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Pandemic Perspective: Silver Linings Playbook

As a psychologist, I frequently talk with others about the importance of not viewing the world in monochrome black-and-white extremes.  It is cognitively and emotionally easier to sometimes short-cut to a strong split between that which we deem “good” and that which we evaluate to be “bad.”  It is far more challenging to hold the nuance and push-pull tension of a dialectic.   There can be difficulty in acknowledging and interfacing with competing, conflicting sides of someone or something. This is true in our evaluation of people, experience, and environment. 

The person you love letting you down. 

Responding with compassion and grace whilst upholding highest standards of excellence.

Being disappointed by a closed door while holding hope or possibly even gratitude that your future self may have been shielded from something scary but unseen.

In the cacophony and complexity of COVID it can be challenging to live in the gray.  Grief sitting alongside, and some times on top of, relief.  Anxious uncertainty superimposed on hopeful possibility.  A fusion of frustration and secret relief.

In life, one of the most powerful things that we possess is our perspective.  The stories we tell.  The scripts we re-read.  Where we look.  Who we listen to.  How much we choose  or limit exposure to these things.  What we do with the volume dial of voices in our lives.  Your attention and focus are hotter commodities than your email address, eggs, or at-home gym equipment right now.   

As the days and weeks of this pandemic have unfolded, I am grateful for the glittering glimmers of gray lining that are crystal clear to me every day.

·      Telemedicine is being forced to be recognized, legitimized, and reimbursed.  We are bridging access to care, and people are growing increasingly comfortable with this modality of treatment.

·      I see people exercising outside.  In the sunshine.  With their families.  Every single day.

·      I see more people rallying together to form creative random acts of kindness in our community than ever before. 

·      Companies are realizing how superfluous many of their meetings actually are.

·      Couples are having to communicate about finances.  Out loud.

·      Families are having discussions about money with their kids in earshot.

·      There is a new awakening for learning in adults across the country.

·      People have been pushed into the margins of their existence and are existing are outside of their comfort zones.  This is where tremendous growth occurs.

·      I serendipitously read Pivot by Jenny Blake in January 2020. Suddenly, Pivoting is more than a Friends meme. It’s everybody’s new Plan A.

·      People realize that teachers are underpaid.

·      People are holding  hard-working blue-collar workers in high regard and paying them  respect.  Janitors have become heroes. 

·      People are finally sleeping more.

·      People are starting to budget

·      Emergency funds have quickly become the status symbol of choice.

·      People are learning to cook at home and sharing family meals together.

·      People are washing their hands.

This season is hard.  And it is good.  Acknowledge the edges that hurt.  The sharp shards of the sides of smashed expectation.  Name the beauty that has and will continue to be born out of the crucible of quarantine.  Opportunity.  Growth.  Creation.  Discover.  Reflection.  Learning.  Recalibration. 

When the salience of the intensity of emotion surrounding this experience starts to fade (it will), what are you making a deep commitment to change in your life? 

We aren’t going back.  We are moving forward, the mark of the pandemic on our psyches, families, and work.  I suspect, in some ways, we may even look back on these days with a tinge of nostalgia. 

I am a psychologist.  I am a person. I am living in a pandemic just like you. I favor silence and space over saying something simply for the sake of making noise. I don’t believe in simple answers, quick fixes, or trite platitudes.  “Look on the bright side” bids to distract from real pain are not my prescription.  I don’t put pithy mantras on my mirror.  I am not a Pollyanna by any stretch of the imagination.  I do show up in this world as a realist grounded by deep faith and hope.  Every day as a human in the midst of a pandemic, I choose to experience deep gratitude for the glimmers of the glitter of the silver.  We live the days of our lives in the gray.  It serves us well to look carefully for the shimmers of silver. 


April 27, 2020

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