by Actress and Writer Samantha Lee
Hi. Let me preface this by saying I know we are all inundated by this global pandemic at every turn. I know there is a lot of information circulating, a lot of opinions being formed, a lot of uncertainty. But what I know most of all: we are all wading through this together.
I am not a medical professional, political leader, grocery store employee, mail carrier, caretaker, scientist*, or any of the hundreds of other occupations bravely standing on the frontlines. I don’t have anyone to take care of but myself, and some days even that doesn’t feel possible. I am probably like most of you – at home, trying to quell my normal, everyday anxiety that has only compounded with the collective world’s anxiety. I am doing all that can be expected right now – and that is our best. Taking each day as it comes. When we feel overwhelmed, helpless, insert a million emotions here, all we have to do is the next right thing (Disney got it right with this one).
Where do all right things start? With gratitude. So for me: I am grateful for a safe roof over my head, the means to supply my home with food, income that does not require my husband or myself to physically go into a work place, our health and health insurance, friendship and familial support. My heart aches for the thousands upon thousands upon thousands whose suffering has only heightened. I am fully aware of my immense privilege during this time.
Have we got some perspective here? Great. And if that’s as far as you can make it today – also great. You’ve done your job.
If you think you can do another right thing, let’s step towards that together. Instead of wrestling this new world order, we can open our arms and embrace it. It’s hard to see the light at the end of a tunnel of pain and devastation. It’s really f*cking hard to see the light at the end of a tunnel of unprecedented pain and devastation of the ENTIRE WORLD. But the only way to make it there is through, so through we must go.
My job as an actor – as any artist can attest to - is to empathize, to connect, to find the subtext. To put myself in a character’s shoes and connect with the person standing across from me – while still acknowledging what’s bubbling below the surface. Maybe it’s helped me with the whole perspective thing, the ability to connect to what others are going through. But mostly, I’ve found it’s making me re-study the subtext.
I’m not going to tell you that this pandemic is something the world “needs to reset”. Screw that. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is still happening. And it damn well doesn’t change the fact that we are still living. So if we are going to live through this (and we are), and you’re able to do what you need to do to get through each day (you can), why not listen to what’s whispering below?
I can’t begin to tell you what the subtext of this crisis is for you, but I can tell you what it is for me. It’s prioritizing what’s actually important and living my life in support of that. It’s the call to connect with my family more. It’s the demand to stop complaining and instead to start relishing, to slow down. It’s the revelation that I can do more with less. It’s the permission to live boldly. It’s the reminder that things should not go entirely back to how they were once the dust settles.
Now might not be the time for you to dig into your practices, your feelings. But you have the time if you need it.
Otherwise, if you find yourself having too much time (is there such a thing?), here are some ways you can stay healthy/safe/sane, find pockets of joy in the reality we all took for granted, and show up for others.
The devastation in Italy rips my heart out. I’ve had the (again) immense privilege to visit that beautiful country twice (most recently this past September). Don’t forget that amongst the wreckage, beauty still exists. You can virtually tour six Italian museums and revel in what you’ve only read in history books (in which our current situation will one day be).
Physical fitness may be the last thing on your mind, but I’ve found that of its benefits, most important is lessened anxiety. Endorphins are real, y’all, and so many closed fitness studios (who have decided to spread love in their time of financial suffering) are offering free online classes and resources. Practice yoga, participate in a live dance class, take a barre class, or do a circuit workout.
Sitting still is all you can muster right now? You’re doing great. The Headspace app is offering free guided meditations through their “Weathering the Storm” collection.
Being “bored” isn’t a real problem. In fact, “boredom” is where great ideas are made. But if you want some entertainment outside of bingeing TV, watch a Broadway show ($5/month donation towards PBS) or live camera footage of the animals at the San Diego Zoo or the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Then look out the window and remember that spring is still blooming, air pollution has drastically (if temporarily) decreased, and that nature always finds a way to survive.
My niece’s school has shut down, her SAT test has been canceled, and that hardworking sweetheart is worried about how this will affect her college applications. If you decide you want to learn something new, there are so many free, online classes (including from all the Ivy Leagues). I just started taking “The Science of Well-Being” offered through YALE. If you have a .edu or .k12 email address, you can get two free months with Skillshare.
When you’re done reading this, get off the internet. Scribd is offering free ebooks and audio books for 30 days. City of Girls is a fun read by Elizabeth Gilbert, and both Educated and Maybe You Should Talk to Someone are excellent non-fiction (though much heavier). If you’re an actor or voiceover artist, Penguin Random House is seeking talent to voice their books.
Foster community by…
Fostering (or adopting!) a pet. Who better to be in quarantine with? No one. The answer is no one.
Participating in a daily “art party”.
Finally writing that script with a friend through WriterDuet.
Video calling your family. I may not be able to visit my grandfather who has been in and out of the hospital this past year, but I sure as hell can watch his face light up through Facetime. We may be physically distant from one another right now, but having video chat at our disposal is a saving grace. Therapists are also offering video counseling if you would like that extra support.
If you feel you absolutely must do more, here are some ideas from our favorite First Lady.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a start to #doingthedays. Our ancestors were called to war, Jewish families hid silently under floorboards, people still don’t have access to clean water, food, and vaccines. Their suffering does not negate yours, but we can do this.
We can stay in bed or sob in our shower or make one meal today and all of that is okay. We can still do this. Together.
* Our biggest gratitude to the medical professionals, political leaders, scientists and everyone else who is tirelessly working towards doing the next right thing.
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