This morning I caught a headline of an article posted by an acquaintance on Facebook, stating that historians are encouraging people to write about their experience during these unprecedented times. I’ve always been an open book with the things going on in my life and the thoughts swirling around in my head. But if a historian is not only giving me permission, but encouraging me to write it all out…well, watch out world. Here comes Heather’s inner truth.
I hope this post does not come across insensitive, but this is my current experience.
For the last week, I’ve found myself surprisingly calm. Quite honestly, this calm demeanor rather than my normal raging anxiety over things out of my control is shocking. So much so that I’ve also spent the majority of the last few days trying to figure out why.
Why am I so calm? Why am I not afraid?
For all intents and purposes, the world around us is crumbling. I always knew I’d see it in my lifetime, and I always imagined it would be some sort of civil war or nuclear fallout. But no, a highly contagious flu-like virus is bringing our world to its knees. People are being encouraged to self-isolate to help prevent the further spread of this illness. People are also hoarding supplies, end of world style. Businesses are closing left and right, people are losing their jobs at an alarming rate, and the economy is on the brink of collapsing. Personally, our household’s major source of income is based on people paying us for a luxury service, certainly not a necessity, and thus we too very well could lose everything any minute now. We have zero savings to fall back on.
Yet, I’m not afraid.
At first I thought it was because I’ve been fortunate enough to accomplish and experience some pretty kick-ass things in my life. If the world comes crashing down tomorrow and I’m breathing my last breath, well I will know that I certainly didn’t waste my time on earth. Yeah, there’s eleventy-trillion (my youngest’s favorite saying right now) more things I’d still love to do and experience, but I certainly haven’t been sitting around waiting for my life to happen. I’ve LIVED.
And it’s been amazing.
This morning though, I woke up with a vastly different thought. It occurred to me that the lifestyle I’ve lived over the last decade has strengthened me in a number of ways. This lifestyle has been equal parts by choice, and forced by circumstance. You see, as an adult I’ve gone without more times than I care to remember.
I know what it’s like to scrape together $7 in spare change to go to the grocery store and buy a loaf of white bread, a jar of peanut butter, a gallon of milk, and a box of saltine crackers to feed your kids for the week. All economy store brand, of course.
I know what it’s like to boil water on the stove and then use that to fill the bathtub, because you can’t afford to pay your gas bill that runs your hot water heater. Or how to find the very few, very scarce payphones that are still in existence, so you can call the water company and ask for an extension before they shut your water off again. Or to rely on the charity of others because you have suddenly found yourself jobless right before Christmas, and can’t afford to pay rent, never mind buy your kids presents.
And I know that even in these situations, I have STILL been far more privileged and well off than many others.
But because of these times I’ve struggled or gone without, I’ve also learned what really, truly matters in life. And therefore, when I’ve been in a more comfortable financial situation, I’ve chosen to still go without, because I realize that life is better when we don’t focus on the material things. When we truly live within our means, and only take and use what we need. When we focus on creating our own happiness, rather than buying it. When we realize that all our children truly want is our attention, love, and time. And our spouses, relatives, and friends, for that matter.
Living this way is viewed highly unconventional in our “bigger, better, more, more, more” capitalist, consumerism society. Yet I’ve always wished people could see how much happier life can be, when lived more simply.
Do you ever stop and wonder what you’d be able to do with the free time you might have if you aren’t stressing about working to pay for that 2nd luxury car payment? Or the mortgage payment for that massive house that is probably twice as large as what you really need? Or the endless private lessons for sports and extracurricular activities for your over scheduled, stressed out kids? Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the master bedroom walk in closet that is so packed full of clothing you hardly wear, that you’ve run out of room? Or constantly feeling like you need to redecorate your house to match what is trending on social media? Do you stop and wonder what effect your endless air travel, electricity habits, purchasing of “fast fashion”, and Starbucks visits have on our climate?
Do you wish you could slow down?
I realize it’s unfair of me to call out other people’s lifestyles and insinuate that they are wrong. If you are truly happy, then I am happy for you. I also realize how quickly I may very well find myself once again scraping together $7 in change to try and feed my family, wishing I had a corporate safety net from having “climbed the ladder”. And I won’t lie – it does suck to struggle.
But there’s a large part of me that finds calm and reassurance in the fact that maybe, just maybe, this chaotic time that is forcing us to go without, to hunker down, to spend face time with our families, a time that is demanding we stay at home and slow the fuck down…
…might be the change we all need.
Maybe it will force us all to recognize what basic “needs” truly are, and what constitutes as a luxury. And it will make us better understand why we need to fight for those who can’t even afford basic needs, and that so much of the way we choose to live our life in this society is inherently selfish. Not only selfish towards our fellow humans, but to the earth as a whole.
Maybe more kids will get outside and play.
Maybe more people will put down their social media and open a book.
Or connect over the dinner table, while truly being grateful for the food in front of them and the company around them, realizing that neither is ever guaranteed.
Maybe we’ll realize that we are more alike than we thought – this virus doesn’t give a shit if you are a republican or a democrat.
Maybe our carbon footprint will start to decline along with our stress levels, as we aren’t constantly hurrying from one place to the next.
Maybe people will stop taking every day for granted, and stop waiting to truly live their lives.
As I write this post, I hear more noise from the back of our apartment complex than I’ve ever heard before. Little kids are giggling as they run around, and parents are actually watching them – not buried in their phones. I’m seeing communities come together to support each other, whether it be purchasing a new refrigerator for a 92 year old woman when hers died, or buying up the $75,000 fresh produce supply of a local supplier (small business owner) who fears he will loose it all, now that restaurants are closing. Parents are actively involved in their children’s schooling in ways they never imagined. People are learning the value of not wasting food, and truly understanding how EVERYONE in our society contributes, from doctors to teachers to the people who stock our grocery store shelves. I’m seeing companies opening their stores an hour early and ONLY allowing senior citizens in to shop, and instead of crying “unfair”, people are celebrating.
What’s going on in our world right now is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. But the response from the majority of our fellow humans is also like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
Listen. I hate that people are dying. I hate that jobs are being lost and there is so much uncertainty ahead. But this is going to be a defining time in our society, hell, on our entire planet, and the optimist in me believes that we have the ability to turn this lemon into one hell of a glass of lemonade.
The saying “BE the change you want to see in the world” is applicable more now than ever before.
Maybe a week from now I’ll be panicking, wondering how we’ll pay rent if our business collapses. Maybe I’ll find myself in a bread line three days long, wishing I had taken this time to stockpile apocalyptic style. Maybe a month from now I’ll find myself or my loved ones in the ICU, struggling to catch my breath. Maybe I need to take off these rose colored glasses and get a grip on reality.
But right now, in this moment, the sun is out, the birds are chirping, and damnit, I’m hopeful.
Be safe. Be smart. Be the change.
1 comment on “Lemonade.”
Thanks Heather! This has to be one of the most refreshing posts I have read during this whole thing. Kudos to you for taking this attitude right now and spreading some positivity. It’s something we could all use a lot more of.
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