by Julie Nadler
Last week my mother, Peggy, who is 96, had to go to the bank. There was a line-up, which was predicted to take 45 minutes and the day was a hot one. When she complained to the person in charge about her inability to stand that long and in such conditions, it was suggested that she do this transaction online. My mother does not do online. She is 96! Then she was asked for her cell phone number. She has a cell phone, but she keeps at home in case of an emergency. She does not even know her number. So, she went home, got the phone and the bank person figured out what the number was. Then Peggy sat in her car for about 40 minutes waiting for the call.
In the bank she went through the liturgy of the 4 questions, the ritual handwashing, and the mandatory face-covering. My mother is a religious person, but this was way too much for her. And she had to wait again, in an anteroom, before she was admitted into the inner sanctum.
After this ordeal, when she got back to her car, she sat for a long time just trying to absorb the experience. When she finally did drive home, she was so rattled she made a couple of driving errors. This rattled her even more. She was in shock.
As Ross Douthat of the New York Times writes “…when the coronavirus era finally ends, there will be a Rip Van Winkle feeling — a sense of having been asleep and waking to normality, except that we will have time-traveled and the normality will resemble the year 2030 as it might have been without the virus, rather than just a simple turn to 2021 or 2022.”
When Peggy spoke of the experience she said, “I don’t recognize this world anymore. This is not my world. I don’t belong anymore.” It is something we are all feeling to varying degrees: out of step, out off sync, off balance. In shock.
“Future shock is the dizzying disorientation brought on by the premature arrival of the future… [It] is a time phenomenon, a product of the greatly accelerated change in society.”
— Alvin Toffler
One of the main tenets of Buddhist meditation is to recognize impermanence. Suffering, dukkha, comes from our inability to deal with change. But how do we deal with so much change? How do we find equilibrium?
First, give yourself “a break”. Whatever you are feeling may not feel normal to you, but it is. Because ‘normal’ has always been in flux. I have whined a few times, “But this is not what I wanted to be doing right now!”. But even I, a hyper-vigilant, super organizer and planner extraordinaire, know that anything past this moment is up for grabs! Even without this pandemic, any number of things might have interrupted my plans. Change is normal.
See this time, not as an obstacle, but as a challenge. Our challenge was to morph our bricks and mortar yoga studio into an interactive online entity and to continue to provide our community with accessible and authentic yoga. I see people who are using the time to pursue long-sought dreams. Some are working to help others: whether it is a neighbour who cannot get out or a food bank that needs contributors and volunteers. This is a time to cement friendships, seek new jobs, read/study more. Take up running. See a therapist.
Pay attention to the news. There is a lot going on. Social movements, protests, counter-protests, environmental catastrophes. Even when these events happen far away, remember, on earth there is no longer ‘far away’. Whether all people/countries recognize it or not, what happens anywhere on this planet affects us all.
Most important are friends and family. This is a time, ironically, when we need our connection to others more than ever. So, we must be proactive even as the ennui of isolation sets in: more emails, more phone calls, more careful visits. Learn to Zoom if you have the technology.
This past week, we visited my mother in Cornwall: a well-planned and carefully-distanced visit. We brought her the gift of a Zoom meeting with my brother, David, who lives in Nova Scotia. They talk on the phone every day, but such an impact to see each other. When she got over her amazement that such a thing could be done, they chattered with each other like they were in the same room.
Human connection has great power. This is a lesson the pandemic is teaching us.