Updated: Feb 17
We are all experiencing a pandemic, yet our experiences of the pandemic are uniquely different. Despite all of us being in isolation, we are each confronted and challenged by varying aspects of isolation.
In my social group alone I know…
….Mums and Dad’s who are teachers, nurses, doctors and police, all required to work, some of them shift working, while homeschooling or still getting children to school, all while they themselves are exhausted and worried whether they may have brought the virus home with them.
…Single mums, either widowed, separated or divorced, who are wondering how they will navigate work commitments, make ends meet and educate their children (or at the very least keep them alive and entertained), let alone have anytime for anything remotely related to meeting their own needs.
…Friends who have lost their jobs, had their hours and/or pay reduced or whose own businesses are paused, or worse still at risk of collapsing altogether and are left wondering how they will pay their bills, put food on the table and make their mortgage or rental payments.
…Parents who are safe and well, still have enough income to get by, yet are overwhelmed by the task of home schooling their children and being with their families 24/7.
…Friends who by contrast are enjoying the opportunity to live at a somewhat slower pace, planning to take stock of where life has lead them thus far and contemplating whether when this is over they want to continue as they were or make changes.
…Those who fear for their children’s safety, suffer emotional manipulation or experience domestic violence at the hands of their partner, the situation going unchecked while in isolation with the offender.
….Single friends who whilst they don’t have the juggle of children and balancing their husband’s career with heir own, are suffering because of the lack of social and family contact, some living remotely, feeling cut off physically and emotionally from loved ones.
…Some people who are worried about the health of aging relatives, their own compromised health or caring for children with disabilities or whom require learning support.
…Friends who suffer genuine anxiety and deep depression, not only in regard to their own personal situation, but also more generally about what this pandemic means for the global community and our future.
These are but a few of the situations people are grappling with due to Covid-19 (and I haven’t even mentioned the ones who actually contract the virus). Multiply these experiences out across the country, or the world, and there are countless variations in people’s experiences; cramped apartments, more significant death tolls, longer periods of isolation, greater restrictions, being stuck in a foreign country unable to return home and extreme poverty, to name a few.
The struggles each of us have are different. They vary in nature and in intensity, and just as our struggles vary, so do our methods of coping with them.
…Some people cope by sharing as much of the Covid-19 information as they can find; data, graphs, articles, facts, figures, video clips and news reports. They beg and plead for everyone else to heed the warnings and stay home, because this is what helps them to feel safe and in control.
…Others will cope by sharing humourous videos and memes, invite you to join a bin isolation group and make wise cracks to keep things light, because humour is what gets them through the day and maybe for some helps mask the pain.
…Some will turn a blind eye to the virus and continue as normally as possible. They might even flaunt the rules and push the boundaries, anything that allows them to keep the wheels turning.
…Some will post so many messages of positivity and gratitude that you might wonder if they live in the same world as you do, but again it is their way of navigating this time, trying to find the good in a difficult situation.
…Some will write articles, blogs and Facebook posts, as much to help themselves process and understand this event, as to help others else make sense of it.
…Some will complain about the unfairness of it all, the fact that they can’t go out to eat or get a haircut, that football is cancelled and playgrounds are closed, or simply because they feel helpless and don’t know what else to say and do.
…Some will thrive during this giant pause and indeed find the silver lining of slowing down and enjoying the extra time to with family, to contemplate, to just be.
…Some people will throw themselves into DIY projects, get fit or learn a new skill. Some will binge on Netflix, eat, drink and relax. Anything to stay occupied and pass the time in isolation.
Many of us will do multiple things from the list above, as well as many more, in an effort to deal with this unusual situation. With so many individuals with unique circumstances and ways of coping, how can any of us judge another person’s experience or how they choose to manage it? Yet I hear so much judgment from others, in the news and on social media, about what we should and shouldn’t be doing. How we should and shouldn’t feel. Who has the right to complain and who does not.
We can’t possibly know what another person’s experience is of this time (or at any time really). I concede that some things are harder to accept than others, especially when they seem over the top to us. It is particularly hard when the views of others don’t match our own or we struggle to relate to their perspective.
When we emerge from this time in isolation, there will be stories of pain, heartache, loss, grief and devastation. There will also be stories of hope, resilience, renewal and growth. And I hope that there will be stories of fun and laughter, love, life and connection.
But for now, what would it be like if we suspended our judgment of one another and instead gave our unreserved acceptance? What would it be like if we had sufficient grace to be patient and kind towards each other? What would it be like if whenever we were in doubt, we gave one another the benefit of the doubt and were able to assume that the other person is doing the very best they can in that moment? What would it be like if we afforded other people the freedom, space and flexibility to handle situations in the way that is best for them? What if instead of criticism, we offered understanding?
If ever there was a time for compassion and tolerance, for ourselves and for one another, surely that time is now.
This article has also been published by the Effectiveness Training Institute of Australia. If you are interested in learning more about their communication courses, get in touch with me or check out their website www.etia.org for more information.