The third instalment of Reflections in the time of COVID-19 comes from M.D., an essential worker writing from Texas
In the midst of this global pandemic I keep reading articles and stories of people using the time of separation to reevaluate their lives, organize their thoughts, and check things off of their to do lists. Turns out, I’m an essential worker so there’s no such break for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful to get a paycheck every week and grateful I’m not one of the 22 million waiting for an unemployment check or sitting in the 12-hour line at a food bank. But it also means I won’t be getting those days or weeks away from daily stress and overwhelm to reflect, take stock or make any revolutionary life changes. Or does it?
If I’m going to continue on this quest for a better, more conscious life then I’ll have to do what introspection I can while maintaining my status quo. Spending time on yourself when navigating a worldwide health crisis is hard but it’s not impossible. That pull of the couch at the end of a long day of “essential” work is difficult to beat. I mean, we live in a time when binge watching The Tiger King seems to be the great equalizer so why not indulge in a little mindlessness?
But it’s hard to escape the many vulnerabilities and disparities this pandemic has exposed. For empaths like me, it can be overwhelming and seem hopeless. I’m struggling tremendously with the current state of our nation. It’s not even the fear of this potentially deadly virus that bothers me most. What has me in tears almost daily is the absolute inequity I see with these massive lines at food banks, these “essential” workers who have to risk their lives and the lives of their families so they can stay afloat financially, the loopholes created by our lawmakers allowing businesses to profit on the backs of these workers through loans with very little red tape or regulation and the absolute fleecing of our nation by our political system. This is America for goodness sake…aren’t we supposed to be the land of opportunity?
I have seen companies successfully manipulate the system by getting friends in high places to write letters declaring them “essential” and pushing forward, business as usual with no regard for the welfare of their workers. When banks opened for emergency loans for small businesses, some of these same business owners received loans upwards of $750,000 to a million dollars. This is money they will not have to pay back if they don’t lay off employees in the next six months. These same companies are not slowing down, and layoffs were never part of their plan. Essentially, that is a $750,000 check they will put in their pockets at the expense of exposing their employees to unnecessary risk. The loopholes in the loans allow this so it is 100% in keeping with the minimal requirements set forth by our political leaders.
I watch as some states reopen too early, spurred on by armed and angry protestors marching in selfish indignation. I see friends posting on social media that they just cannot wait to get a haircut while others share heart wrenching stories of medical professionals sleeping in tents in their garages to avoid exposing their families. Where is our compassion, our respect for others?
These issues are so much more dangerous to our society than the virus. The virus will pass, we will get a vaccine (probably that many won’t be able to receive due to lack of healthcare), businesses will reopen, and people will go back to work. The greatest concern for me is what it all says about us as a nation and where we go from here. It’s sometimes hard to see the positives, being so close to the greed and ignorance that I believe causes so much of the disparity and inequality keeping our nation segregated.
Time spent in quiet, grateful mindfulness is my lifeline, now more than ever before. I absolutely live for the positive stories I see in the news about people giving back and sacrificing for each other. Instead of being weighed down by the negativity, I have chosen to focus on gratitude. Gratitude has been my saving grace. I’m grateful that I can help the employees where I work, all of whom have been deemed essential regardless of their fears, concerns or health. I’m grateful for the opportunity I have as an HR professional to help them maneuver these troubling times. I take pride in the fact that they feel comfortable coming to me when they’re troubled by what they see around them. I’m grateful that even though my daughter can’t get work right now, she can move in with me and I can help support her until this all passes. I’m grateful for each day I feel the warmth of the sun, see a field of Texas bluebonnets, and come home to the unconditional welcome of my sweet dogs.
I’m grateful that, despite our differing opinions and views on everything from the legitimacy of this virus to our nation’s response, my employers pay me well and I’m able to use that paycheck to give back. Mostly, I’m grateful for the distant voice of my dear grandmother saying, “This too shall pass dear.” And it will.
I look forward to that day, when this has passed and the way is cleared for me and others who have spent this time evaluating their lives to move forward to greater causes and more meaningful work. I look forward to the great lessons this will teach each of us. Maybe this exposure to the inequities that exist will inspire others to look beyond their desire for a haircut or massage and realize that compassion, kindness and justice are always right and can endure a pandemic.