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Back to Basics: Human Sustenance During COVID-19

This pandemic has literally forced us all into survival mode. Every day, we put on our precautious masks, voraciously wash our hands, and regrettably maintain physical distance. Whether we identify as introverts or extroverts, this is hard. We cannot see when a stranger is smiling at us on the street. We cannot shake hands when […]

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This pandemic has literally forced us all into survival mode.

Every day, we put on our precautious masks, voraciously wash our hands, and regrettably maintain physical distance. Whether we identify as introverts or extroverts, this is hard. We cannot see when a stranger is smiling at us on the street. We cannot shake hands when we meet someone. We cannot hug the ones we love who are vulnerable to this infectious disease.

Throughout this unprecedented experience, I’ve been attempting to care for a beautiful orchid one of my colleagues gave me for my 25th birthday back in February, right before all of this started. I’ve failed quite miserably to keep this plant alive, which admittedly, calls into question my desire to have children one day. More on that some other time.

But we are not meant to merely survive. We need to thrive.

This is a difficult time because we are social creatures who innately need each other. Along the journeys of our lives, we lean upon others to help us find the way. No matter how self-sufficient one may be, relying upon our own abilities and notions will never get us through life. Life, in all its richness, cannot be done alone. And many of us are being forced to do just that.

There is a key ingredient to growth – for humans, that is each other.

I’ve been forgetting this key ingredient in my own life ever since COVID19 hit the United States. I have poured myself into my job in an effort to distract myself from the events transpiring outside my home. Without the need to truly log off at the end of the workday so I can leave the office and meet a friend for happy hour, go on a date, or join a workout class, I have allowed myself to be consumed by my work. I have withered.

Only recently have I felt this. One morning last week, I woke up and noticed that all the flowers had fallen off my orchid. I could not forget about it all day. I went and worked in another room away from its sight, but it did not leave my mind.

Before going to bed that night, I looked again at the plant and realized that all those flowers in many ways represented the people who surrounded me daily before this pandemic. They were my colleagues, my friends, and my Core40 students, even strangers I rode next to on the bus downtown, along with many of my Marina neighbors who have moved away since their companies shifted to remote work.

The orchid now stands flowerless. As I write this article, I am researching the ways in which I can bring the petals back. And it forces me to wonder, if I cannot bring people back into my life soon, or perhaps ever in the same way they once were, how will I grow? I do not just want to survive – I want to thrive.

I have asked several friends whose presence used to spruce up my life what they are doing to keep growing amidst this period of isolation. I’ve been surprised by how simple these daily acts truly are. In many ways, we are going back to these three basics, with the complexities that accompany a life lived among hundreds, thousands of others gone, at least for the time being.

  1. Sleep – We all know at this point how important this is. But we can no longer stubbornly ignore health experts’ advice, as without the need to get up early to work out and then commute into an office, there is more time to spend in bed every morning. I’ve taken this advice and begun waking up around 7 rather than 5am as I used to. Some days I don’t even set an alarm, if I don’t have an early call. It’s been life-changing.
  2. Exercise – This is something I’ve always incorporated into my daily routine, but without gyms, I’ve had to get a little more creative with my workouts, and accept that an hour-long, intense class is not always what my body needs. Sometimes, just getting outside for a nice evening walk by myself or with friends is perfectly enough, and truthfully, it’s a lot better than being in a sweaty, dark room with a bunch of strangers.
  3. Meditation – I have personally never been good at this, especially given my usually hectic schedule. But taking 10 to 15 minutes every morning before I log online to close my eyes, breathe, and think about anything or nothing has made all the difference.

None of these can replace the magical ingredient of human interaction – but though they are rather elemental in comparison, they are even more critical to our individual sustenance during this time.

If you have not meaningfully attempted to incorporate any of the above into your life, COVID19 or not, I hope you do and that they nourish you in the same way they have me.

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