Community Will Carry Us Through COVID-19. Here’s How.

All images via Pixabay (Artist CDD20 from Shanghai, China)

I have become a part-time stress baker cranking out cakes and biscuits a la Izzie Stevens, all tweaked-out on coffee and restless nights. (Ed note: This is an understatement. Follow the author on Instagram for all your pandemic food porn needs.) For any of you who have not watched Grey’s Anatomy, this is a wonderful time to embark on what it seeming to be an infinite journey.

But before you turn on Grey’s Anatomy and turn off your (very active, probably stressed-out) brain—we have to start talking about something very important.

Community.

A lot of us envision community as Small Town USA (or wherever), with its cherry blossom trees and people walking their dogs and a baker putting steaming pies in the window to cool. A carpenter is repairing the steps of your favorite restaurant. Someone is painting something robins egg blue. A little boy is handing out newspapers. Lovers kiss on a bench. Teen laughter emanates from a parking lot.

Wrong.

Community goes beyond the things we can see, hear, or touch. Community is not just about our physical location. Zoom out. Zoom out again. Again. One more time. Community is where we stand as a species. Right now—despite everything we disagree on, how we prepare our foods, or what God we worship—we are experiencing a level of community that only happens when we are all suffering. We are in a unique situation where we all have one thing in common: Fear, helplessness, shock, _____, ______,______. I’m sure you have some more words to offer there. It sucks. It sucks that we are here. But, we are. So it’s time to step up and acknowledge that we have a responsibility to help.

The problems right now are clear. Together, we can be part of the solution.

It is so easy to be angry. Angry at our politicians, angry at our president, angry at local officials or the companies that had to lay off our friends and family members. No one is wrong to be angry—but aimless anger does not make it go away. Instead of crossing your arms and harrumphing that your leaders are failing you, write to them. I’m deadass. Open your email, and unleash your fury! You’ve got the time, and lets face it: Our main excuse for not doing this before 2020 was, “Who’s got the time?” This will keep the anger directed at the right people, and not on your quarantine partners or social media followers.

Once you’ve unloaded some of that anger. (Nice job, by the way!) I can assure you the only cure for all this anger and sadness is to be useful, stay mindful, and show bottomless compassion. Here is how we can be part of the solution.

The word self-care has never been more relevant.

I need to clarify that I am not referring to that whole “cancel plans at the last minute to sit in the bathtub; it’s fine!” interpretation of this notion. However, in order for us to be useful members of our community we have to take care of our mental health. We are experiencing a form of “free-floating anxiety;” we know why we are anxious but it seems almost impossible to curb it on a consistent basis. It’s like a little annoying ghost haunting us all day. Now is not the time to swallow those feelings and hope they’ll go away on their own. Reach out to a mental health professional who can teach you about ways to cope with anxiety through Cognitive or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.

Reach out to your friends and family as much as possible.

Do not judge someone’s mental state by their social media. They may be posting coronavirus memes, or joking about working from home and not bathing—do it anyway. Knowing that other people are thinking about you is a powerful medicine. And you know what? Maybe even reach out to people you haven’t spoken to in a long time.

Don’t feel pressured to churn out a masterpiece right now—in spite of what any meme might have you believe.

Do not share links unless you think they will HELP.

Peer-reviewed articles from scientific journals, advice on how to stay busy, crafting projects, a great song, a video of how penguins go down a flight of stairs (thanks, Rebecca!). At this point, people can’t avoid pandemic hysteria by just simply existing—so send things that are meaningful, helpful, joyful. Let them handle their own news feed as they see fit.

Go outside.

Your couch needs a break from your unbathed butt. Take a shower, and go for a walk—no excuses. The power of sunshine and fresh air can turn your whole day around, and if you’re in a good mood it will set off a chain reaction in your behaviors in your home and online.

Tip someone.

You know what is very comical? Sending someone $5 with a random assortment with emoji that make no sense. Find your hospitality friends, favorite bartenders and servers, and shoot them a fiver. (If you are financially comfortable to do so.) Not only will the $5 mean a lot more than you even know—you will make them laugh as they try to interpret panda-eggplant-spa-girl-doughnut.

The days and months ahead are going to be nearly unlivable for so many of our neighbors. Now’s the time to support them however you can.

Order take-out, if you can afford it.

Opening a (small) restaurant or bar has always been a wildly risky businesses. They exist to bring us nothing but joy and leisure. People took huge risks (literally emptied all their accounts and went into debt) just to like, give us pasta and make us smile! And let me tell you, unless they were rich to begin with, they are not making the big bucks even well before we developed cracked sanitizer-knuckles. If they’re open for take-out and you can afford it, treat yo self. And them. Everybody, everybody.

Stay healthy, damnit.

Says the woman who just admitted to panic-baking cakes. I’m serious. Just because you bought a bunch of crappy non-perishable food (guilty) doesn’t mean health should go out the window. You have time to cook healthy meals, you can still buy vegetables, and you can get off your home-office butt and do a few jumping jacks. Get that blood flowing, keep that liver healthy, and don’t let this be an excuse to eat crap. (I can personally confirm that eating cake and Velveeta Mac and cheese does not make coronavirus go away and instead will make you the thirstiest, crankiest, sleepiest human alive.)

Deep-dive into your hobby, or, discover one.

Who knew so many people were good at cross-stitch! I didn’t know my friends had so many abilities outside their regular jobs! Now is the time to bust out creative materials and go to town. And remember: A hobby isn’t supposed to be something you’re “good at”—it’s supposed to be something that brings you joy.

(*ROLLS EYES*) Watch Tik-Tok.

If this made it into the article, it’s a miracle. The reason I am suggesting this seemingly asinine activity is exactly that: For its asinine-ness. There are so many young kids being creative, witty, silly. Some kids are learning long choreographed dances, making pasta from scratch, completing massive jigsaw puzzles, crafting, painting, and laughing uncontrollably at themselves. This kind of creativity lifts me up—and what was once considered a perhaps shameful waste of time has become a source of comfort and inspiration. Tik Tok. Who knew.

I’d be happy to hear from you with any other suggestions for staying healthy, being helpful, and keeping our minds busy. Or just to say hi! Email: aliciaekeler@gmail.com.

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