Empty grocery store shelves.
People holding bare hands in the park.
Lines like Communist Russia for goods that sold out days ago.
People sitting outside cafés laughing, perhaps because two days from now, everything that’s still open is scheduled to close.
People on the street coughing into their bare hands and then grabbing door handles with those hands.
More and more Facebook posts from people in hospital beds.
It is a double world, where on one hand toilet paper hasn’t been available for a couple weeks now, and on the other hand people on the street behave as if there were no virus at all.
The news from Italy is that people are dying right and left. The hospitals have to decide whom to let die and whom to save. Policemen are arresting people for standing closer than 1 meter apart in public. The news from England, where the NHS has stopped testing for the virus, is that people are still going out on blind dates every night, exchanging passionate and involved kisses with people they’ve just met. Germany is doing some of both.
As I look around at this all-over-the-place reaction to the arrival of a hugely contagious and sometimes fatal illness, I notice that people are shaping their reality every bit as much as reality is shaping them.
For those who want to panic, panic is available. Everything is closed anyway, so they might as well hide inside their computers, watch the news and get scared. For those who figure they might as well celebrate the return of spring and some time freed from the office, that party atmosphere is here, too. Especially as more and more cafés and pubs close, everyone flocks to the public parks. They are full of musicians, lovers, acrobats, picnickers, children riding their bikes and a full-blown aroma of health and happiness.
Everybody here is creating their reality. In what the news likes to call “uncertain times,” people have to decide for themselves how they want to respond. Since nobody is exactly sure just how scared or not-scared to be, we are all building our lives one step at a time. Because there is no prescribed template for exactly how to be or feel, we are checking in with ourselves on an ongoing basis and responding to life as it comes up.
Since the news is so shitty, a lot of us are spending less time scrolling through social media and more time engaging with the real world, talking with our real friends and focusing on activities that bring us genuine pleasure. With fewer distractions and fewer escapes, some of us are rediscovering long-lost habits like sustained focus, long-span engaged attention, creative rest for the brain, a good night’s sleep and mindfully cooking our own food.
The virus is a sad thing and some of our responses to it create a sad reality. But some of our responses are creating a healthy and wonderful reality! When we respond with fear, we close down our reality. When we respond with curiosity about how else life could unfold, we open up our reality.
Right now the choice is ours. Can we remember that we have this choice in the future and in all the days of our lives?
Reality has an effect on you and you have an effect on reality. How are you going to construct your reality?