Last week was supposed to have been one of the busiest weeks ever for our family. ‘March Madness’, as I had called it. We were prepping for a very hectic week filled with more than our fair share of competitions in each sport in which my kids take part, all while navigating the usual work and school routine.
The preceding Friday, the kids came home from school with a note: school would be closed on Monday and Tuesday so that precautionary sanitization measures could be adopted. Within 2 hours, our Prime Minister announced that schools would be closed for the week. Three days later, the big announcement was made: school would be dismissed until at least the end of April, certain businesses were to limit their operations, and gatherings of more than a stated number of people were no longer permitted.
This was just the beginning, as the lockdown measures have progressed daily.
One by one, the scheduled events that we had prepared for were postponed indefinitely. All of a sudden, we had gone from prepping for March Madness to, well, just madness it would seem.
I suddenly felt caught in a whirlwind of fear and uncertainty. Concerns about job losses, our health care system, our ability to flatten the curve and being sure that our home was sufficiently stocked for an unknown period of time were overwhelming. Add to these the challenges of suddenly working from home and facilitating the mammoth efforts of the teachers to continue teaching our kids remotely. It was no easy task.
By the end of the first day, I was completely spent. I was short and curt in my interactions. I was overwhelmed and underprepared. Yes, my husband (thankfully) was there with me hand in hand, but I felt a profound sense of failure. How could I be expected to manage all of this? How will I ever get everything done? Why wasn’t I able to institute an efficient and workable system?
Surely everyone else was managing.
Here’s the thing: everyone that I spoke to this week is facing some version of the above scenario. They had certain expectations as to what their week would look like and what they had planned to get done. They then had to put measures in place to deal with the rapid changes to these plans. Some were working from home. Some were homeschooling. Some were operating large firms with a skeleton staff. Some were cooped up in complete isolation for very real, very serious reasons. All of them felt overwhelmed. All of them felt scared. All of them felt as though things were spinning out of control.
What can we do to help us manage in these trying and uncertain times? I’m afraid I don’t have answers to this very difficult question. I do, however, wish to offer some suggestions:
1. Let go of your expectations.
This is uncharted territory, in every imaginable way. Don’t add unnecessary pressure to an already charged situation by expecting that you, your kids, your company or anyone else will be able to perform at optimum levels. Do what you can and be prepared to let some things go. Not for good, but for a time. Set realistic goals, but be sure to set boundaries as well. Some things can wait. The sooner we understand and accept that, the better.
2. Simplify your needs
Attempting to have every food item and toiletry on hand for an indefinite period is futile. This not only over-extends our resources and increases the chances of spoilage, but it creates an unforgiving cycle of having to plan for every eventuality. Yes, we must be prepared, but we need not be paranoid.
Now is also not the time to attempt completely novel meal plans that are either ‘hit or miss’ with the masses. By focusing on items that you and your family truly need and enjoy and building your reserves around them, you can be more confident that you will be able to adequately provide for your household while limiting your trips outside.
3. Be grateful
The moment I shifted my perspective from what I couldn’t control and focused on the opportunities that I suddenly had at hand, I began to feel peace. Yes, I am overwhelmed by the quick escalation of events and the uncertainty that continues to unfold, but I look around me and I see the chance to connect. The opportunity to spend the time that I once thought I didn’t have in ways that I once thought I never could. The space to slow down and to meditate on what truly matters; on what life is really about. And this gratitude must go beyond the present moment and carry over into our future perspectives.
When I consider how busy I was supposed to be in my ‘March Madness’, I can’t help but see how extremely blessed I was to be able to do all of these things. Everyday, mundane life in itself is a blessing. This is the perspective that we need to carry with us long after life returns to what we call normal.
4. Love, Love, Love
Some of us are being called upon to operate in extenuating circumstances. The stress, angst and general overwhelm that we feel can quickly be reflected in our responses. By realizing that we are all working through feelings of uncertainty and fear, we are better equipped to measure our response. By acknowledging that my kids, although ecstatic to be home during the school week, were also craving reassurance that everything was going to be ok, I was able to respond in love and to meet them at their point of need, instead of feeling like their needs were part of my breaking point. When this is all over, I want those closest to me to remember being loved fearlessly when fear abounded.
5. Have faith
In times of great fear, there must be even greater faith. Faith in divine promise. Faith that we are loved beyond measure. Faith that we have a future and a hope. Faith brings peace that defies understanding. Faith brings perfect rest. While the race is on to find a vaccine for this current pandemic, we must recognize that there is another plague that will seek to persist long after this virus settles, the plague of fear. I have learned that faith is the antidote to fear.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. As the days go by and new challenges arise, we must adapt and put new measures in place to be able to cope with a very fluid situation. Let’s choose not to view this fact as a loss of control, but rather, as an opportunity to grow. An opportunity to recognize our resilience. And an opportunity to take hold of something completely new and unknown and to find balance in our lives despite it all.
About the Author: Hailing from a small island in the Caribbean, Angelina Lee is a wife, mother of three and Attorney-at-Law. After her Plan A life left her wanting more, she is exploring her Plan Be in which she tries to live more intentionally.