Through this crisis I have learned many things.
I have learned that the kindness of strangers can be a lifeline and that also there is no limit to selfish, greedy f***wits. I have learned to completely give up vanity and any beauty services and can live just fine with my roots showing and chipped nails. I have also learned that I care deeply about the sweet girl who cuts my hair and my single mom manicurist and am concerned how they will live without this essential income. I learned I have been putting on my make up in entirely the wrong way and am now an expert on “smoky eyes for those over 35.”
I have learned you can work out for free online with German body builders. You can put a bit of dish liquid and water on the floor by the sink, hold onto the counter, and use the slippery floor as a treadmill. Toilet paper is actually a real and valuable currency. I have revisited Anselm’s ontological argument for the existence of god and have enough time to contemplate whether I agree or not.
I have learned that many people out here do not fully understand the work of our amazing volunteer ambulance and fire fighters. The people on the front line of this epidemic are not paid. They only get a slight property tax relief for their duties. Unlike others who serve, they do not get salaries and pensions and health insurance. And they make this sacrifice when they need to care for their own families most.
I have learned that those you might rely on are nowhere in sight and that a brief romance in Rome can lead to a deeply soulful connection that sends you strength from Beirut. A crisis pours gasoline on the flames of regret. Without distraction, time stops sprinting and slows to an unsteady gait. I have learned negativity is more negative and positivity is more positive although naivete is not rewarded. Not since the rotary phone have people made such an effort to call those they care about.
A stiff upper lip is useful when drinking martinis, but if there was ever a time to ditch the sugar coating and be vulnerable, it is now. I have learned how loud the bird calls are and how often the ambulance siren is going by these days.
I have learned that when there is one house on fire, everyone rushes to bring water to stop the flames, but when everyone’s house is on fire, you just try to get out alive.
I have learned that it has taken a global crisis to shine the brightest possible light on the economic disparity of wealth in this country. Restaurant workers, staff for sporting, cultural, and conference events, the travel industry, those in the arts and theaters and music halls and museums, freelancers . . . the list goes on and on. I have learned that those who have not known the anxiety ridden, soul crushing, can’t sleep, shame inducing, ‘how did I get here as such a talented and hard-working person,’ ‘I used to bite my nails but now can’t put my fingers in my face’ experience of life may not truly understand.
Yet those without financial worries cannot ignore the headlines of the economic impact on the majority of the population. And they do so at their own peril. Maybe when every woman has had their non-essential Botox injections cancelled, we will be able again to collectively raise an eyebrow at the inequity. Do not doubt our power.
I have learned and I have learned and I have learned.
But many have not.
I have learned the importance of breath. Because in the end, that is the most important gift of all.