Quarantine: Lessons from the Bunker

by jimowensjr

No doubt we’ve all borne witness to everything from the courageousness of healthcare providers and retail employees to the foolishness of hoarding toilet paper during the past five weeks of so complying with stay-at-home orders and social distancing. And it seems to me there are some lessons to be learned, or reminded of in the midst of the COVID19 pandemic.  So what are they?

I’ve realized, more than ever before, it’s better to have something and not need it than to need it and not have it.  When the virus first began to impact our behaviors, all of us saw the panicked buying that went on.  Fortunately, because I’ve tend to buy in bulk, I didn’t have to rush into the fray.  I’d had experience with an extended power outage or two in my life, and I had learned how grateful I was to have coffee and a French Press for making my favorite beverage—on a gas stove.  I’m neither a prepper or a hoarder.  I just don’t like to run out of stuff.  I also had a battery operated AM/FM radio (old school, I know), a battery operated charger, and plenty of batteries.  During the power outages and pandemic, I’ve was glad to be able to keep up some of the comforting rituals of daily life.

Another lesson I’ve reflected upon is that it’s hard to get the anchor down in the midst of the storm.  The pandemic has exposed the cracks in our government, healthcare, supply-chain, and the operating models of our businesses.  It’s also exposed them in our mental health and relationships, or lack of them.  In this case, and those elsewhere in this piece, anything I’ve inadvertently done to get through this crisis has been little more than an accident of my personality and the good will of other people.  Time for reflection and to write is something I enjoy.  Meditation, music, and reading have both helped me prepare and get me through this dystopian period.  My friends, a circle into which I was invited by a business acquaintance about five years ago, have been a remarkable source of encouragement.  His wife made me a mask which both makes me feel pretty and for which I’m immensely grateful.   And talking and texting with them, and my mother, daily has given me a renewed sense of purpose of offering encouragement to them as well.  I’m glad I had this little tribe before all this started.

Having come to the realization a few years ago, when I quit a perfectly good job, to pursue something I was passionate about, I had already decided security is something of an illusion.  That doesn’t mean it’s not wise to save and invest money.  Or to be mindful of our emotional and physical well-being.  But back in 2008, when I was still in banking, I watched as people around me—talented and diligent professionals—get lose their jobs.  For those of us who were fortunate enough not to be caught up in those reductions in force, we went several years with reduced salaries and no raises. Years ago, I heard a wise man say we are little more than a few weeks away from a personal, professional, or societal crisis.  But humans are terrible at understanding risks.  Every year people slip, fall, and die from the simple act of bathing.  Car crashes kill us by the thousands.  And accidents with lawn mowers, fire crackers, ladders, and power tools maim, blind, and kill us.  Yet we fear being murdered or dying in plane crashes far more than we should.  If security isn’t an illusion, it’s definitely something of a relative perception.

Hopefully, I’ll continue to be mindful of  all these things.  But, like everyone else, I have a short memory.  We all have to go to the school of hard knocks, I think.  But we don’t have to take every course—or worse, repeat them because we’ve failed to learn from the one’s we’ve already completed.  So, as we return to whatever normal looks like once this crisis abates, I will be investing even more of my time and energy in  my relationships and well-being.  I’ll try to be less attached to my sense of what security.  And, to be sure, I’ll continue to make sure I have enough coffee, batteries, and toilet paper on hand.