So here we are. Uncharted waters. The stuff of sci-fi novels and B-grade terror flicks in the here and now.
The novel coronavirus of 2020 has redefined “rate of change” in our lives, upending the oft-tenuous sense of balance we enjoyed BCV. Before Coronavirus. Yesterday, last week and last month. The Dow at 29,000, sports on TV, handshakes and hugs the norm, the paper products aisle fully stocked. (I can understand shortages of Purell but the toilet paper hoarding thing has me stumped; after all, this is a respiratory rather than gastrointestinal virus.)
The tendency in times of unease or unrest is to look to leaders for leadership, for practical guidance, reassurance and calm. I’m not going down that Hobbit hole here other than to say that given a vacuum at the top we need to look to the layer of real experts beneath, and indeed to the common sense within all of us.
A good friend and summer neighbor of mine is a world-renowned psychologist, former Assistant Surgeon General and retired Rear Admiral in the US Public Health Service. His resume is as long as his arm but his ego conversely small. Quiet, soft-spoken and measured, he flies well under the radar until he has something to say. I value his counsel and guidance more than anybody I know.
Yesterday he posted on Facebook:
”Let's fine-tune our language in service of promoting mental and physical health. We are all in a learning curve so let's try to collectively bend the arc a little bit.
We have all heard (and probably used) the term "social distancing" in recent days. Actually, what we mean is "physical distancing" from other people... NOT social distancing. The goal is to create physical distance but we also want to maintain "social connectedness". Maintaining social connection and support in times of crisis has been repeatedly shown to result in positive psychosocial outcomes.
Actually, what we mean is "physical distancing" from other people... NOT social distancing.
My colleagues and I at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress have taken to talking about "Creating physical distance while maintaining social connectedness." The bottom line is that we all need to be aware and creative in staying socially connected with our friends, families, and coworkers while getting used to, at least for awhile, being more physically distant. Let's get creative. Thanks for listening.”
This is the type of practical guidance — yes, leadership — that should be coming from on high. No head-in-the-sand denial, soft-pedaling, finger pointing or self-congratulation. Just information we can use to get us through until this passes.
In the meantime, circle around your family, friends and co-workers and keep them socially close. Check on each other, offer help, share your stash of toilet paper if need be. Perhaps the silver lining in all this will be a greater appreciation of that and those in our lives that truly matter.
Stay connected. Stay well.