We are grieving.
While some of you reading may have lost someone you know and love to COVID-19, I am so very sorry for your loss, that’s not the kind of loss I am talking about. I am talking about the loss of freedom that we have suffered, the loss of our social relationships, and so much more. In essence, we are grieving the loss of the way things were.
You all know what I am talking about. When was the last time you just ran to the grocery store without fear? Even if you just wanted a bag of chips, the thought of going there is absolutely frightening. This is not meant to be a joke, but the virus has changed everything in our way of life. Some of us are mourning the loss of our jobs, some of us are mourning the loss of freedoms, and some of us are mourning the loss of a loved one. Some of us are mourning ALL of those things.
This crisis is unprecedented, at least on a global scale. Certainly not in America for over 100 years. But you know that, and don’t need me to remind you of it. But, what would our predecessors have done? Previous generations held certain skill sets that might have mitigated the effect of this virus. With that said, they also faced so many other limitations in comparison to our lives, limitations that would also have slowed the spread, but that is beside the point. The skills I am talking about are the ones that are about self-reliance. Think about it, so many had their own gardens (if they weren’t farmers already), and then could can and preserve what they grew. Many of our predecessors could mend clothing, or make their own clothing, because back then, designer clothes just weren’t all that important. These are just a fraction of the skills that are lost on today’s society, not because we are incapable of learning them, but they have just become obsolete in our world. When was the last time you darned socks? When was the last time sewed anything, for that matter? I think I sewed something in my Home Economics class in 7th grade (a pillow, maybe?) How about canned your own homemade jam? Churned butter?
Chances are, you haven’t. Maybe you have a grandparent who did, and if you do, I’ll bet they didn’t binge Netflix, or said they were too busy because they had to swing by the gym after work and then to the pizza parlor to pick up dinner.
Look, I know it was a different world back then. Things were slower, and people were actually patient, because instant gratification hadn’t been invented yet. Some of our grandparents, or for some of you younger ones, some of your great grandparents, weren’t so far removed from the horse-and-buggy culture that we so frequently acquaint with self-reliance.
Today, when we think of the term self-reliance, many of us think about the extreme definition of the word; many of us think of some insane guy living in a cabin in the woods (I’m looking at you, Unabomber), or a comical caricature, not that dissimilar to the character Dwight Schrute in the television series The Office (played by Rainn Wilson), a salesman, “Assistant to the Regional Manager,” and a beet farmer in his spare time. Before the pandemic, self-reliance had become a bit of joke, referring to real, off-the-grid crazy militants, often portrayed in television shows like Doomsday Preppers, cocking their weapons and stocking up on ammunition in preparation for the next earthquake or eruption of the nearest Super Volcano.
Well, self-reliance is no longer quite the joke that it was. Okay, maybe the extremism is kind of funny, but being self-reliant right now is really valuable. All of those people sewing masks for people to wear in public – well done. Make your own hand sanitizer. How about all the arts and crafts for the kids to keep busy? I would love for my kids to make me a macrame plant hanger instead of watching online cat videos after doing their hour of schoolwork…! How about a nice, knitted coaster? I’m kidding of course about those projects, but not about the principle.
What can we reclaim from past generations? What can we reclaim from bygone eras that would serve us today, in our stay-at-home days? We may not have the space to grow a garden. Personally, I don’t even have a yard. Some of the skills are not that hard to master, while some take lots and lots of teaching and practice. For instance, many of you could get your hands on a pressure canner or deep-water bath canner, get the jars, lids, and rings, watch a couple of online videos, and presto! You’re preserving vegetables, fruits, even meat. The same may not be true of sewing, however. Just because you order a top-of-the-line sewing machine and watch a video or two, you probably wouldn’t be able to sew very well. Not without a lot of practice and patience. But what if we reclaimed conservation? Conserving water, conserving food, conserving supplies? Maybe we would have to go to the grocery store less, reducing our risk of contracting the virus. Maybe it would save some money, which is top of mind for many of us. I know that I am eating less, and have even started washing plastic storage and freezer bags.
Preparing our own meals has become a new, strange way of life for many of us. (Maybe that explains the hoarding of toilet paper…). Yahoo! Finance reported that online web traffic has spiked as people are trying to figure out how to cook. This is a good thing, I believe, but will probably be one of the first things to return to pre-COVID levels as the country begins to return to business-as-usual.
I don’t know what “normal” is going to look like when this is all done, and there may be some things that shouldn’t ever come back, because, let’s face it, there are some beautiful things that are coming out of this. Pollution is low, water is clearing up – I’ve even read that bioluminescent plankton has been seen in Acapulco for the first time in decades (whether or not this is due to human intervention or not isn’t clear) – but we are seeing glimpses of what the world could be like if we weren’t so destructive.
Take time to enjoy the sunrises. And the sunsets. Be with your family, and I mean really be with them. Don’t just plop yourself down on the couch and watch Netflix, or bury yourself in your phone until everyone goes to bed. BE with them. BE present, and be the husband, father, lover, man that you were meant to be.