During this long-term COVID-related isolation phase, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on how to best cope with all of the restrictions we’re currently having to navigate. It seems that all of the things we used to do in order to find joy and satisfaction in our lives are temporarily on hold. Here is a list of things my clients are mourning the loss of at the moment:
- Seeing close family and friends in person
- Celebrating holidays with loved ones
- Going into another environment other than their homes to work
- Socializing with colleagues/Meet and Greets
- Going to self-help and support groups in person and feeling the comfort that only comes from being physically surrounded by others going through similar struggles
- Attending fun workshops, classes and fitness-related events
- Birthday parties/weddings/being able to physically attend funerals
- Going to see their therapist in person (I miss seeing you in my office too)
- Yoga/meditation retreats
- Travelling on a plane
- Living somewhere warm for part of the year
- Shopping in actual stores rather than online
- Work conferences
- Going out for meals in restaurants and feeling safe inside the restaurant
And the list goes on…
Luckily, I am an introverted Highly Sensitive Person which means that for the most part, my life hasn’t changed that much since COVID hit. I work from home, am a natural homebody and don’t enjoy crowds of people and lots of stimulation. However, I love to travel and my family is spread out all over the globe and it really pains me to not be visiting them at this time. I also enjoy small group gatherings- especially pot-lucks and miss these as well.
I think a lot about the extroverts as we continue intense restrictions and my heart truly goes out to them. I know a lot of my extroverted clients are really struggling with these limitations as they recharge their batteries by being out in the world, surrounded by lots of people and activity and do their best when highly stimulated by their environment.
If you’ve been reading my writing for some time, you probably know that I had the very good fortune of being surrounded, adored and raised by all four of my grandparents. Although they have all passed on now, not a day goes by when I don’t have fond memories of them. I am thinking about them even more during COVID and asking their spirits to guide me during this time of great uncertainty. Why? Because they were no strangers to hardship and uncertainty. Collectively, here are some of the things my grandparents endured and survived:
- Extreme Anti-Semitism and persecution
- Lack of food
- Limited access to education and work opportunities
- Immigrating to countries that were completely foreign and whose languages they didn’t speak due to Anti-Semitism, Nazi occupation and discrimination
- Violence and abuse in the home and in their communities
- Tragic losses of loved ones
- Wars/Bombing of their cities
- The Great Depression
And I’m sure there were many more…
And yet, all four grandparents were incredibly bright, funny, kind and loving human beings who worked incredibly hard, raised families, and led rich and fascinating lives.
When I imagine how they would have approached the current pandemic, I imagine them sighing deeply, shrugging their shoulders and then doing what they always did- carrying on with life in whatever way they could. I think that they, unlike me and many of us younger folks, coped better with hardship and tragedy because they had so much more of it to face and endure.
In other words, they were able to survive and thrive because great suffering was the norm throughout their lifetimes. They expected hardship, tragedy and great suffering. They built their resiliency with each tragedy/barrier/challenge they had to face.
They were good at ‘going without’ because they had to on so many occasions. Even when they were more well-off in their later years, they still lived like they had very little money. They could have gone out for meals more often, but scoffed at the suggestion because it seemed like an ‘extravagance’.
One of my grandmothers had a nightly bath and I went out and bought her some bath bombs, candles, and scented soaps to enjoy her nightly ritual even more and she looked at me like I had lost my mind. She waved them away dismissively and said, “I just need hot water. That stuff is ridiculous. You keep it.”
This same woman had as her only bath towels the small threadbare ones from 1932 which she brought with her to Canada when she fled Europe when the Nazis took over. When my mother bought her new, cushy, big bath towels she was deeply offended and put them in the cupboard for guests and went back to her pre-war towels.
In my mind, I fantasize about complaining to my grandparents about COVID with all of its restrictions. I think I can accurately guess what they’d tell me:
- These things happen in the world. Pandemics are nothing new. They come and they go as does everything in life.
- It’s no big deal not being able to do all of the things you used to do before. In the old days, this is pretty much how things looked. We didn’t get on planes and go off to far-off places. We stayed home mostly. Once a year, we’d travel to the seaside somewhere nearby for a week and that would be enough.
- You don’t need to go to restaurants. You have access to good and plentiful food choices and you have the means and technology to prepare your own food. Be grateful for that. Plus, home-cooked is always better than restaurant food. You can be assured that no one spit in your food while you weren’t looking.
- You’re lucky you’ve got work and an education. You’re lucky that you got to choose what profession you wanted to pursue and were able to do it and that you do something you love.
- No one needs ‘retreats’. What are you retreating from anyway? Reality? Face the hard stuff head on.
- And most importantly, find joy and comfort in the everyday things like making a nice meal, being with those you love, being in nature and reading a good book.
In other words, stop kvetching (Yiddish word for ‘complaining’) and focus on your blessings.