Looking for positives when it feels like the world’s ending

Updated: Jun 8, 2020



A few weeks ago, the head of my department at work gathered us into the conference room. “Look,” she said. “This stuff with coronavirus is crazy, but it’s not anything to worry about. If you feel sick, please stay home. We can work with you if you don’t have any time off accumulated. Other than that, it’s just basic hygiene. Please wash your hands.”


Yesterday, I posted on Instagram about my 12th TMS treatment. The coronavirus had progressed since that meeting just a few weeks before—one manifestation: It had been my first day working from home. But despite everything from schools to the NBA shutting down, the TMS clinic only saw three or four patients in a day, and just one at a time. The tech explained to me: “We’re staying open.” I felt grateful to be able to continue with the treatment that has been helping. I left the clinic feeling positive and calm. Even with all the chaos and strange things happening, life was just going on. Things would be fine. When I posted about it that evening, I used the hashtag #theworldisnotending.


And then…


This morning, at 7:09, my husband and I woke up with a start. We thought someone had broken into our house. We could hear noise, noise that was definitely coming from inside. He left the bedroom to investigate, and I sat on the bed.

It was moving.


The whole bed was shaking. The floor was shaking. The house was shaking. The giant floor-length mirror in the bedroom leaning against the wall was shaking. Everything was vibrating at a steady rumble. I sat there, a good thirty or forty-five seconds.


“I…I think that was an earthquake,” I told him. He didn't believe me.


I didn’t go back to sleep. I got on my company-issued computer in our living room and started my second day working from home. I found the company Slack backed up with messages from other at-home employees—about the earthquake. It was an earthquake. My co-workers were posting what they felt, what broke. Then the links with news stories started—stories about the airport and freeways being shut down. On top of that, there were the aftershocks. There were two I felt during the day, one subtle but long, one that was pretty short but felt almost as strong as the original earthquake.


It was when the news started announcing a chemical leak at Kennecott Copper Mine, about how the National Guard was being mobilized, and how the cloud that was forming was made of hydrochloric acid. That was the moment. That’s when I thought: “Maybe the world is ending.”


I don’t think anyone—anyone in the world, really, at this point—would disagree that we are currently living through a crazy time. What’s happening with COVID-19 is unprecedented. Near me, the streets that are always clogged until 6:00 or 7:00 are free and clear, restaurants deliver curb-side but won’t let customers in, the grocery store’s shelves are half empty, many businesses are simply shuttered, and my stepdaughters aren’t attending school—this is definitely stuff I’ve never seen in my lifetime. It makes sense that what is happening would cause fear and anxiety.


But.


But. However. Not everything is scary. Not everything is going wrong. For me, there have been a few bright spots in this strange, dark cloud. And I wanted to share them. I wanted to share that, despite it sometimes feeling like the apocalypse, there are still positives. And, that it helps to think about the positives.


Some positives I’ve seen from the coronavirus

  1. The environment

I was at work (before we were all sent to work from home) when I heard someone talk about the pollution in China. “Have you seen the pictures?” a co-worker asked me. I hadn’t. They described a cloud of pollution that had hovered over part of the country being virtually cleared since quarantines began in the country. I finally looked for the pictures tonight, and found them here: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51691967


Tonight, it was my husband was talking about the waters of Venice. He said there were reports of the canals being clear enough to see fish for the first time in a long time. I found those pictures here: https://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/coronavirus-shutdowns-have-unintended-climate-benefits-n1161921


Stories of how hard we as humans are on the planet have given me concern since I was small. So when I heard about these dramatic changes in pollution, it made me feel like, as horrible as this pandemic is, there is some small positive for our Earth. It also makes me hope: I hope that, maybe, when this is over, we’ll realize we don’t need so many people commuting every day. That the air doesn’t need to be that bad. That we don’t need that much new construction for roads and office buildings. That working from home and distance-learning for school works, and that it can change the environment around us.


A small hope.

2. Getting to work in my pajamas


Like I mentioned, the company I work for set things up for everyone to start working from home. I was apprehensive about this change. I was worried about focus, and about not being near colleagues to collaborate and ask questions.

On the other hand…I roll out of bed ten minutes before clocking in. I work half the day in pajamas. I have my own food here, and I can make tea, and there’s no pie day to tempt me. I get to sit by a window now—no more assigned cubicle in a dark corner, where the overhead lights don’t even have bulbs in them, and where the windows across the way always have the blinds drawn.


I’m enjoying working from home. I’m going to enjoy that while I have it.


3. Spending time with my husband


My husband was really excited about me working from home. We have our desks set up side-by-side. We’re both working, so it’s not like we’re just hanging out together all day. But, to be honest, I’d much rather have those small, workday chats with my husband than with my co-workers (sorry). I like the hugs and kisses, too.


I imagine we’ll eventually start feeling cabin fever, and then maybe I won’t enjoy this perk as much. But for now, I’m a big fan, and I’m going to savor that.


4. People being kind to each other


There’s one more thing I’ve noticed with the coronavirus and all the other crazy things happening: People are helping each other. On Monday at work, when everyone was packing up and heading out, that same department head I mentioned above gave her cell phone number to everyone in the department. “I grew up poor,” she told us. “I know what it’s like to be wanting. If there’s anything I can do for you, please tell me. I’ll find toilet paper for you, I’ll drop off food on your doorstep. Please, just let me know.”


I was also touched when I heard the CEO of Delta Airlines is giving up his salary for six months to help the company’s employees get through this time. This makes me think of my time working at a charter school, where I was making under $40,000 but had to buy my own white board markers if I wanted white board markers—when I knew the school director (who had no previous experience working in education) was making six figures. It felt like he wasn’t one who would give for others to survive.


I know we have all sorts of other issues with economic disparity and inefficiencies, and that we have an imperfect system. That doesn’t mean I can’t remember these moments of people being willing to give, and to help. With that imperfect system and all those inequalities, I want to remember that.

What positives do you see?


I have been trying to think of what good is happening at this time of distress. I find thinking about these things can help calm the fears that come from listening to the news or seeing the dramatic changes that have happened. I hope sharing them might do that for you, too—or, if nothing else, encourage you to just be on the lookout for the good.


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