It’s been almost six months since the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Since then, the world’s turned upside down… and as much as we’d all like to think that things will “go back to normal,” I think the best we can hope for is a new sense of safety and stability. Particularly since, every time we check the news, a brand new, civilization-upending crisis seems to have struck.
In ecology, periods of great change, like this one, are called “disturbances.” Scientists used to think that ecosystems developed along linear pathways, starting simple and progressing, inevitably, to some stable state that persisted for centuries. Honestly, it was a lot like the old idea that evolution progressed from simple, single-celled organisms to complex ones, reaching its inevitable pinnacle in humanity. Now we know that’s not how either of those things work. Ecosystems are in constant flux – the boreal forest, for example, is frequently “disturbed” by devastating fires, windstorms, and insect outbreaks that seem to reset the process of succession.
And a microscopic virus that can’t even reproduce by itself has shown us just where we rank on the evolutionary food chain.
It’s humbling, it’s terrifying, and it’s also… kind of hopeful?
Sure, we’ve seen a whole lot of stupid, irresponsible behaviour in everyone from our neighbours to our politicians. But as in any crisis, we’ve also seen generosity, and kindness, and patience, as people work together to protect and support each other under exceptional circumstances.
And I, for one, have been thinking about that old “normal,” and the parts of it I want back, and the parts of it I really, really don’t.
I think that, sometimes, we have to be forced to do things differently to believe that it’s possible to do them differently. Without a crisis, would we ever take the time to examine our choices, our lives, our civilization… our futures?
Disturbance is uncomfortable, it’s devastating, it’s deadly. I’ve been fortunate in that this one has – so far – touched me relatively lightly. I know that millions of people, in my community and around the globe, have not been so lucky. And I hope that we all remember the lessons that COVID is teaching us, once the crisis has passed.
In the meantime, we carry on. For me, that means working when I can, and being gentle with myself when I’m too exhausted or distracted to try. It means getting outside in fresh air and nature as much as I can. It means indulging in hot baths and exercise and reading and Netflix and other forms of self-care a little bit every day. It definitely means checking in with the people I love, if only to let them know that I’m thinking about them while we have to be apart. It means being patient with stressed essential workers, and following safety guidelines, and wearing my mask, and washing my hands. And breathing.
How ironic that taking a deep breath is the thing I most often forget! And yet, I’m so grateful that I’m still able to do so.
What about you, my friends? How are doing? How are you coping? What is working for you right now, and what isn’t? What do you hope your life will be like, when we all come out the other side? Check in – I’m here and I’d love to hear your stories.