Surviving with kindness in a covid-19 world

We are living in strange times. This is not the same world we knew a couple of months ago. That world had hugs, handshakes and free helpings of encroachment on personal space.

To quote Eric Carmen’s epic 1976 hit ‘All by Myself,’ ‘those days are gone.’ Eric, you have no idea.

Most of us in the Western world are lucky. We have not experienced life like this before. A life curtailed. A life where friends share details on toilet paper hook-ups and offer rolls like handouts.  

Talk on the virus is viral. It permeates our newsfeeds and conversations. These new rules govern our movements, how we should and shouldn’t interact with each other. Our new normal weighs heavy. People are dying. People are losing their jobs. The hypervigilant of us devour news to feel in control, to know and understand the enemy. Does it help? Not always. Being aware is a good thing, if it doesn’t tip into obsession that fuels anxiety into binging on more news.  

Humans, generally, don’t like change. There are some exceptions to this, of course. Learning to sit with discomfort is one of the hardest lessons in life that most of us probably won’t master. That’s ok. Being a human is a tough gig. But change happens, and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Building resilience by learning and growing is our best bet to make it through this, and the next time life decides to throw us a curveball whilst pulling the rug out from under us as it serves us a shit-sandwich.

Right now, we are held captive by COVID-19. So, what do we do? How can we use this time in a way that helps us?  It’s time to follow Will Smith and, get jiggy with it.

1. Be kind to yourself

We are all adjusting to this new normal. My husband, Hank, has taken to disinfecting our shoes at the front door. He wipes down all the light switches, doorknobs and surfaces with a utilitarian dogma. I just helped Hank disinfect a week’s worth of groceries. It gives him comfort, so, why not? It’s a small ritual that eases his mind, so I don’t mind doing it. Do you know what gives me comfort? Wine. Sweet, sweet wine. During this time, it is o.k to cut yourself some slack and say – hey this is hard, and I don’t like it, so I might do something that makes me feel better. Acknowledge that and treat yourself with some kindness (within reason peeps – I’m not sanctioning anarchy or hoarding here. I am talking about baths, books and a bag of chips. Let’s be reasonable). 

2. Be kind to others

Please, please, please be kind. Yes. This necessitates three pleases. You don’t know what someone else is going through, what traumas this event has triggered. If a stranger is short with you, or gets angry, remember it is highly improbable that it has anything to do with you. If you can be calm and be kind, you will see that this behaviour is infectious (no pun intended). And if you are one of those people who feels on the edge, quite justifiably I am sure, remember this isn’t just happening to you. The human ego is driven to think that the world exists for us and us alone. Newsflash: it isn’t. We are in this together. Let’s recognise that and show a little compassion while we all work this out.

3. Laugh

I had to visit my chiropractor the other day. I wasn’t sure how clean the door handle would be so, old Gertie P donned a glove and went out into the world. On arrival I announced, ‘Nothing says I’m a lady, like a white glove!’ I waived my hand with regal ponce.  And someone laughed – a giggle amidst the doom and gloom. So, have a laugh if you can – as I always say, if you don’t laugh, you cry.

4. Brush your teeth

Just because you are not going anywhere or seeing anybody doesn’t give you the green light to skip personal hygiene. You only get one set of adult teeth – so take care of them. For a little musical motivation, growing up I always loved to watch The Toothbrush Family. The lyrics of the theme song are now out of date (don’t brush around and around, folks) but…the essence of the message is what’s fun.  Sure, I brushed my teeth today at 4:27PM, but hey, better late than never.

5. Watch awesome TV shows like Letterkenny

Seriously, I want to know what each participant of Letterkenny did in a previous life to have earned such karmic kudos in this life. ‘What are you talking about Gertie?’ you may say. Just watch it. Letterkenny is a witty comedy set in rural Canada. Be warned – there is swearing. Tonnes of it. If you are an Australian reader, Letterkenny is available on SBS on Demand. Thank you SBS. And if you watch the bloopers on the Letterkenny Problems YouTube channel you can see the cast have the most fun anyone can ever have at work. Karma, baby.

6. Reconnect with old hobbies

Hank’s guitar sobs neglected under a layer of dust. My bookshelves burst with the sharp spines of unread novels. It’s time to dust off that hobby and get cracking. I’m coming for you Tim Winton…

7. Learn something new

I am always amazed at what talented people make freely available on YouTube™. Perhaps it serves a dual purpose of marketing and promotion, I don’t know. But I have learned so much from these virtual virtuosos. Have a surf on the Tube, check out a topic and go down the rabbit hole. If you like makeup, as I do, check out Lisa Eldridge. She is the goddess responsible for making-up the likes of Eva Green and Kate Winslet (and for the youngens she has made-up Dua Lipa – cool huh). To think, you too can learn these tricks for your own face – *gasp!

If you’re into science, check out Mark Rober for fun experiments and incredible facts. Click on the link to his YouTube channel so you don’t have to google what I did which was ‘science youtube nasa dude.’ It still works, but…the link is easier. If you prefer more structured learning avenues, universities such as Harvard offer free online tutorials. Check out Harvard’s online school, Harvard X.

Learning a language can also be très bien and très fun. Language websites such as Glossika offer free downloads on audio books. Some languages are also freely available in the interests of language preservation. Of course, there are subscription offers too.

8. Meditate

I know, I know. It’s everywhere. Some of you may scoff and say, ‘Get stuffed, Gertie…’ The words ‘meditation’ and ‘mindfulness’ are getting a workout right now. But there is a reason. There is science behind meditation and its capacity, over the long term, to increase resilience and how we manage stressful situations. For more on this, you may like to read Alvin Powell’s article ‘When science meets mindfulness’ in The Harvard Gazette.

There are many articles and videos on the topic out there. If you are looking for free resources, I suggest YouTube (oh really Gertie, you haven’t mentioned that platform before). Calm is one example of a meditation app that posts free videos online. Have a search online for videos that resonate with you and your needs. You can breathe and feel better. It’s free. You can do it any time. The power is with you.

9. Be grateful

This is another, ‘Get stuffed, Gertie,’ moment. Am I pushing it?

If you’ve been hit hard, I get that there will be the urge to tell me to go away. I’ll never know your pain or your struggles. The best thing I can say is, you are not alone. With crisis can come opportunity. If you can muster some resilience, (it’s ok if it’s too hard right now), and if you can focus on what you do have, it may make things a bit brighter. I am sure there is something you can turn to and be grateful for: a partner, a friend, your health – something. Let that thing be what makes you smile today, if nothing else.

Remember, we are all in this together, with or without wine. I vote with. Cheers.

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