Life is weird right now.
Like, seriously strange.
It’s still a bit shocking to hear words like pandemic, quarantine, and lockdown being used to describe our current situation. And it’s even more overwhelming to know there’s no escape in sight—the whole world is experiencing the same thing at the same time, which is something we don’t often consider when we’re dealing with our own stress or suffering or tragedy.
But the weirdest thing for me is that my daily life hasn’t changed all that much.
I’ve been working from home for four and a half years, and am beyond grateful that my company is mostly stable and safe at the moment. I still roll out of bed 45 minutes after my alarm goes off and alternate between the same two pairs of super-stretchy yoga pants each morning.
I still eat my chocolate protein bar for breakfast and sit on my worn-in, brown leather couch. I still work longer than I promised myself I would, and then scramble to get a quick but kick-ass YouTube workout in before I have to cook dinner and hopefully sit down to eat before 8 p.m.
I still watch far too much TV at the end of the day, even though I have a running list in my head of household organization projects I could be doing, or self-care activities I should be treating myself to, or early bedtime plans I should be giving in to. (But when there’s a “90-Day Fiancé” marathon on, what’s a girl to do?)
And while my “new normal” isn’t all that different from my “normal normal,” I’m starting to see all the ways that this time is full of uncertainty. Full of questions. Full of the unknown.
I wonder when I’ll get to see my sisters, my brother-in-laws, and my niece and nephews again. We all live in different states, so it’s not like I see them terribly often to begin with, but the thought that we can’t make plans to visit anytime soon somehow makes the distance feel farther.
I’m lucky I’ve been able to see my parents, but my dad is a doctor who works every other weekend at a hospital, and I wonder how long they’ll have enough masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) for every healthcare worker and what happens if they run out.
I don’t go out after work all that often, but at least once or twice a month I’d meet my best friends for dinner and drinks. I wonder when I’ll get to hug them again and laugh and gossip over beer and cocktails.
I think about my friends and family who work at or run small business and are struggling to bring in income, who are struggling to raise their kids, who are trying to balance too much. I wonder what life will be like for them if this continues for weeks or months.
I see another update email from Delta and feel a moment of sadness for the trip to Japan my boyfriend and I had booked for this summer—a two-week adventure to experience the Summer 2020 Olympic games and visit his family in Tokyo. While we’re rescheduling for next year, I wonder how different the world will be at that time.
All this uncertainty and wondering can make even the most normal of days feel unstable.
Around this time last year, I started reading Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott. It’s a powerful collection of short essays on everything from death to joy to dark chocolate.
It was in this book that I discovered a six-word phrase that has stuck with me and brought me comfort on days when the only things swirling around in my head were questions and fears and worst-case scenarios.
“We are flattened, we come through.”
These words have popped into my head when I’ve been stressed out at work, or sat with my grandma in hospice, or worried about the state of my relationship, or ached for my dog after his passing, or even when I’ve sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic doing my best not to lose my sh*t.
And I thought of these words again when coronavirus decided to hold 2020, and all of us, hostage. (I also couldn’t help but notice the irony in the idea that we’ll only come through this if we flatten that damn curve—so please stay home).
Words are where I go for comfort. They are how I make sense of the world and myself in it. So the other day, while connecting with Elephant readers online, I posted this question:
What word, phrase, or mantra is helping you cope during quarantine?
It was comforting to see the number of people who responded with, “This too shall pass”—a sign that so many still have hope. But there were a few other mantras that stuck out to me, either because they felt simple yet wildly profound, or because they brought a sense of lightness to a situation that so often feels unbearably heavy.
May they be of benefit!
1. “At least there’s coffee.” ~ J.V.
2. “The greatest power is, quite often, simple patience.” ~ Chris
3. “I’m not stuck at home, I’m safe at home.” ~ Mira
4. “Feelings follow thoughts.” ~ Stephanie
5. “Tomorrow will be better.” ~ Jasmine
6. ” Treasure each tiny moment with him (someday this will be so very precious).” ~ Linda
7. “There is nothing to worry about until there is something to worry about.” ~ Chelsea
8. “In this moment, I am well.” ~ Michelle
9. “Red? Or white?” ~ Tracy
10. “I don’t have the virus and I do have a job.” ~ Jesslyn
11. “Don’t waste this trial.” ~ Betty
12. “Being annoyed by staying at home today will ensure I have lots of tomorrows to be annoyed by.” ~ Robin
13. “This discomfort is not permanent.” ~ Cindi
14. “Not me, us.” ~ Angela
15. “You were gonna stay home anyway. Enjoy it.” ~ W.L.