We all have to wear masks now. Physical masks. For centuries, humans (often subconsciously) have perfected the art of wearing psychological masks, emotional masks, and even mental masks – to hide our insecurities and present ourselves as confident and strong (even when we might not be).
Well, now that the physical masks are on, the psychological masks have come OFF! We have become a COVID Culture of fear and insecurity and uncertainty and many people aren’t coping well with the threats of health, life, and loss. I’m not asking you to pretend that everything is going to be okay, I’m asking you to BELIEVE that everything is going to be okay. We will get through this but only with the right tools and the right mindset.
I sense the fear and anxiety all around me. Personally, I have been directly touched by Covid-19 through the loss of two close family members. I lost both my father in law and my own mother in April 2020 from Coronavirus. I didn’t get to see my mother when she was dying. I took my dad to see her and watched from my car windshield through the rain as he went in to say goodbye to his wife of 51 years through gloves, a gown, a face mask, and a shield. He couldn’t kiss her or touch her skin. He was told he had 10 minutes then he walked out, devastated. She died the next morning. I did get to see my father-in-law on a 5 minute FaceTime call (courtesy of one of the Miriam Hospital Angels!!), as he lay dying in a hospital bed without family around him or a son or daughter’s touch to comfort him.
My 79-year-old dad comes to my house every day for visits and meals. My family works hard to keep him healthy – both mentally and physically. I also have a houseful of kids that need to see their friends and socialize and live their lives. We cooperated fully during the lockdown and followed all the rules of quarantine and when the State of RI eased up, we eased up too and began carefully socializing and living again. So far, so good.
Many years ago, I was invited to go mountain biking. I cautiously and nervously rode the trails, as I encountered stumps and rocks and pits all through the woods. It was my first time and I was afraid to crash. I picked up too much speed going down a hill and the trip leader stopped to turn and check on my downhill progress and I didn’t have time to stop and I crashed into him. I went flying. He went flying. Thankfully, we both survived with a few scrapes and bumps. Nothing broken. Nothing was in disrepair. From that moment, once I got on my bike, the anxiety had lifted. I had experienced what I was most fearful of – the crash. I survived. The freedom of confidence overwhelmed me and I took on the trail with renewed strength and vigor.
I supposed the biggest fear of Covid-19 is losing someone you love so deeply in a tragic and unstoppable death. It happened to my family, twice. And we survived. Lack of fear does not indicate a lack of caution nor carelessness. By no means do I live irresponsibly through this pandemic. I use my mask when required. I use hand sanitizer and I “safe distance” but I have chosen to LIVE. Life requires us to accept the challenges we are given and have faith that we will not only survive but become stronger as we navigate throughout our trials.
In therapy, we teach kids to control the things they can and learn to accept the things they can’t – the basis of the Serenity Prayer. We can only control certain things and unfortunately we cannot control the behavior of a virus that causes a Pandemic of this nature. We can control our response to it. We can control our attitudes and fears and levels of confidence.
We know that we can impact others by our own anxieties but more importantly, when it comes to our children and our youth, we must remember how essential and impactful our CALM is. We are all in this together. We all have the same goal: to be safe. That is our brain’s main job- to keep us safe. But our own minds are not always helpful when it enters the merry-go-round of worries.
Our kids need us and they need each other. They need to go to school as long as they possibly can. We need to help them achieve this by our willingness to remain flexible, calm, and reasonable as we all navigate these waters of uncertainty.
Expect chaos. Expect challenges and learn to get used to perpetual uncertainty. Then, focus on the present and being flexible and doing what we can within our abilities, all while maintaining calm and composure so we can actually teach our kids lifelong skills of learning to cope and having faith that ultimately we are not in control of this scenario but we absolutely can get through it.
We will all handle the challenges as they arise. We don’t need to create hypothetical challenges in our brains and generate endless “what-if” scenarios. We are being asked to do this. We are strong and smart and we have what we need to rise above the chaos that is swirling around us. So, unfurrow your brows and take a deep breath and smile and remember, we can do this. We will triumph for ourselves, for our families, and for our students no matter what happens but we won’t quit because we aren’t quitters.
The Serenity Prayer has been used for decades by the highly respected and effective Alcoholics Anonymous Organization, which has saved countless lives and families. I have included here in case you aren’t familiar with it: