I know we all have been constantly bombarded with COVID19 coverage, with 24-hour updates on every news station; our favorite cable stations advertising products and services we use everyday that now include proper social-distancing and handwashing techniques; all of the challenges and digital parties to keep us busy and connected; and the constant posting of monologues from social-media scientists.
We have all been made aware of those who are not taking this pandemic seriously and have continued on with everyday life as usual and even been a part of the shaming discussions of their actions and how selfish they are. This disease has crept in and taken over our lives, with many of us are terrified of what tomorrow brings.
Thousands have lost their jobs and have been forced to understand just how “essential” they are or aren’t to their employers; children are hungry since schools closed, canceling most of their only times to eat; and our loved ones are dying.
Our health-care system is severely lacking, leaving our heroes in the medical field stranded on the front line without the proper weaponry to protect themselves. This novel coronavirus has exposed us all for the calloused, selfish, busybodies we are, naked in our unpreparedness and disregard for our fellow man.
That’s enough negativity to make many of us crawl into comfortable spaces of paralyzing fear, decreased productivity and, for many others, feed inner monsters of unattended mental illness. I am in no way trying to undermine this pandemic. I know that when this is over, many hidden pits will be exposed. I also have no interest in writing another “be grateful, take this time to be more productive and don’t waste time” piece, because I’m over that, too.
It seems to me that one of our biggest problems as humans is the constant pressure to be better; the whole “don’t compete with others, compete with your former self” bit. Don’t get me wrong, as an ambitious, determined young woman, that mantra has pushed me through some of the most pressing times in my life. I could relay that message to you all now and be your productivity cheerleader, but I don’t believe that’s my purpose here.
My main message: Be present in your feelings right now and take time to look within and unpack when you’re ready. It’s perfectly OK to slow down and not give into the perpetual pressure of always working to be better. Many of us don’t all of a sudden have a surplus of free time. Many are still working every day, with mothers and fathers simultaneously being teachers to their children. Many lives are already riddled with sickness and disease, and all their time goes to taking care of loved ones.
For me, I’m a single woman in my 30s with no children, staying alone who spends most of my time hustling side jobs after my full-time. One thing this pandemic has made clear to me has been all the things I didn’t have time to do before. But that first Saturday I got completely to myself—sleeping in until mid-afternoon, being able to leisurely enjoy my coffee while looking out the window and having the time to just let my mind wander down avenues I haven’t made time to really explore. It was needed. I needed time to wander, cuddle with my puppy, nap, eat, shower, catch up on some of my favorite shows and just enjoy not having to be or do anything.
Yes, I should use this time to be more productive. I should take this time to be more creative, get more organized, journal, read, sing out loud, start that new hobby, have those hard conversations with family and friends, be introspective, meditate, reconnect with my Creator, exercise, be more conscious of what I’m eating and drinking, and find ways to concentrate my efforts to be a part of the solution for my community. But I do not have the strength or interest to “keep up” at this point, two weeks into staying inside alone with myself, or to stomach the incessant “positivity.”
Those ideals can be just as toxic as laziness and procrastination, and I refuse to fall victim to the pressure. I see go-getter colleagues and co-workers taking this time to better themselves. I see families actually enjoying the presence of one another and really learning the personalities of their children and significant others, learning how to effectively communicate, taking walks and eating together more, listening more, learning how to truly connect to one another within our communities and around the world.
For many of us, this has been spiritually refreshing, and during this tragedy we are able to clearly focus on what’s always been of the utmost importance: love, compassion, interconnectedness. It’s beautiful and inspiring. I’ve been frolicking in the fields of peace and humanity you all are displaying as this pandemic roars ahead of us. I am optimistic of how this tragedy will equip us collectively to be more involved in making this nation and this world a better place for all of us. This is the time to truly see what we’ve been getting wrong and how to unite to fortify a future for generations to come.
What I feel comfortable passing onto you is that we all need to take time to tread slowly. Take time to deal with the negative feelings and thoughts you have—cry, yell, sleep in a little bit later, confine yourself to a space that is yours and yours alone, and really expose you to you. It’s OK if you haven’t had the energy to fold those clothes, start that business, read those books or become “the best version” of yourself.
All your experiences of pain, love, selfishness, joblessness, health, sickness, surety, indecisiveness, loneliness and heartbreak, carnal indulgences and spiritual mountains—they all work together to forge who you’re becoming. Please unplug if you have to from social media and from the pressure of maintaining contact with others at all times.
You have my permission to live and breathe each moment as it comes, and it’s my prayer that we all come out on the other side of this more in tune with who we really are and more prepared to stand for whatever life throws at us.
Azia Wiggins is the executive assistant at the Jackson Free Press.