These are crazy times. And they’ll just go crazier each day. Unprecedented for us Boomers, Gen-Xers, Millennials and Gen-Z, Western-civilisation dwellers, none of whom have really experienced anything like this. And very interesting to see how each of those groups have been dealing with this global war against a virus.

Some days, I wake up, and for a brief moment, forget about what’s been going on. It almost feels like I’ve just woken up from a nightmare, and then realisation hits me. I don’t know yet how I’ll feel in two, four, eight weeks’ time. I’m not prepared for the grief that will, invariably, assault me, us, our families. Right now, here in the US, it feels like the calm before the storm.

I’ve loved all the humorous memes, the positive spin you can see everywhere, and the encouraging messages. And I’ve wanted to write something in that vein, something vaguely cynical but humorous, for example, that in a year’s time, our planet will reawaken to a somewhat healed environment and an improved human population. Gone are the problems of overpopulation or how to pay for pensions, and those of us who survive will be better human beings. Why? Because we will
a) have learned to be more compassionate
b) be adept at coping with less (who needs new shoes when you’re at home all the time?)
c) have converted to plant-based eating (no meat or dairy products to be found in stores anyway)
d) be perfectly toned and fit (thank you, online live streaming of fitness classes)
e) speak at least two or three languages fluently (because what else is there to do when you’ve lost your job)
f) have happier children and teenagers, who, thanks to online classes, will have improved their organisational skills and how to complete a school year’s worth of material in half the time if not less, thus being educated to a very high standard by the age of 20.

But then a wave of anxiety hits me, and I abandon all such thought. Feel guilty, insecure about how to react. Is there a right way to react?

What helps me, personally, is keeping busy and focusing on checking in with friends and family. I’ve already cleared out and organised our storage room, unpacked some left over boxes from our move two years ago, baked numerous cakes, got my crochet supplies out and practiced yoga via the online class my local yoga studio offers. I have tons of ideas and am really happy that I finally have time to tackle those projects I’ve been putting off, and also that I have time to sit on the sofa, enjoying me time with a book or a puzzle, without feeling guilty for doing that. But while all this is generating some sense of calm and much needed relaxation, it isn’t really. Because underneath it all is this worry about what’s facing me over the next few weeks and months.

At least, I am well practiced at being home alone, with no friends nearby I could meet up with. As an expat, and an introvert at that, I don’t mind being at home and pottering around the house by myself. That’s a distinct advantage over people whose lives are very much about being constantly around other people. My teenage kids are slowly going absolutely mental, as they’re prohibited from physically being with their friends, and this is a serious issue, as at times of worry, friends are a teen’s greatest solace. My heart breaks for them, and I’m doing my best to encourage their online interactions. As for me, I’m used to spending way more time with friends online than in real life, so all in all, it’s not that different. If anything, I now enjoy the added advantage that a lot more people are accessible to me online, with more time and willingness to resort to FaceTime and other platforms.
Another thing I’m used to, as an expat, is adapting to new rules and regulations. When you move countries, you automatically accept that what you’re used to and what was the norm is no longer the case; other countries have other customs, and adjusting to a new set of social guidelines comes with the expat territory. So when someone says you can no longer do certain things (such as, for example, going out to a restaurant), I’m used to just accepting that. I’ve noticed that a lot of people really struggle to accept the new, more rigorous guidelines, or even openly rebel against them, and in general, find it a lot harder to cope with change. When I witness this, I am so grateful that I’ve been able to build a whole lot of resilience.

I’m not sure yet how to utilise my own resilience to help others during this very unsettling and scary time. I want to, but I’m still working on how best to proceed. My podcast – at least in its usual format – will have to wait a while, as it just doesn’t feel right to carry on as normal. I will get back to it over the next few weeks, and maybe find a way to use it as a tool to reach out and provide support, but for now, it’s still a very fuzzy concept in my mind. In the meantime, I’d like to point you to this wonderful expat website that is dedicated to helping global families with transitions and crises. Just click on Free Resources, and you will have plenty of helpful ideas, tips on self-care, support and encouragement.

For now, stay safe, stay home, and look after yourself and those you love.

P.S. if you want to do something useful, here’s a tutorial on how to sew face masks. That’s what I’ll be doing this afternoon.

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