The sun is out and it’s warm—finally.
I just came outside to sit by the creek and write an article.
My bare legs are getting their first touch of tan. The rushing creek water makes a soothing music. And lo! I hear that unmistakable buzzy whir—a hummingbird. First time this season to hear it. How exciting to have them back.
My neighborhood is so quiet—other than the distant two-stroke engine whine (ghastly sound) of a groundkeeper’s weed whacker. I feel less irritated by it than I normally would, though, as it’s a sign of a person working. And Lord knows, it’s good to know people have work at this surreal time of self-quarantine that we’re living through.
I took a glance at the New York Times’ front page this morning. Ugh, there’s a lot of not-good news. I was particularly disturbed to see the headline “The Coronavirus Could Cause a Child Abuse Epidemic.” Over the past two weeks, I’ve thought consistently about the people who are far more beleaguered than I am in getting through this most unusual time.
I’m not working. Well, not much, not other than work I find pleasure in and will probably not get paid for.
I’m not hungry. My fridge is full of fresh produce and various healthy and delicious things to eat.
I’m not ailing physically. I regularly do my home yoga practice and get outside to hike. Mountain trails are a mere few minutes from my doorstep. With the warmer weather, I can ride my bicycle to fetch groceries or to just pleasure ride about town on the near-deserted streets.
I have a wide circle of friends and family I’m communicating with via internet or phone.
My postman brings the daily mail. I have music galore at my disposal. I have my partner. And I have my ukulele.
I’ve got everything I need. True, I’m fretting that I’m not currently employed. But it’s not essential for me to be working at this time. I’d actually rather be working and being a productive member of society.
But even were I to accept a job with a grocery store—and they’re desperate for employees—there is that my partner and I are both in our 60s. Thus, in a high-risk category for COVID-19 infection. Not worth taking the risk.
This pandemic arrived at a time of relative ease for me.
My dad passed away in January at 93 years old. So, I don’t need to be worried about his well-being anymore. It has been four and a half years since the tragic death of my former partner, which flung me into a deep depression for a long time. But, I’m once again with a supportive partner I love and who loves me. While I’ll never forget the beloved-one-who-left, I have so thankfully risen from the depths of that grief.
It’s springtime, time of renewal—and surely, we’re all thankful that this pandemic struck now and not with winter ahead of us. (At least, those of us in the northern hemisphere.) Though I was laid off my last job, I have enough in the bank to sustain me for the time being.
And so, why is it that I feel a sense of guilt about all this? Well, it’s that so many are experiencing terrible hardship. And me? I’m sleeping restfully and spending time in my lush backyard reading books by the babbling brook with a glass of Chardonnay at hand.
Close friends are doctors and nurses in New York working long shifts—some in full hazmat gear—dealing with the sick. I am, of course, worried about their well-being. But I’m glad I don’t have their job. Though I’ve thought how I’d feel much more useful were I tending to the sick.
Friends are working in grocery stores. Their need for income is greater than their fear of contracting the virus. I have friends who are small-business owners, and they’re super worried about the potential collapse of their businesses. Teacher friends are struggling with new technology and how to keep young minds-at-a-distance focused. I have friends who have been planning to retire soon, and now, their retirement savings have largely drained away.
Difficulties are real for many. Imagine being homeless at this time.
Every time I shop for food, I feel a twinge of guilt at seeing the shelf stockers. I make sure to tell the cashiers that I appreciate their help in keeping me fed. My garbage is collected on time. My postman delivers the mail on schedule. My newspaper comes daily. Fuel for my car is accessible if needed. My life functions smoothly because of so many people’s labors.
But, despite my robust health, I’m staying home. I’m obeying orders. I wear my mask when I go out for a neighborhood walk. I wash my hands. And I stay the requisite six feet away from other humans.
And I feel these twinges of guilt.
It’s kind of an odd thing, this feeling of guilt. What is it really about? Is it a productive way to feel?
Is it because I was brought up Catholic? Catholic schmatholic—I really don’t think that has anything to do with it.
No, I think clearly what it is is that I’m conflicted. That I’m used to doing all the time. That I’ve been conditioned to believe that I must be working, earning a paycheck. (Though I’m well aware that plenty of paid work is not actually contributing much real value to the world.) And here I am…not working. Sleeping in.
It’s an odd tension; I’m following orders, doing my part to prevent this insidious disease from spreading—yet, I’m aware of how so many are working hard to keep society running as smoothly as possible. And so many are sick.
I feel kind of spoiled. A bit lame. Even though I know it’s okay not to be productive during a pandemic.
On the one hand, I know I’m privileged that I can stay home. Yes, there is that being privileged allows for this.
The billion people of this earth who live essentially piled on top of each other with limited access to sanitation—social distancing is hardly practical for them. No doubt, the negative effects of the coronavirus will be disproportionately felt by residents of the poorest zones of the world.
I do believe—to a degree—that if there’s poverty anywhere in the world, then none of us is rich. However, my well-offness should not preclude my striving for the betterment of others.
“Guilt is really self-condemnation and self-invalidation of our worth and value as a human being.” ~ David R. Hawkins
Guilt feelings are not really comfortable, and while a feeling of guilt might motivate productive action, I’d really rather be motivated from a different place.
I think this is the key: I know that when I’m a healthy, balanced, focused human being, I’m in a fitter state to contribute to my community. N’est-ce pas? Of course, that’s so.
So, this is what I’m doing…and planning to do:
>> Meditation. (I’m actually starting a class this coming week. Finally. Been talking about it long enough.)
>> Avoid too much news consumption. For sure.
>> Just keep doing what I’m doing. ‘Cause I really think it’s okay.
>> And scatting. Scat sing. Let my hair down. It’s great for relieving stress—and just getting the yah yahs out. Along the lines of: Doo doo doo dwee wah shooby dooby waaa haa, scoodley doo doodly waaah, swuiii swuiiii da di dwah! Yah baby, uninhibitize! Get into it!
And let me be so bold as to recommend that guilt feelings be ditched. That we prime ourselves to be our best selves for now and for when this pandemic ends. Because as my mom loved to say, this too shall pass.
The whole wide world is going to need our best selves. I hope—and ultimately believe—that we’ve got what it takes.
“There are two kinds of guilt: the kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose.” ~ Sabaa Tahir