Holly Richardson: Finding comfort in times of crisis

A tourist was a mask to help avoid getting coronavirus as she stands next to the statue of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Parliament Square in London, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. A British government minister Nadine Dorries, who is a junior Heath minster has tested positive for the coronavirus and is self isolating. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Charles Dickens

When Charles Dickens wrote the lines above, he was writing about the French Revolution, but I think they can rightly be applied to today. We have seen this global crisis bring out the best in humanity, and sadly, the worst. Some are being wise, some are being foolish, some feel hopeful but many are riddled with anxiety. If that is you, please know you are not alone.

We likely all will have a moment (probably multiple moments) when it hits us that this stuff is real. That people are dying. That as a nation, a state and maybe even a household, we were not actually prepared for a real crisis. That it is going to take a while — maybe a long while — for things to return to normal.

When wading into the unknown (or more accurately, when thrown into the deep end of the unknown) it is normal to be discombobulated, to feel unmoored and to grasp for the familiar and the “certain.” We humans really dislike uncertainty and our whole world has been turned on its head in the last couple of weeks.

It’s ok to take a break from the normal. In fact, it’s pretty much a guarantee that your routine, whatever it is right now, is different than “normal.” It’s OK — and normal — to feel confused and distressed. Offer grace to yourself and everyone else who is doing their best. Practice patience. Practice kindness. Practice deep self-care. Practice gratitude. Journal. Feel all the feelings.

In addition to the scary feelings, it’s OK — and normal — to also have hope and faith in a future on the other side of this pandemic. Can you name good things that have come out of at least two weeks of social isolation? I can!

Here are just a few: My husband’s job has talked about “allowing” people to work remotely but never could quite figure out how to get there. In a matter of a couple of days, they’ve figured it out. University classes have all been moved online, drastically reducing the amount of time I need to spend in the car. Much to my children’s dismay, I believe there is now more time to focus on unfinished projects around the house.

We live in the age of the internet, allowing us to stay connected, even while we are isolating. And, this time of staying home invites us to slooow down. Reflect. Reassess. Re-evaluate. Re-prioritize. Re-connect. All of those are positives in my book.

I invite you to spend some time reflecting on what hopeful actions you might take today, tomorrow, this week and next. Engage in sharing funny memes. Write that letter of love and gratitude you’ve been meaning to. Read an actual book. Record yourself reading a children’s book and then share it. Join your neighbors in singing from your balconies. Support your local restaurants by ordering take-out and picking it up from your car. Reach out to your friends and family who already struggle with anxiety and depression. Share uplifting messages via video streaming. Create a neighborhood “window walk” like a Suncrest neighborhood by putting fun things in their homes’ front windows for kids to see and find.

Be the helpers that Mr. Rogers knew to look for.

There’s an old saying attributed to Winston Churchill that advises: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” I firmly believe in the strength and indomitability of the human spirit. We will get through this and we will do it together, even if it means being apart in body for a while.

Holly Richardson

Holly Richardson is a regular contributor to The Salt Lake Tribune.