As COVID-19 takes the world by storm, all that we have known is changing faster than anyone can comprehend. In the years since the events of September 11, we have used that date to mark a pivotal moment in history. I think soon we will be referring to life before and after the Coronavirus. Today the world is engulfed in different stages of realization and grief about the losses, big and small, that we are experiencing as a result of the virus.
The daily barrage of facts, numbers, data-analyses, and recommendations that form our new reality is simultaneously terrifying and overwhelming.
I see this as the beginning of a transformational-journey as well as a grieving-process that we are navigating, both collectively and individually. I believe how we manage the journey is going to shape our world in the future.
In my heart, I feel that I am being called to walk through this in acceptance, not in panic, mindful of each step along the way. I know for sure at the end of this ‘shelter-in-place’ order, that I will not be the same person I am today. I am open to this possibility of life-altering change, but also cautious, because I anticipate challenges to my core belief system. I think it will also be an awakening for me; heightening my awareness of how the world’s priorities have reformed and molded my once firm perceptions about what is most important.
I can visualize the ripple effect this pandemic is causing now and will continue to have on our daily lives. Even still, I am compelled to try to make sense of the chaos with a positive perspective.
My thoughts on this virus appear to me in concentric circles of perspectives; from the center with my own experience, spanning out to my family’s, my community’s, my nation’s and ultimately, to our world’s experience as a collective humanity. I can visualize the ripple effect this pandemic is causing now and will continue to have on our daily lives. Even still, I am compelled to try to make sense of the chaos with a positive perspective. I was taught as a child by example, to ‘be strong and carry on’ when things got tough. As a result, I try ferociously to not allow myself time in “woulda, coulda, shoulda land” as I like to call it.
On one level, this is the mindset that drives very productive behavior, which speaks to my nature as a doer, a fixer and a survivor. Yet, on a deeper level, that mindset is also what has allowed me to evolve to a place that I am not sure I intended to go. Is my current course a result of my true nature or is it the nurturing of the people, the times and the world in which I grew? I wonder, do we feed ourselves with experiences, thoughts, and people that fill us with joy and add to our humanity? Or do we accept and welcome in that which the world says is most valuable for us?
In these days that we are cloistered away from what was, I contemplate the seeds of possibility that are being sown throughout our world.
As a collective, are we awakening to the rare opportunity that this pandemic is providing for us? The chance to step back and look at the landscape of our lives? To take a beat, a breath, to be still and to consider our place in the world? To re-evaluate the trajectory of our own lives? To explore whether we are conscious of the choices we are making?
Beyond taking time to do the things that have ended up on my ever-growing To-Do list, a deeper question is nagging at me. Can we truly SEE the possibilities we have before us as a Human community? A story about my younger brother and his insights in the face of great personal challenge may offer insight that gives hope as we face this pandemic.
My younger brother, Sean Christian Fitzgerald, was born with Duchenne, Muscular Dystrophy. I was 8 years old and he was 3 years old, when my parents got his heartbreaking prognosis. He would never run, and although his mind was perfectly brilliant, his body would begin to fail him, eventually, he would be wheelchair-bound, and ultimately, he would succumb to the disease at 18 years of age. In that day of deafening bad news, the single message my mother heard loud and clear, which she made her mission and used as her coping mechanism, was to keep Sean walking as long as possible to ensure that he had the highest quality of life for the longest time possible.
In the spring semester of second grade, Sean came home from school one day and told my mother, “Mom, it’s too hard for me to walk anymore. I trip on my own feet because I can’t lift my legs high enough anymore to move forward without falling. Mom, I just fall too many times every day. The kids at school won’t play with me, because I can’t keep up. When I try, I fall and then I am stranded, because I can’t get myself up anymore.” My mother, with tears streaming down her face, realized in that very moment that she could no longer keep this horrible disease from taking Sean’s quality of life. My brother put his arm out and held her hand, looked up and said,
It’s ok, mom. When I walk, I’m like a caterpillar, too slow. I know this wheelchair is going to feel like a cocoon, but someday, I know I’m going to be a butterfly.
Is this the time of our cocoon as humans? Certainly, this virus is not our choice, nor was Duchenne my brother’s choice. But I believe we have the power within each of us to decide to use this time in our cocoons to the fullest and to emerge with new life, a new way and the ability to proliferate a new consciousness within our world.
What do you think? Will we use this cocoon to be reborn as a people who place value on our common humanity? Can we look at the landscape of our lives and choose to lift each other for the good of our world?