Today was supposed to go like this: I would get up early, after spending well into the wee hours of the night making sure that every detail at the apartment is taken care of, and I would run to the airport to get my mom and my brother. Instead, none of those things happened, as we are hunkered down in our homes, patiently waiting for this pandemic to ease out.
Although I have always been a fan of “regular days,” this particular regular day is a bit sadder than it should be. I can’t help but think about all the things that I was supposed to do, all the plans now discarded, the hugs not given, the laughs not exchanged.
However, in the midst of all this, I’m also content, calm, accepting. I’m content, because I know what love is, what it feels like. To experience pain is to know love. I’m calm, because this quarantine has forced me to look inward, as it should be, and to obtain the quiet that being, and not doing, entails. And I am accepting, because this is a reality that no one can change, no matter how hard we try.
I am also very grateful, for the beautiful special families out there, for granting me an opportunity to be part of your lives and to share mine with you.
This past weekend, I had this nagging, uncomfortable feeling. Sometimes when things aren’t right, you can’t make them right, I thought. You can exercise every day to your favorite tunes, with the on-demand app that you have been given since your exercise class suddenly closed, but you can’t dance next to your friends. You can raise a glass and toast over a WhatsApp reunion, but you can’t hug your friends on the other side of the screen. You take a walk, and you realize how many stores have closed. I mean, not just temporarily or during quarantine. These stores are permanently closed. Sometimes the financial burden is too much to bear and retreat is the only way out.
Someone told me that there will be a before and after. This pandemic will change our fabric forever. Sometimes I wonder, will we be able to regain our sense of community? We are connected more than ever, yet this is not where our minds take us when we think about others. We look at our neighbors with suspicion. We look at the next person in line at the grocery store with disdain. Are we learning to be more compassionate or are we learning to be more self-centered? I hope the former and not the latter.
These thoughts were making me so sad that I began to look for a way out. Would watching a good movie change my mood? A new video chat with friends? How about spending some money on something new? Then it hit me, nothing that I could do about the situation will change it. These things will make me feel better for some time, but they won’t make me feel better in the long run.
I decided to meditate, long and hard, to find the stillness and acceptance that I needed. It turns out that accepting this new reality is perhaps the best way to cope and deal with it. “Life is suffering,” the Buddha offered, and found it to be such an overarching reality that he called this principle “the first Noble Truth.” We suffer because people get sick, die. We suffer because we are separated from those we love. But more than two thousand years ago, the Buddha taught that no matter how hard we try, we cannot avoid getting sick, getting old, dying, and being separated from the ones we love.
My challenge for everyone out there is to take this new reality, understand that it is life staring at us in the face, making us look at our own nature, and accept each one of us as we are. Part of this is to be compassionate, as not only will your fellow humans go through this: You will go through this as well.
I once heard a Buddhist teacher say “treat the glass as if it were already broken.” If we see each other as vulnerable, fragile, prone to getting sick, dying, we would be much more compassionate with each other. We normally forget this reality, until a loved one falls ill or dies. Let’s not wait until then.