Doom and Gloom or Rays of Hope – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

“Mom, It’s the end of the world!” That’s what I heard when I picked up the phone last week. She’d been told to go home and self-quarantine by the hospital where she works. All non-essential personnel for dealing with the coronavirus were told the same. A week later, she reported living nonstop in her pajamas, losing track of time, and grateful for not having killed someone. As for that end-of-the-world thing, I don’t think she cared one way or another. I wonder if it helped to hear me say she’s greatly loved.

Not knowing what else to say, I had the same message of love for another daughter who called by video conferencing from a lock-down zone. Surrounded by her four boys, all under ten years old, including a set of impressively active twins, there was a lot of yelling and running around. With a strained smile, she said, “Felt optimistic yesterday. Today I just don’t want to get out of bed.”

As for me, denial was my strategy of choice. So what if old injuries were acting up. Forget how I can’t fall asleep. Disregard the constant snacking. Ignore my jumping a mile high when the hubby snuck up and surprised me with a big hug.

That last one was a bit much so I finally acknowledged the full-body affects of chronic stress. And given this administration’s late start controlling the pandemic, high stress levels will continue for a long time. I’m doomed! I’ll end up a mess: overweight, exhausted, achey, and persistently afraid. 

What to do? I got inspired by a webinar of leadership guru, John Maxwell, and a follow-up Mastermind teleconference led by his local representative, Glynn Hodges. The denial had to stop. I needed to take control and lead myself to a better place mentally and physically.

A good friend added his thoughts and some hope. “We’ve experienced the by-products of our fears as well as the products of others’ fears. We’ve experienced the unknown, the new, the different. We’ve sometimes navigated through those fears well and sometimes not so well.  But, we are here, today, having survived much… We are here because we have tools that have successfully dealt with our and others’ fears of the unknown, even when the unknown was a crisis. We all have done it!  What have we learned, being ever mindful, that the more emotional we become regarding something the more that emotion can throw off our “higher-order” thinking as well as throw-off our behavior to ourselves as well as to others. We do have choices.”

So, I chose not to use our stationery bicycle just for hanging damp laundry. The hand weights in the garage got rescued and the cob webs dusted off. My yoga mat traveled from the car trunk to my office floor. Hubby and I curled up together, singing along with The Voice and rooting for McGyver, As for the protein bars, I won’t replenish that stock pile.

As if sensing my revival and joining in, the depressed daughter texted me a selfie showing her dressed, smiling and walking in the woods with her husband. The other daughter posted a FaceBook photo showing her sons happily going through the poses of kids’ yoga on TV. Hope and love will survive this pandemic.

It turns out that we’re all leaders now. We can navigate ourselves and our loved ones through this crisis and create life after COVID-19. I’m ready to watch our tulips bloom and contemplate giving away my pajamas.


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