These are uncertain and scary times.
COVID-19, in the span of a week, has turned all of our daily lives upside down.
I am a mother, a wife, and a small business owner, and this pandemic has ushered fear and uncertainty into each aspect of my life - into everyone's lives - in a myriad of ways.
A Mother & Wife's Heart
I kiss my teenage daughter as she bravely trots out the door to her job at a major grocery chain where she works as a cashier.
I want to wrap my arms around her and forbid her from going. With all the chaos and panic-buying she comes in contact with dozens and dozens of people every shift. I struggle with the decision to let her go, of course I do, but in these times grocery store workers are needed more than ever. What if they all stayed home? Where would we be?
I kiss my husband as he walks out the door to his job at a local mid-sized business that cannot be done remotely. As long as they are open, he'll be there. That's just how he is wired. In this brave new world he gets his temperature taken as he clocks in each morning.
Of course I want him to stay home safe, with me. I'm filled with equal parts fear and pride as he heads to work. Fear of him being exposed, and pride at his work ethic and the knowledge that small-to-mid sized businesses will be hit hard, some of them really hard, as we ride out this virus. If everyone chose their own desires over the greater good, things would fall apart - fast.
I pay attention to the warnings from Italy about the need to socially distance, to flatten the curve, to do our part to try and avoid their escalating number of cases. My desire to keep them relatively safe at home wrestles with my understanding that there are still jobs that need to be done to serve the community, and the need to do our part to keep this limping economy moving forward.
A Small Business Owner's Fear
As the owner of a marketing agency I speak to many small and mid-sized businesses every day, and my heart aches as I think of how many of them will struggle to stay in business if this goes on as long as people fear.
My internal tug of war between my fears for my family and the desire to do my part to help my community - my clients - rages on every day.
Like many of us, I have a few blissful seconds each morning after I open my eyes when I forget, and then WHAM. I remember. Pandemic.
Every pandemic movie I've ever seen projects in my brain, giving everything a surreal tinge.
Mindfulness in the Age of COVID-19
As a woman in recovery, I have practiced mindfulness for years. I've worked hard to sit peacefully in uncomfortable emotions without losing myself to fear. I have spent hours navigating anxiety, grief, sadness, anger, and loss through self-awareness and nurturing the ability to do what I can, to focus on things that are in my control, and let go of the things that aren't.
This one is tough, though. There is a difference between working through my own problems and working through something that is impacting the entire globe.
All I know for sure, with absolute certainty, is that I will move forward. That WE will move forward. Sometimes by mere inches perhaps, but in situations like this inches count for a lot.
Before COVID-19 I faced tough times. Some of them even felt insurmountable. My husband has a saying he would tell me on the days I felt particularly paralyzed by uncertainty: "do one thing, no matter how small, to improve your position every day".
Some days this would mean getting out of bed to take a shower. Some days this meant tackling that pile of laundry, or making a list of all I'm grateful for. Other days it meant reaching out to hear the comforting voice of a dear friend. Just something, to keep shuffling forward.
I said to a friend yesterday that this pandemic feels like there is an ozone of fear surrounding everything. You can't run from it. Where would you go? We have to stand and face fear; look it right in the eye and deal with it in healthy ways.
In these days of uncertainty I find mindfulness to be an invaluable tool. Stuffing the fear down just gives it more power. If I ignore it, it comes out sideways through irritability, insomnia, and apathy.
So, I sit with the fear. I lean into it as much as other emotions like joy, security, and peace of mind. In fact, fear and comfort are inseparable, because you can't have one without the other. Yin and Yang.
What Can I Do?
I think about what is within my control, and what isn't. The presence of COVID-19 on our planet is out of my control. Who contracts it and who doesn't - despite taking all the recommended precautions - is also out of my control. The ways in which this pandemic affects the global economy? Out of my control.
So much is within my control, though. SO much. I can reach out to an elderly neighbor. I can wash my hands, avoid touching my face, and maintain social distancing to keep others - and myself - as safe as possible. I can plan for the near future and reasonably stock up on supplies without succumbing to panic-buying. I can express gratitude and compassion for health care workers, first responders, and others who put themselves on the front line every day.
I can have patience and exercise kindness while waiting in long lines to get food. I can smile at people instead of running from them in fear.
I can remember that it isn't all about my, or my family's, comfort, and let someone else take that last roll of toilet paper (you know I had to mention the toilet paper).
I can be resourceful and creative as supplies get low.
I can support small, local businesses that remain open during this crisis. This, I feel, is especially important, because as the global economy wobbles, and we all pare down, it's going to be the local economy - ALL the local economies - that will pull us through.
Small and mid-sized businesses have always been the backbone of this economy, but in the age of big business, our need for instant gratification, and our desire to have an unsustainable number of choices for the things we want (17 different types of mayonnaise? The same shirt available in 19 different colors? That exotic tropical fruit in the middle of winter?) we have forgotten this.
Order take-out from that local restaurant. Patronize - safely - the local businesses that remain open through this crisis. We are entering a time of simplifying, of remembering that we don't need as much as we think we do, or as much as we want.
Hug your loved ones. Stay close to your support system. Do what you can to help the disenfranchised. Resist the temptation to step over your neighbor to get what you need. Share. Shop locally. Stare fear in the face, and move forward anyway.
We are resilient. We are resourceful, and we are going to be okay if we come together with our community - even if it's from six feet away - instead of cowering in fear.
President & Founder
Morgan Marketing Solutions