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Sometime in January, I was talking with my friend Francyne, or to my daughters Aunt Francyne, who is from England but is currently teaching the equivalent of 4th grade in China. She was sharing with me her experience with a virus called COVID-19. Everyone in Beijing China was quarantined. Francyne told me about having to wear a mask whenever she left the house and if she were to go somewhere, they took her temperature. I visited her virtual classroom and she showed me how she was teaching her students from her living room. I had a visceral reactions with several different thought/feelings:

1. How awesome to be able to continue teaching her students from her home virtually and

2. The thought of not leaving the house?!?!?!?! Or being prevented from having contact with others?!?!?!?! Felt overwhelming.

The words, “I could NEVER do that” popped into my head several times and a feeling of complete dread and almost panic swept over my body. “I am so glad that isn’t us” and “I could never do that” followed suit in my thoughts.

So many things about HER situation seemed IMPOSSIBLE to me. Here we are a month and half later, social distancing and quarantined. I too am doing my job virtually (fortunately); my husband is homeschooling our children and the only social interactions I can have are through a computer screen or with a mask on my face at the supermarket. Social distancing makes me feel deeply sad. I find it disturbing that being close to another person feels dangerous and reckless. This experience is stressful.  It impacts us all in different ways with different stressors as prominent. Whether you are an introvert or extravert, we are hardwired to physically socialize with one another. We “read” body language, facial expressions, timing, phrasing, intuition and the exchange of energy between people in order to connect. The felt sense shared between people are what we hunger and desire and keeps us alive. Person to person contact being removed from us, for now, is hard. I am finding my heart feeling grief and loss a lot these days. I cannot help crying (hysterically) when I see students sending videos and messages to their teachers saying “We miss you”, “stay safe”, watching the applause of another COVID survivor leave the hospital, and people demonstrating their gratitude for healthcare works/medical professionals/grocery store workers. I watch my children who are 7 and 9 (almost 10), who are opposite personalities navigate this experience as best they can. I feel sad for them.

I could go on and on about my personal feelings of grief and loss, but I also noticed something else, the expansiveness of time. 

Within the first week, I noticed this palatable shift from chaos to stillness. I felt an unwinding of running through my typical day to having time to notice the moment and being more aware and emotionally available within those moments. I was able to find some elements of virtue. This is not minimizing the hard feelings, but rather acknowledging this is our innate ability and the beauty of being human. We can feel all the complexities within our experiences. Shifting and adjusting is resilience and where gratitude sometimes hides.

During this deeply disturbing time, I have been reminded of what is most important to me, connecting to my family, being able to take more walks alone and/or with my family, I see more people out walking and enjoying the blasts of beautiful weather in a way I had not seen before, meditating more, being in my body more fully and easily, having more grace for myself when I need it, and to learn the lessons from my father: to invest all your time and energy purposefully into things that help and heal the body which in turns helps heal the heart and mind. In other words, this opportunity provides me the space to listen and honor myself and give to others in a way I never thought possible.

-Vicki Braunstein, LCSW