The worst day of my life was when I received the news that my dad had suddenly passed away. It was seven years ago this month, and somehow it seems like yesterday and also an eternity away.

I was in San Francisco for an event when I found out the news.  I had received a message from my brother that my dad had a sudden heart attack. I closed my computer, let the group I was supposed to speak to know and went back to my hotel.  I quickly contacted the airline to make travel arrangements to get home, but unfortunately, I could not fly until the next day.  That evening, I had tickets to see Demetri Martin, one of my favorite comedians, and although I had found out the news that my dad has passed away only hours before, I decided to go.  At that moment, what I needed was NOT to be alone.  I needed to be around people and try to lose myself in a moment to give myself a breather from my life irreversibly changing.  That connection to others helped me get through an unbearable time.

I never understood how I could go to an event on that day, but not because of what is happening in our world today with COVID-19, it is starting to make sense.  When things seem to be going wrong, many, including myself, reach for human connection.  Yet, in-person human connection is one of the things that we should not be doing. We are asked to do the opposite of what our instincts are telling us.  Even as someone who is quite introverted, I am struggling with the feeling of disconnection from society, but I also understand why it is necessary.

Some things have been working for me, and I would like to share them. Understand, what is working for me, works in my situation and context.  All people need different things as we are going through this weird timeline in our world’s history.  I have tried to stop sharing with others what they should do and focus on what I am learning and sharing in the hope that in some way, others could benefit. 

1. Connect.

Connecting with others right now is harder than ever, but has never been so important.

It is also imperative that in times like these, people realize that schools are WAY more than test scores, but are significant hubs for communities. Also, people are realizing how hard teaching is as evidenced by this amazing Shonda Rhimes tweet:

If you want a poignant reminder of the importance of schools, check out this video:

The term “social distancing” is one that is now embedded into our vocabularies, although I had not been familiar with the term even two months ago.  But social distancing is crucial, and for some perspective, check out this tweet from Matt Pearce gives some valuable perspective.

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With this being said, we are lucky to live in a time where we have access to tools that my parents wish they would have had when they were my age. I have focused on checking in with others as much as possible. People share emotions in different ways, so don’t assume that others are okay because you haven’t heard from them. Be proactive. Text, FaceTime, email, or do whatever to stay connected.

I am trying to FaceTime or make videos for groups as much as possible to just say hi, check-in, and provide some encouragement to people through these tough times. Selfishly, it is a way for me to stay connected as well.

Human connection has never been so important.  We might not be able to do it face-to-face, but we still have to find a means to do so.

2. Understand it is okay not to know what to say.

It is easy to share any bit of information that we see online with others, but too much information can become overwhelming and cause more confusion. I am trying to step back and listen more.  Having a young daughter, who thankfully is not at the age where she can comprehend in its entirety what is going on feels like a blessing right now. She is just as happy and upbeat this week as she was the last.  In fact, she seems to be enjoying my extended time at home right now!

What I know is that I don’t need to become an expert on this right now.  My focus is on staying positive and looking reassuring those closest to me that everything will be alright.  Other than that, I am waiting for experts to lead the way.  This quote is helpful:

“Being positive does not mean ignoring the negative. Being positive means overcoming the negative. There is a big difference between the two.”
Marc and Angel

There are a lot of people in situations that are quite dire, and if I can spend my time helping others, as opposed to spending a plethora of time talking about this, I know where I would like my time to be invested.

3. Create.

Have you ever wanted to write a book?

Start a podcast?

YouTube Channel?

Anything?

I am trying to get up each day and keep some type of schedule where I am doing some work and creating some new things.  This keeps me focused on my learning and growth in this time of uncertainty.

4. Self-Care.

Right now, it would be easy to sleep in VERY late each day, but I am not sure that it would be beneficial to my health.  I am focusing on finding time to exercise, meditate, and play guitar each day.  I have also started a “Mood Tracker” app (Daylio) to check in on myself on what I am doing each day and how it is affecting my mood.

It is hard to take care of others when you are struggling yourself.

5. Disconnect

Although I started with suggestions on the importance of “connection” with people, I think it is vital to “disconnect” from too much information.  I am looking to expert websites for information, but I am trying to stay off of social media because COVID-19 is everywhere right now.

Watching sports has also been a release for me, and now games are basically canceled.  TikTok was also a getaway with funny videos, and now it has been overtaken by COVID-19 toilet paper jokes.

Websites are all talking about this, podcasts, news (obviously), and it seems you can’t get away from the constant conversation. Personally, this is not good for me.

By “disconnecting,” I am focusing on time with my family, watching movies, playing video games, playing guitar, working out, etc.

I am a big believer in the idea of what you feed your mind is what you become.  Be thoughtful of spending too much time digging into endless amounts of information.

6. Find the good.

I am looking for those stories of how others are helping in a time of need.  This video, shared by Rex Chapman sums it up beautifully (some mild profanity):

Check out Broadway performer Laura Benanti encouraging students to share themselves singing since they might have missed their performance using the hashtag #SunshineSongs.

Or this story about how a grocery store in Edmonton (where I live) is opening early to help Senior Citizens and those with compromised immune systems, to shop exclusively in a less-stressed environment.

There is a lot of bad stuff out there, and people need support. I am going to continue looking for these positive stories as it inspires me to do my best to help others.

Remember this Mr. Rogers quote when thing seemingly can’t get worse:

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If you have an inspiring story to share about how others are helping in this time of need or your own personal strategies that have helped you in these difficult times, please share in the comments below.

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