Staying Calm in a Global Crisis
Nothing like a global pandemic to put things into perspective, is there?
Tuesday I went to the Golden State Warriors’ last game at Chase Center, drove by the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked at the Port of Oakland, got interviewed about Covid-19 by the local news.
Wednesday all NBA games were postponed until further notice. Local schools are closed. Trips canceled. Pantries stocked with too much pasta. Its work from home for the foreseeable future.
It’s only going to get weirder from here. There are first-wave, second-wave, third-wave effects to try to anticipate and then, at some point, deal with. I’m not alone in being captivated and overwhelmed by the reality of living in this time. My body is exhausted. My mind can’t really stop mulling over what’s happening. I’ve slept over 10 hours every night since we shut down our office with very vivid, existential dreams.
Tackling this unexpected moment
Partially because of a philosophical appetite for the full range of life’s experiences, and partially due to a knack for dissociation honed in childhood, I am a pretty calm person to have around during a crisis.
But I have never lived through something like this. As much for myself as anyone else, I want to try to anticipate what is likely to happen from here on out. How long will we be on lock down? How will we stay sane during this experience? How will we come out of it?
Living in an earthquake zone, and more recently, an area at high risk for wildfire, disaster preparedness is never far from our minds here in the Bay Area. But even those two potential disasters call for very different preparations. Viral pandemics have been vastly under-considered by the general public. But they’ve been on my radar since last fall when I listened to Josh Clark’s excellent podcast on the likely existential threats on the horizon. In an interview, he said a viral pandemic was probably the most immediately troubling. I then read Station Eleven, a book of fiction about this very thing, in mid-December, as the Corona Virus was spreading through Wuhan unbeknownst to me or rest of the world. By New Years, I was already sounding like a doomsday prepper.
What to do during this shut down
Despite the fact that we’re too late for containment due to a sluggish federal response and bewilderingly slow distribution of test kits, I am heartened that leaders throughout California and beyond were willing to shut everything down to flatten the curve. I mean, the NBA??? Never thought I’d see that in my lifetime.
Many businesses and workers are going to struggle during the next few months, including my restaurateur clients. I know people that have already been laid off. Many restaurants sit empty. If you’re not drastically impacted financially, please order takeout and buy gift certificates online from your favorite neighborhood spots to help them weather this storm while we isolate.
(Go ahead, I’ll wait.)
But this shut down will help us slow the spread and hopefully hospitals and healthcare workers will be able to manage this without completely breaking down. Check in on your friends and family who work in healthcare. See if they need childcare help or food delivered, perhaps from one of the local restaurants.
(Go ahead, I’ll wait.)
At some point in the next 2–4 months, we’ll be receding from this emergency and it will be time to start rebuilding our society. I’m sure we’ll all be a bit grayer and battle worn, but emerge we shall. Our retirement portfolios, for those of us lucky enough to have them, will be smaller. Our bodies may be thicc from Panic Beans or Rage Baking, or snatched from stress-related appetite loss.
I will take this opportunity to state publicly my intention to spend my isolation making more art, writing, and spending time each day to breathe and move. I think deep breaths and reminding myself to be present will help me enjoy the time in my home, read the books on my shelf, make my fancy coffee and sleep whenever possible. Meditate, write songs, perhaps start the foul-mouthed Youtube fitness channel I keep fantasizing about. Make the most of this ominous yet collective lull. Make the most of this opportunity for rest, time alone, reassessing my life.
I hope you’ll take good care of yourself as well, whatever that means to you. We are going to need you in good shape when it’s time to get back to business.
What comes next
And one last thing I want to bring up — safety nets.
One year ago, I was in 5-figure credit card debt living paycheck to paycheck. I read a Dave Ramsay book and resolved to pay that off and build a 6-month emergency fund per his recommendation. I ruthlessly reviewed my spending and made sacrifices until I managed to make this happen. No travel, no car, no impulsive spending. Sobriety certainly helped me financially — dropping a daily rather nice wine habit saved me hundreds of dollars each month. It also helped me build a physical emergency fund. I got more in touch with my body and found healthier coping mechanisms, built stamina, patience, strength.
Entering this Covid-19 situation with my health intact and an emergency fund in the bank has made me tear up with overwhelming gratitude multiple times. If this isn’t your situation, I genuinely don’t say this to make you feel bad. I do, however, want to point out that a safety net can be built in a year, and I hope we can all prioritize that in the days following this crisis, both individually and collectively. Knowing that I’m in a position to support my local businesses during this time and not have to ask for help or go into debt is an incredible feeling.
I also hope our politicians remember this situation for a very long time. I hope we as voters realize the weight of responsibilities we’re tasking our elected officials with. I’ve seen some outstanding decisive action on behalf of local politicians, California State Senator Scott Weiner stands out. A legislator’s role is, as someone online pointed out, a crisis manager. The stakes are high as hell, life or death. At least we should be able to look to our leaders for timely and accurate information. This is… not the case on a federal level and it’s going to have a major impact.
At any rate, this is the situation we’re in and as fast as the illness spreads across the world, we’re also lucky to have quality information instantaneously from actual experts. We’re lucky that many leaders are taking this appropriately seriously, and that people are willing to take precautions to slow the spread. As my beloved Taylor Mac pointed out, it feels like a special kind of solidarity, spacious solidarity. It’s certainly a time to recognize our interdependence.
Be extra loving to yourself and your loved ones right now. Take time with your meals and showers. Make Facetime dates and phone calls. Get rest and movement and stimulate your mind from time to time. Write down your thoughts. We have sudden downtime when we can contemplate our choices and chart a new path when its time to go again.
We can use this experience to make the world a better place, prepare ourselves for an uncertain future, and strengthen our human family bonds.
I’m grateful for so many of you. Take good care of yourselves.