Stoicism in the time of Covid-19
“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. [People] are disturbed, not by things, but by the view they take of them. First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” Epictitus
How are you?
In this remarkable time, we have agreed to a communal task. Each of us participating in social distancing are holding our part of the social net in an attempt to lessen the impact of Covid-19 on all of us. In doing so, we are choosing how we will participate in an event so incomprehensible we’ll have to wait and see how this all works out. We can’t stop Covid-19 yet but we can turn ourselves in a direction that lessens its impact.
In doing this, most of us stopped engaging in our day-to-day lives, in the usual way, overnight. For some of us, this is due to a swift arc into managing crises. For others this is due to communal agreement to quarantine. We all have pivoted in how we deliver our services. [For some of us, this means not delivering our services.] We are all adapting to the “new normal” as it changes on the regular.
We are all “fine.”
The word “fine,” used to report our current inner weather and our external stressors, suggests we’ve engaged in an internal cost/benefit chart. We quickly assessed our strengths, weaknesses, comforts, discomforts, stressors and points of rejuvenation then consider whether or not stating any of this out loud is worth what comes next. Often, we shut all of that down to the simple phrase: “I’m fine.”
“I’m fine: means: [Choose the ones that give voice to your inner calculations]
- “Fine” is one of the ways we acknowledge that “we’re all in this together.”
- I don’t have a fever or a dry cough……
- I am not alone in this new normal; you are working as hard at this as I am.
- I can manage.
- I’ve figured out how to be in this situation so far.
- I’m adapting.
- I’m holding it together right now.
- Everyone is in this situation so I shouldn’t say anything else.
- I can’t put my experience into words.
- I am not interested in talking about this with you.
- Everyone else seems to have it together.
- I can’t afford to look at or name my experience because I am afraid I will not recover from it.
Underneath “fine” are thoughts, losses, fears, hopes and relief. Be “fine” when it serves you. Attend, for a moment, to loss and fear and relief when it appears. Emotional stoicism serves us as we trudge through our daily tasks [or lack of daily tasks]. Intellectual stoicism, staying focused on our goals and intentions, serves to keep us internally balanced.
Are you tired? Makes sense. Pivoting, new ways of working, crisis driven work [crisis driven inaction] and stoicism are exhausting.
Self Care, right now, means: holding to a routine; accomplishing tasks [making your bed and brushing your teeth, holding a tele-meeting, writing that paper, triaging a patient with shortness of breath]; making space and attending to leaders who share knowledge and information you can use; staying clear of folks shouting that the sky is falling; napping; eating well; attending to those moments when grief and the realization that something is lost make themselves known; connecting with others.
Most importantly, share those moments when grief and the realization that something is lost with someone who can hear you and allow you that moment of awareness. Having the courage to not be “fine” and sharing one’s experience is an act of stoicism and bravery. It takes courage to face, for a moment or three, what you have lost, released or put on hold during this time of change.
Stoicism binds wounds. Stoicism is an act of courage. Stoicism is the willingness to see clearly and respond with direction and intent. Stoicism includes sharing, with a safe person, what is happening beneath your calm exterior. Allow yourself a moment or two to experience your gift/loss to the communal well being. Doing this is an act of refreshing the system, belonging with others and renewing the choice of engagement.
Hang in there. I know you’re fine. I also know you are not fine. Its okay to be both.
Thank you…..very especially for your closing statements to this post.