Juli McClelland

What they’re not telling us about this pandemic.

If you had told me earlier on that in my lifetime I would live through a pandemic, I think I would’ve been a little freaked out. I would’ve anticipated something like the post-apocalyptic thrillers we’ve all seen produced a zillion different ways. And here we are living it, right now. They’re not just closing schools and libraries, but bars, restaurants, shoot, even countries!

I think it’s safe to say at this point that nobody knows for sure what today will bring. Five days ago feels like a lifetime when I texted my friend a heads up about the rodeo closing. She and her family were planning to visit at the end of March, and at that point, we were just waiting it out. That possibility feels like it existed in another world.

I shared with another friend yesterday that I feel almost guilty for feeling very calm about this situation we’re all in. I have faith that we’ll get through this, as a global community. Yet, I see some people who are really panicking, and it makes me feel like I’m not panicky enough. It makes me wonder if I should worry more. But if I did start panicking, what would that do? Aside from making me feel awful and adding some chaotic energy to anyone who crossed my path, it wouldn’t make me more prepared. It wouldn’t help us get to a solution any more quickly.

I think during this time each of us has an incredible responsibility, and I’m not about to tell you to wash your hands and all the things you’ve read 22 times a day. But do that. I think each of us is responsible for our own contribution, and therefore it is essential that each of us commits to love, every day, multiple times a day. See, cause one thing they’re not talking about in the headlines is that COVID-19 isn’t the only highly contagious virus going around. Fear is contagious. And you can’t wash it off your hands or wear any type of face mask to block it out. Stockpiling groceries won’t do anything about it. Isolating and cutting off from humanity definitely won’t do anything about it. 

Before you’re tempted to write this off as fluff, hear me out from a practical application. What does it actually look like to choose fear instead of love? If you’re experiencing anxiety, depression, aggression, stress, overwhelm, worry, a want to control, being overprotective, blame, hatred, anger, resentment, distrust—any of these or other heavy, bitter emotions, that’s fear. 

Will you find patience here? Nope. 

Peace? No way. 

Hope? God, no. 

So if you carry even one of those emotions around everyday, for who knows how long, what will your own world look like? If we’re in this for 20 more days, fast forward to that future day—do you want to suffer every day until then? Of course you don’t want to, but it’s easy. It takes no effort to get swept up in the fear hype, to dramatize every tiny thing and speculate about the end of the world. But didn’t you survive Y2K? And the end of the Mayan calendar? And every other world-ending experience that’s been predicted along the way (there’s a lot of ‘em, actually). 

One could argue now that those aforementioned global-freak-outs weren’t based on a contagious virus, and that’s not my point. People still did a run on the grocery stores at Y2K, the world-ending threat wasn’t real, but the fear sure was, just as it is now. If Italians en masse can find a reason to sing and make music from their balconies, even with pots and pans, you can find your own way to choose love over fear. Singing is not fear-driven (it’s actually funny to think about that). Playing the national anthem and hanging posters over the balconies isn’t fear driven—it’s about community. Community is something we experience through love. 

Love isn’t a feeling or a Disney movie. Love is an action. As fear has its own ways of being, so does love. Acting from love means having trust, thinking of someone else’s needs, sharing resources, listening, comforting, understanding, empathizing. Love means acknowledging people, making eye contact instead of hurriedly cutting past them with a grocery cart…or a car. 

I’m not trying to speak for everyone and tell you not to worry. I don’t know any more about this than you do. What I do know is you are contributing either to the fear or the love, and you can choose. You can join the doom and gloom gossip, the criticism of how things are being handled by the government, the TP blame, or whatever else is out there that’s adding to the fear.

You can also be the person who is proactively seeking ways to help neighbors, or the at-risk population. You can be the person who is playing music off your balcony, or singing loudly, even if you’re not Adele. You can carve out time every day and acknowledge what you have right now to appreciate. 

You don’t have to ignore the facts about what’s going on, it’s great to be in-the-know. Being in the know means you can prepare and you can contribute. But you don’t have to disconnect from humans, and look at them as objects or threats to your safety. 

There’s one more thing I’ll add—and I apologize in advance if this is a fable I’m butchering, I’ve never found the source for it. A pastor once explained Hell in a fascinating way. He described a ring of people, starving, weak and sitting around a shared pot holding very long spoons, suffering as they tried to dip their spoons into the liquid and stretching to feed themselves. They couldn’t reach their mouths because the spoons were so long, so they continued to starve. The pastor said, in Heaven, it is the same, but the people aren’t starving and weak. The difference is, the people learned to feed each other instead of themselves.

There’s always something you can do to spread love in your body, your home, your community, anywhere. You choose. The pandemic will continue to play out either way.

Here’s a list of things you can try on if you want to create more peace, breath, love and community:

  • Create some structure with your time – everything is out of routine right now, it helps to have some kind of routine that feels good! 
  • Go outside, get some sunshine and take a walk. It will help you reconnect to the world and reduce the stir-crazy vibes.
  • Limit your screen time. Increased screen time can lead to depression, anxiety, isolation, and more. Set boundaries and make time for reading, playing a game, doing puzzles, anything.
  • Reach out to neighbors, groups, or your community and see if there is anyone you can help. 
  • If you have more than enough supplies stashed, there are places looking for donations for the less secure population. Let go of what you don’t need, there will be more supplies.
  • Pay attention to anything that beckons you into the fear-zone and see what you can do to shift the situation into doing something from love. Community over selfishness wins!
  • Exercise. Sitting around like a lump has never turned into fulfillment. Sure it feels good to rest, to indulge in some shows for a bit, but it’s also a great place for fear to fester.
  • Look to other people who are leading, inspiring and finding things to do that are proactive, communal and light. They’ll inspire you to do more than watching the 24/7 news updates will.

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