Disorientation and Presence in the Midst of Covid-19

I have been sleeping deeper and later into the morning, dreaming more, finding myself caught up in a strange lethargy that makes it hard to think clearly enough to write. Physical tasks and compassionate outreach to loved ones are easier. Discussions about the latest COVID-19 measures dominate conversations to the point there sometimes is no room for the other mundane aspects of life, some of which are not so mundane. For me, one example is dealing with my father’s house and estate post his death in January.

Great illustration of lethargy and disorientation – just missing the stop where the pets hang out

There is such a sense of disorientation in the air as this pandemic affects the world in a way humanity has never experienced on this global scale before. Yes we have experienced plagues throughout history, including the Spanish Flu in 1918, the AIDS epidemic in the 1990s, the Bird Flu in 1997, SARS in 2002-3 and so many other epidemic scares in the past. The combination of global travel, tracking the progress of the virus and the excessiveness of social media has created a new defining moment in the world.

This will impact both collective and individual worldviews in ways we will only fully become aware of upon the extensive reflection we know will take place in the coming months, years and decades. The success and failure of national and local leaders in addressing the spread of the virus, providing hope – or not, will be legend.

Our own individual responses to the instructions we are being given will become part of the newly patterned social fabrics in each locality, in each country. Enforced isolation can make even the most extreme introverts uneasy and the notion that we could be in this situation for weeks or months is mind bending for many of us. We will discover our own comfort or discomfort levels with being alone with ourselves or our small family units.

Purchasing patterns, fear and anxiety are all being recorded for posterity. As will all the ways humans make connections, support and care for each other. In the desire to act there has been an influx of online offerings, which is also overwhelming. New language and phrasing, like “social distancing”, which many of our colleagues are protesting as physical distancing but still social connection, and “flatten the curve” will be part of our lexicon in perpetuity.

So what to do in the face of an unprecedented experience? Practice radical self-care. Emotionally and physically. I am grateful for an online yoga practice, in-home meditation practice and other regular rituals. I have been part of some online communities over the last couple of years where authentic responses and support have been amazing. In noticing my own disorientation and inability to focus, I have decided to give myself permission to be in my experience – because this too shall pass and focus will come.

Stay in touch with your people. I check in with my partner and my kids on a daily basis and other friends and neighbours periodically. I ask about well being, particularly emotional. One of my sons has been laid off from his job with a catering company, one of my daughters-in-law is pregnant. Everyone is figuring out how to work from home.

The scale of consequences is more than most of us can comprehend. How many will get sick? How many will die? How many businesses will go under? How many of us will be financially compromised, lose homes or retirement savings? What will it be like when the dust has settled? These questions are of a scale that also contribute to disorientation and lethargy. So, for now, staying present in the moment, to what is right in front of us, might be the only way to stay sane, healthy and well.