“We’re all in this together.” I have heard that over 100 times since the beginning of the lockdown, and if in the beginning, I would just nod at my phone in silence, with time passing, I realize how untrue this statement is. Whether it is a well-meaning pep-talk intended to bring a flare of joy or hope into the darkness of the days, while, in that frame of absurdity, some people are taking full advantage of this “extra time” to master a new skill, run a few kilometers each day or sunbathe in the backyard, I can’t hear it anymore.
IT IS THE INTENTION THAT COUNTS
I get the intention, I do. And at some level, I guess I do appreciate it. The message here is “Just keep going, this too shall pass”. But the underlying message is “Don’t feel bad, and while you are NOT feeling bad, accomplish stuff.” Don’t get me wrong, I am not promoting bad feelings, neither being lazy, here. What I am promoting is feelings in general, and our right to feel them and to have them validated. Especially in times of crisis. I might be at a totally other level right now. Because no, we are not all in the same boat.
THE REALITY OF THIS CRISIS
We all know that in the hierarchy of needs, he basic human needs are food, water and shelter, then followed by safety needs. And right now, a growing number of us do not have access to that. For an outrageous many, this global crisis is beyond what we can imagine. Their boat is not your boat. Some are alone on a rugged boat going down a rocky current. Some are on a huge party barge with the rest of their crew, binge drinking and playing games, some are on the “Love Boat” with sunshine and cocktails and some literally are on that boat from Jaws and desperately need a bigger boat to survive. For those, this time of crisis is not about “self-actualization” and “personal fulfillment”.
A GIANT EMOTIONAL ROLLER-COASTER
On any given day, my feelings are going through unprecedented ups and downs, a bit like this: Loop 1: Wave of sadness because I am alone and I miss my family… leads to: Loop 2: Wave of gratitude because my family is safe and healthy and my employers allow me to work from home… coming next: Loop 3 : Wave of panic because there will be massive budget cuts and in such times, everyone’s jobs seems unnecessary or less important for a company… then follows: Loop 4: Wave of pressure because I should be force-creating something like all the “flamboyant” influencers that keep justifying their “essentialness” to the world… opens the door to: Loop 5: Wave of dread that this may never be over and that is how the planet will function from now on, and I will never see my family again… brings me to: Loop 6: Wave of de-escalation of pressure, because I have got 20 years of outstanding experience behind me, and I am resourceful and I will always find a way to go on… surges into: Loop 7: Wave of pure terror that the whole world will go bankrupt and all of us will spiral down… drops me at: Loop 8: Wave of relief because even if that happens, I AM resourceful, and I have plenty of resourceful people and family around me that I can count on for help… which in turns brings on: Loop 9: Wave of guilt over recognition and acknowledgement of that privileged place that some of us are in when so many – SO MANY – others are not.
DO NOT FEEL GUILTY: NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO ACHIEVE GREATNESS
If you add to the above a dose of anger, frustration, stress, anxiety and confusion, and then a dash of prior trauma that may have been experienced, what you get is grief. On a worldwide scale. While there are obvious exceptions to the hierarchy of needs, and social media are showing us that every day, the point is, until one is secure in his basic human needs for stability, they should not be expected to achieve feats of greatness. Right now, it is fine to strive for some sort of routine and productivity, but some of us are scared and unstable and uncertain and anxious. Let them work their way through that before throwing at them “It will pass, don’t feel bad, we’re all the same.” Because we definitely are not. Just be kind to others and mindful of their feelings. We are going through the same storm, but we are not in the same boat.