The sun came up again today. The day is ahead of us. And so is the coronavirus pandemic.
A Known Unknown
Yesterday I was exchanging texts with my daughter, Anwyn, who lives in Paris and she asked me, “Is this what it was like during the AIDS crisis?”
I had to admit that, no, what’s happening for her is happening for me and my generation for the first time, too. We’ve never in our lifetimes experienced anything remotely like the COVID-19 set of national and local quarantines. And while history may guide us — notably the global flu pandemic of 1918-19 — people today are all pretty much in new ground.
And we’re all in it together.
Beyond getting good advice to not panic, to stock up on a few extras at home, to not run to the ER at the slightest sniffle, to keep washing those hands, to get fresh air and sunshine (you need that vitamin D), and to not necessarily entirely lock down (just don’t go to events with over 50 people if your area is at the lowest alert level), no one really knows what to expect, how to behave, which choices are right and which ones foolish.
So how can we get fuller, deeper, richer advice?
A Good Time to Simplify
We can turn to existing insight on black swan-ish events out there even if it doesn’t directly relate to a pandemic. And here’s one.
There’s a saying in the world of energy and climate writers, writers who take seriously the fragile nature of a hyper-connected world utterly dependent on oil and other fossil fuels for the running of our lives, our economy. And writers who tie that fossil fuel dependence to how we’re destroying the planet. That saying is, “collapse now and avoid the rush.” It was coined by John Michael Greer, a man with a brilliant mind who writes both on industrial life and on spirituality and philosophy.
“Collapse now and avoid the rush” originally addressed people who worried that climate change, peak oil, or other big disruptions would lead to “The End of the World as We Know It,” a collapse of the global economy, industrial civilization, or even the United States government.
I don’t think that coronavirus will lead to any kind of apocalypse. But figuratively collapsing in my personal life sounds like good advice in an economy where many things have come to a halt, even if only temporarily. It’s all about being anti-fragile, or not so dependent on any one thing that you lose flexibility in the face of the slightest change.
I hear people freaking out right now. It’s understandable. We’re all wondering if the pandemic will spur a recession, how widespread the domino effect will be on jobs, the economy, and day to day life, and how this will affect how we see each other and interact.
Worse, we wonder if we’re gonna get sick and die!
And since the kids are now off of school, and the college kids are coming home early, and mom and dad are being sent home from work, it all looks 100% different for almost everybody overnight.
What to do?
A Mindset for The Domestic Life
I’ve mostly worked from home since 1995, for 25 years. So much so that the few times I’ve worked out of the house are measured in mere weeks, an adjunct to my work life at home.
Currently I work outside the house just one day a week at the Staunton Antiques Center (SAC), which basically gives me a chance to tidy and restock my booths while I’m helping and checking out customers.
So being at home is not novel to me. I work from home as a writer, graphic designer, and social media marketer. I run my Etsy shop, Lady Virginia Vintage, from home (though I sometimes think about opening my own shop beyond my booths at SAC).
No day at home is perfect. Especially when my girls were at home (now almost ages 23 and 25, they’re not at home anymore). I’d set out with the best of intentions, the good old To Do List, and be lucky to get through the tiniest bit because this one wanted a ride here and that one needed something from the store and it all took longer than expected and the next thing I knew it was dinner time and then bedtime and then I’d get up and barely do it all again.
So if you have kids and are trying to work from home, take it from me — let go of perfect. Let go of any notions of control, and be grateful for the small victories, the tiny tasks crossed off. And actually love the moment — soon they live far away and are all grown up and all of the sudden sticky jam fingers sound really inviting.
Historically most people worked from home. Or in and around home very closely. The domestic sphere, now long derided in American society as boring or less meaningful than achieving the outside-validated power career, may already be making a comeback in the disrupted gig economy. We may find out that it’s not so bad after all.
So if you just got thrust into full time working from home, try it, you might like it.
Three Ways to Approach the Coronavirus Disruption
As a healthy person thus far, I’m approaching the coronavirus threat and its impact on daily life by making sure I do three things.
The first is to do my home yoga routine. Meditation and breathing and stretching are not only optimum for health, they also help with feeling calm and clear. Making good decisions happens more readily when your mind is more at ease. “Don’t panic,” works best when you’ve trained your mind to stay cool.
Even if you have to get up before everyone, or squeeze it in after the kids have gone to bed, find some way to do yoga or meditate or pray or journal — it’s good for the soul and for dealing with people!
2. Embrace the Slowdown on So Many Levels
Secondly I’m “collapsing now and avoiding the rush.”
Actually I’ve been doing that for more than a decade by choosing to live with a smaller footprint in buying and travel and by going all in for the “go local” thing. But here we are with an actual stock market crash and a halt to almost everything we know with so many shut downs and quarantines in place. So I’m simply embracing the slow down without resistance.
I advise you to embrace it, too.
In truth, I’m in favor of a global slowdown because I know that we need to drastically alter our lifestyles and address our dependence on oil and gas and coal and face up to what it’s doing to our climate and thus to us.
I didn’t and I DON’T want that to come as increased diseases and heightened vulnerability to a fragile global supply line and crashes when the limits to growth meet the insistence of the “endless growth paradigm” as the only model for capitalism. Or rather, for trade.
I just wrote about how we’re at a point where the salvage economy offers us tons of opportunities for trade and economy and of course that means adjustments and disruptions to other industries.
So letting things be slower — slow clothes, slow food, slow travel, slow time together, slow work, slow other stuff that I haven’t heard of yet — sounds good. Slowing down is fine with me and it should be fine with anyone who wants a selfhood and family life and community wholeness and national culture and manageable economy that’s more in harmony with the other pieces of the world — plant, animal, element, spirit.
3. Keep On Truckin’
Finally, I’m keeping at my work.
Today, like most days, I’ll add a few things to my Etsy shop, researching along the way to learn about — and share about — what I’m selling. I’ll ship a few things out to my Etsy customers. I’ll hope, like everyone facing the current uncertainty, that people will still want my gorgeous vintage textiles and other vintage goods and that I’ll make sales and make a living.
I’ll make breakfast, I’ll make dinner. I’ll take a walk. I’ll do some tidying up. I’ll read a bit. I’ll pay some bills, do some paperwork, plan for the week ahead with my clients’ writing needs. I’ll go to a mid-afternoon appointment in a small venue. And I’ll hang around the house tonight streaming video.
Tomorrow the sun will come up. The day will be ahead of us. And so will the coronavirus pandemic.
How will you meet it?
— Lady Virginia