3 Lessons for a Long-term Lockdown

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I was recently interviewed on BBC World News about the lockdown in Italy. We are currently going into day 10 of isolation. As an American Author and business owner living in Rome, I wanted to share some of the lessons we have learned. Italy was the first country in the western world to go on lockdown. I mention in my interview that I wasn’t sure whether it was the right decision to shut the whole country down or not, and only time would tell. These measures seemed unthinkable at that time for the rest of the world-“draconian” was the buzz word to describe it-and no one believed that this would ever conceivably happen in the Land of Liberty.

As I talk with my family in the U.S. now, I hear the reality dawning on them in the same way it had for me. The realization breaks through, imperceptible at first -this is a foreign disease on the horizon and could never happen here. Then there are the first clear rays and we begin to ask more questions- what is the coronavirus? Could I, or my family be at risk? Then there is the blinding realization that it’s here, it’s serious and everything is shutting down; a domino effect of closures; school, bars, restaurants, businesses. “This is going to ruin the economy” “This is going to bankrupt so many!” “What’s next- a lockdown?”

I hear my family and friends going through these stages and I know that there will be a new phase to come should isolation take place. And it’s a phase that goes beyond money concerns and the economy. It came for us in the midst of the lockdown and I wanted to share 3 lessons I hope help you should you find yourself in a similar situation.

Let go of what you can’t control– When we were in the first stages: denial, confusion and anger- we were worried. We were thinking about ourselves and what this would mean for us. Our business was shut down and we had employees to pay. How could this be happening? How could anyone work and homeschool their kids? Then as the health care system began to creak and groan under the weight of dying patients, the gravity of the situation set in and we hunkered down in humility. In this phase, we realized that worrying wouldn’t help anyone and this wasn’t just about us. We have absolutely no control over what is happening right now and no one knows what tomorrow will bring. Letting go, stopping worrying for now and living in the present has never felt so significant. 

Find your rhythm– Keeping a routine helps a lot in these times but whereas the beginning phase seemed to be about scrambling to keep up with the rest of the world, the second phase felt a little bit more about getting a rhythm that worked for all of us. I found it impossible to work in the beginning and I was stricter with the homeschooling schedule, but now we have settled into a slower pace and take it a bit more as it comes. We work more as a team and have a nice ebb and flow. It takes some time to realize you are really home for the long haul, but once it sinks in, it’s almost a relief.

Savor the last times –One of my favorite authors Sam Harris talks about thinking about doing things for the last time. This is to foster mindfulness and an appreciation for the little things we often overlook. Anyone facing a life-threatening disease may know what this feels like-but it’s hard to conjure up this awareness in our everyday hustle and bustle. Going into day 10 of lockdown, I now vividly remember the last time we had a meal out, the last time we saw the sea, the last time I went shopping with my daughter before everything closed. Now, we live in the moment. Now, we live day to day. Now, we respect all the potential last times we get. Whether it’s homeschooling my children or cutting vegetables or cooking a meal or planting seeds or cuddling together while watching a film, every little moment is an opportunity to breathe in and savor the last time. These may be the last times we live in a space before the economy crashes down. These may be the last times before we get the news of a loved one being sick or dying. These may be the last times we all live without a heaviness our society has not carried in our lifetime. Therefore, savor these last times. They are the silver linings of the lockdown and a beautiful gift.

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