offense” before you make your statement doesn’t mean what you’re saying isn’t offensive. We need to truly work to be interacting with empathy and love and kindness, not just talking the talk.

Another thing I think a lot of us are feeling lately is that we feel like we shouldn’t complain because we have it so much better than people in refugee camps in Syria, or even our neighbors down the street. Kind of like my mother always said, “eat your food, there are children starving in Africa.” Truth for sure and definitely good to keep perspective, but you are still allowed to feel angry and overwhelmed and sad at times. Anyone feel that way lately? Many people I know feel that way. It’s easy to feel defensive and angry and sad and overwhelmed with all of this uncertainty and frightening news going on, and that is okay no matter what your experience is with this. Remember that anger and sadness are valid emotions too and give yourself space for that. It’s even okay if you’re just sort of floating around numbly for a bit and don’t really know what to think anymore. Give yourself space for that too and know that you’re not alone. You were not alone with that in the pre-coronavirus world and you’re not alone in that now. Let’s face it – people felt these things long before corona and the more we try to suppress, the worse it will get. Bringing it out into the open, talking about it, sharing it, and supporting each other is what we all need to be doing. Using empathy and kindness and love. I believe that only when we address difficult experiences fully and openly, can we learn and change and grow as individuals and as a society. Possibly this is a gift coronavirus is giving us if we can see it as clearly as we need to see it – that we are “all in this together.”

When you or a friend are feeling numb from all the bad news and all the sudden change, try hard to remind yourselves that there are a few things you can do to manage the small circle of influence you have. Take a break and sit and breath for a few minutes. It’s okay to stop for a few minutes. Just stop. It’s okay. Go for a walk. Be silly and dorky for a little while if you can. (I’m loving all the creative entertaining videos of people at home with their families.) Most importantly: Call a friend or family member and remind each other that you’re not alone in this and that you’re here to help each other, whatever that might mean right now. This is probably one of the hardest things for me to do for myself and that is normal too. Those of you who know me might be surprised by this, but when I get utterly overwhelmed, I go dark and gloomy and I practically dare the world to try and cheer me up so I can flip it off. But eventually when this happens, I either force myself to call on my friends and family, or my friends and family seem to sense I need them and I eventually and grumpily answer. And often within minutes, the weight on my shoulders is not as heavy and I can laugh again and I feel a little bit better. I hope I can do the same for the people in my reach as well. We are all in this together. We are all incredibly connected as human beings, to our environment and to each other, across the entire world. We simply need to reach out a little to feel less alone, to help others feel less alone, and to really feel that connection. It is so very important to our well-being no matter the situation we are in.

“There simply is no pill that can replace human connection. There is no pharmacy that can fill the need for compassionate interaction with others. There is no panacea. The answer to human suffering is both within us and between us.”

~Dr. Joanne Cacciatore

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