Perspectives on the Pandemic
There are eight billion of us, each with an entire universe going on inside our heads. How we experience the strange and scary new world we suddenly find ourselves in will be vastly different from one person to the next
By Kevin Kohut, BC Director
Over the past six weeks, I’ve been watching in a state of virtual disbelief as most of us on this planet distance ourselves from each other, and take other significant measures to defeat an enemy so tiny that a 100 million of them can dance on the head of a pin. How humbling this is.
We all find ourselves smack in the midst of history as it develops around us. Yet there are as many different experiences and perspectives as there are people.
For those most directly affected—including those working on the front lines—the pandemic may be quite overwhelming. For some it may mean financial challenge. Others may have their physical health but find the isolation and boredom mentally and emotionally challenging. Then there are those who may be less directly impacted who are experiencing the pandemic as something dully surreal.
These are all legitimate experiences. Surprisingly, even many historical war journals written by soldiers describe similar extremes on the experience spectrum.
I confess that most of my experience so far has been of the dully surreal variety. My days have still been comprised of work, modified social time, walking, reading, music—not completely dissimilar to how it was before.
This is certainly not to minimize the concerning impact of the unprecedented time we are in, but rather to state that there are eight billion of us, each with an entire universe going on inside our heads. How we experience the strange and scary new world we suddenly find ourselves in will be vastly different from one person to the next.
Recently, I found out that a cousin who lives nearby was diagnosed with the coronavirus and is still in isolation, experiencing symptoms. I called to check up on him and was surprised to learn a) how strange, but minimal, his physical symptoms were: no smell, no taste, and b) how emotionally challenging the experience was proving to be for him.
This is not a person anyone would consider weak, but rather a confident and sometimes intense person. However, I could feel the weight he was carrying as he described a “72-hour emotional roller coaster.”
The myriad of thoughts wrestling to fill his head during the first evenings in isolation: Is my wife infected? I was at my son’s place the other day! My granddaughter had a 103° fever today; was it due to my cuddling her last week?
The last one was particularly gut-wrenching for him. He said he was as overwhelmed as he’s ever felt, but he was in good spirits by the time we spoke.
Fortunately, it was an experience he’s coming through and feels the stronger for it. There was excitement in his voice when he described the breakthrough he had during a particularly tough night. While trying to suppress the thoughts vying for supremacy in his mind, he realized these are just feelings. Period. That gave him some peace, and allowed some sleep.
I heard from a friend who lives in Milan, Italy, and has been in apartment isolation since February 22. She described the loss of colleagues and friends to the virus, as well as the loss of things so simple as a hug, or the desire to hug, due to fear. She had only left her place a couple of times for groceries by late April.
The incredible thing about her messages was the perspective she conveyed, despite circumstances that are difficult to fathom. She referred to “not having had the luxury of boredom yet,” but said that she would welcome it.
Her first message spoke about “a human’s ability to adapt,” which she seemed to be in awe of. She works long hours from home. She writes poetry in her spare time. She mentioned how fortunate it was for my wife and I that we were able to go for walks in the forest; she misses that the most.
One thing that moved me was the description of her extracting seeds from the fruit she had purchased, and how she was growing them in seedbeds and planting them in small pots to some day be planted outside. She said it was mindful, symbolic, and it gave her an inner peace that all will be well.
There is something beautiful about people who maintain a spirit of honesty, hope, and gratitude during the tougher times in history. Not everyone can.
But if you are one of them, calm the fears of those around you. Help those who are overwhelmed and struggling. There are eight billion different perspectives of this new world that we share, but we are still in this together.