Equal and Opposite
First of all I hope everyone reading this is healthy and safe. In this time of shelter-in-place, COVID-19 and a complete disruption of daily life around the world I have been hesitant to write for fear of being tone deaf or insensitive to others situations. In addition, I was also getting my life together and running again. This type of pandemic virus is something I never really thought about before even with MERS and SARS in recent decades, I was aware that something like this could happen but never realized it would in my lifetime. Here I am just going to share a few thoughts.
Living during this time is hard, we are all adjusting to being home during all of our free time, work time and family time. There is anxiety in just going to get life sustaining food or medication. I don’t know about you but I miss having the freedom to gather with people I love, give them a hug, play with their children and connect in real life. I hate seeing the hurt that sickness and death bring, my heart breaks as I learn of significant human loss with tears streaming down my face. I lose my breath when I think of what might happen to me or my loved ones if we were to be infected. I get angry when I see our healthcare workers, delivery people, food producers putting their lives on the line to serve us in our time of need without the protection they deserve. All of the emotions, the immobilizing, the intense, and the uplifting, they are all part of this process, all part of being human in today’s world.
Even with the anxiety and pain, I am starting to see the lessons learned from all of this. I was completely unaware of all of the time I had been spending doing things I really don’t need to do. Now that I can not do them, I realize I don’t have to spend my precious time on them. I used to run endless errands, I went to appointments that aren’t really necessary, and attended events I really didn’t care to but felt I was obligated.
Previous to this our lives were filled with opulence and excess. We didn’t need to plan our resources wisely, we could go to the store several times a week. We had an abundance of options of how to fill our free time, movies, dinners, plays, even ax throwing. But now we have to be more conscientious of how we spend our time, and deliberate about who we connect with over a screen.
This epidemic has given us an opportunity for mindfulness, for intentful living. I thought I had chosen a fairly simple and uncomplicated life before COVID, but now I know I had not. Now my days are filled with what I value in my life and none of the excess. I have been given the gift of having the opportunity to see the value in things I took for granted, like toilet paper and mid-day walks with my family. I now realize once again, how precious it is to sit on the couch and laugh with the ones you love without the pressures of needing to be somewhere else or doing something more productive. This horrific epidemic has given me the gift of being mindfully present in the moment.
Fortunately, my life with chronic illness has given me the opportunity to experience great loss, the loss of my life and everything I defined myself by, time and time again. COVID is another one of those experiences for me. I spent the last 2.5 years fighting in Cleveland to get back home to Chicago, back to work, back to normal, back to enjoying the city. I once got here and back into normal life it was taken away again. At times I start to get angry with my situation however, I have learned you must feel overwhelming pain to experience and appreciate elated joy. One does not fully exist in the human consciousness without the other, loss and joy, like yin and yang.
Once we have experienced great pain, our evolution has taught us to do everything in our power to avoid experiencing that pain again. And therefore, out of this global pain and suffering I am certain that we will come out the other side with new scientific innovations, more reasons to connect as human beings across boundaries and have a renewed appreciation for the amazing normal lives we all lead. We will appreciate abundance in life again. After all it is the basic physics law, proven again and again: “For each action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
We spend several lunchtime breaks a week walking the streets of our neighborhood, cringing at those running or walking too close to us without masks, as we can barely breathe through ours. Those walks have been essential to our sanity, and more importantly inspirational. We have noticed buildings, occupants, and spaces that we have walked by in our busy lives with such a cadence that we never really saw them, or felt their presence. Life has slowed down enough in some aspects that we can actually be present in the moment to absorb in detail our neighborhood and its occupants.
Our walks have been taking place for almost 7 weeks and with each passing week we have noticed and commented on the length of the line at our local food pantry. We have noted the number and diversity of people in line has increased greatly since week 1 of this routine. We discussed how the pantry must be running out of food, and yet patrons were leaving with grocery bags for their families nicely topped with flowers. What a humane way to help someone in need, with essentials and a touch of beauty.
On one recent walk to Wrigley field we passed by the Gallagher Plaza and noticed one single news microphone on the brick pavers a few camera men hung around waiting. I speculated with hope that maybe it was the announcement that baseball would go on, just without fans maybe in a neutral location like spring training. Afterall, I am sure I am not the only one that is aimlessly scrolling through the channel menu without sports to watch. Oh that would be so great, I thought.
Then we walked under that iconic marquee and turned the corner at Addison and Clark, there were storage pods lining the sidewalk and a semi-truck parked on the plaza next to the Ron Santo statue. The semi was full of Quaker Oats products from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, being unloaded and stored. Upon closer inspection of the concourse, where you would buy hotdogs and souvenirs on gameday, it was packed full of pallets of food all for the local food bank. A few days later, on our walk we witnessed cars lined up around the block, and patrons lined up around half of the ball park to receive the gift of nourishment. So while many of us miss the crack of the bat and the cheering from the crowd, not having baseball has allowed my neighborhood to have a place to store the massive amount of essential food our neighbors need right now. Another example of an equal and opposite reaction.
While that is my favorite law of motion in physics there are actually 3 of them. All of which can be drawn as analogies to what the world is experiencing at this time (or any time). Thank goodness for science and physics, providing order in a chaotic world. (And for being my favorite courses in college.)
First Rule of Motion: An object will remain at rest or in a uniform state of motion unless that state is changed by an external force.
In that I see my daily life. The way my values had come into conflict with the number of hours in a day and how I was spending them. With all of the unnecessary distractions stripped away I now see the waste of precious time. So now I ask, what is the intent of my day / week? What are the values that I am going to live up to in that time? Are my habits aligned with my goals, or contradictory to them? The routine of my life was acted on by the external force of COVID-19 and the uniformity has changed, for the better.
Second Rule: Force is equal to the change in momentum over time. (Oh how I LOVE this equation…) In other words, the rate of change is directly proportional to the amount of force applied.
In this I contemplate the sheer magnitude of this pandemic, the sheer number of countries, cultures and people that have felt its effects. I see counties, states and countries working together to find and distribute supplies. I see the researchers across the globe sharing information in real time, forgoing profits for progress. I see accidental discoveries and inventions that will transform our lives all wrapped up in the response to this horrible global situation. The magnitude of this world-wide pandemic will cause wide spread change equal to the magnitude of this crisis.
Third rule of motion (my favorite) : For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
This time we are living in, will be one of the most difficult because our nerves are frayed and our lives turned upside down. But by this law of physics there will be just as much positive joy that will also manifest itself in our lives.
So get ready for the (equal and opposite) reaction.
It is already taking form and it will be amazing. What will our part be?
Please take care of one another. Be safe and healthy.
Onward and Upwards!