Social Distancing is a Struggle … and an Opportunity

That was her magic
she could still see the sunset
even on those darkest days

I’m certain that ‘social distancing’ will be Merriam-Webster’s most searched phrase of 2020. Because prior to the canceling of the Arnold Festival, most Americans had never heard the term or had any idea how it felt.

Fast forward a few weeks and we all have been thrown into the unfamiliar, uncertain and uncomfortable concept of social distancing. Sure, the introverts among us are rejoicing a little about having a rock solid excuse not to socialize. But everyone’s lives has been impacted – schools are closed, workplaces have either been closed or forced to work remotely, movie theaters are closed, restaurants and bars are take out only. Americans are usually of the ‘I can do whatever I want’ mindset, and are now finding most things to be closed or banned. It’s like being grounded as an adult.

By now, most of us understand why social distancing is so important to implement early on in an outbreak. We need to flatten the curve, reduce overwhelming the healthcare system and save lives. Sure, we all know someone who has posted on social media about being out all weekend and rolled our eyes. But most of us are doing our part. We are tackling that reading list, that Netflix watch list, working on projects or saving items on Pinterest to entertain kids.  

But social distancing is hard. I miss hanging out with my friends, running errands, trying the latest restaurant, drinking a flight of beer while having a heart to heart, or people watching in the Short North. I miss hugs. Or shaking a stranger’s hand. And I terribly miss losing my voice after a night of singing at concerts or a West Family drag show.

And I’m worried. I’m worried about all of the small businesses, the entertainers, artists and every single person laid off. I’m worried for myself and everyone in healthcare, as we expose ourselves to this virus to take care of patients. I’m worried about the hard decisions that some of us may have to make regarding a patients care. I’m worried about the rise in domestic violence, rape, mental health issues, divorce, suicide and unwanted pregnancies that may result from people having to stay home in an unsafe or unhappy environment. I’m worried about my brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community that have lost their safe spaces due to closures. I’m worried about the people who get the positive test result or those who lose someone to this virus. I’m worried for our elderly.

But in every failure, in every hard situation, there is opportunity. Social distancing provides us with the opportunity to slow down, to have more time with loved ones, to bring back family game night or movie night. To write that book you’ve always dreamed about. Or realize that the relationship you’re in is not working and to end it. To work through those demons in your head that you’ve been avoiding. To dust off that treadmill and start running again. To sit on your deck and listen to nature sing it’s beautiful song. Without human traffic, the canals in Venice are clear again, dolphins are returning to the coast of Italy. Our environment is getting a much needed breath of fresh air.

I’m grateful for the outpouring love, compassion and empathy that I see daily. People are stepping up, finding unique ways to support, empower and be there for one another. We are reaching out more. Asking for help more. Making connections. Realizing we are all in this together. I’m also grateful for the leadership we have in Ohio – the decisions being made by Governor DeWine and Dr. Acton, and their entire team, are not easy or light decisions. They are heavy, hard decisions that are both saving lives and turning lives upside down with no clear future.

There will be countless lessons learned from our time spent social distancing – personally and as a country. We are seeing how unprepared we were for this outbreak given our pandemic team is not in place. Our healthcare system was already broken, and Americans are seeing that even more with this situation. Poverty is a huge issue in this country, as most Americans do not have an emergency savings. Schools do a lot more than just teach our children – for some, they are their only source of food. A teacher’s job is much harder than most of us realize, and are now finding out.

I hope social distancing opens the eyes, hearts and minds of my fellow Americans to how others live every day. I hope we pause to realize that the fear, uncertainty and protectiveness we have of our children as we load up a grocery cart full of food, toilet paper and alcohol, pull kids out of school or sports to lessen their exposure is the same emotions that parents who are fleeing a war torn country with their children, weak from hunger.

I hope the emotions, experience and lessons learned from social distancing fuel the advocacy fire in more Americans to demand our country change for the better. To hold our elected representatives accountable. To hold ourselves accountable.

Maybe this outbreak is the universe’s way to force us to slow down, reflect and be present. Social distancing is not easy, but it is presenting us with an opportunity – what are you going to do with it?

by megperk

I am a hospice consultant pharmacist who lives in Columbus, Oh. The past few years I’ve tried to use my voice more for women’s rights and empowerment, LGBTQ rights (I am bisexual), body image issues, eating disorders, the environment and mental health. I love to travel, and work a part time job to fund that passion. I’m also a runner, scuba diver, yogi, dog mom and more. I love to have vulnerable, open conversations, discuss astrology, books, movies and more.

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