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Lisa Quattlebaum's picture

"This piece was originally published at I'm republishing it here because I want MomsRising readers to know how to navigate this new public health terrain with mindfulness, self-care and a sense of joy."

“This is the new normal.”

There is nothing normal about folks hoarding toilet paper, drive-by medical testing, or alerting communities to limit gatherings to 50 people then corralling hundreds of returning citizens into small security check spaces, like cattle being assessed for the market.

Nor should this be considered normal or something we want to ease into and get cozy with.

Certainly, it’s where we are but physical social distancing shouldn’t become criteria for quality living. The mindfulness of how we connect - how our words and actions have an impact on each other, even when we are not directly related, or how negativity and selfishness are contagious has hopefully awakened us to consider a new way of being not normal, but better. Those societal shifts should be normalized as healthy steps toward building community.

These restrictions remind me of Chopped, three-marker challenges, and Marie Kondo purges. They are somewhat stress-inducing albeit positive opportunities to be creative with strange combinations of materials and resources, playfully compete with each other, and the ability to discard old habits, like valuing stuff over people. I’ve been watching the news and I’ve also been watching us, mostly rise to our highest potential as caring, sharing, connected beings.

I’ve seen volunteers make certain that the home-bound elderly and food-insecure children are fed. What a joy to see IT industries expand their services and products for free (Comcast giving away free internet and ZOOM offering virtual meeting packages, 300,000 free laptops distributed in NYC to public school kids) and not just offer minimal pay increases for workers to do non-essential work like fulfilling online shopping orders.

While some universities are being criticized for literally throwing students into the streets, I see other universities dip into their endowments to send disadvantaged students home or set them up temporarily. And let’s not forget our small business owners sending their employees home with perishable products or encouraging them to sign up for unemployment rather than come in unnecessarily. I hope this kind of connectivity is a part of our future and not only a temporary reaction to extreme circumstances.

To further accentuate the positive and keep us motivated to show our love and care here are 8 ways to socially distance yourself yet remain connected.

  • Use technology to actually connect with people. Most of you will be working remotely or your kiddos will be doing their homework online so screen-time will be tripled or quadrupled. The upshot is you may actually grow to want some social distancing from your devices. Siri and Alexa who? We’re not talking about the obligatory virtual face-to-face. We’re suggesting having that phone or facetime chat with Aunt Audry and your bestie who you haven’t actually shared more than a cocktail and gossip with. Need someone to talk to? Try QuarentineChat - an app designed to connect people who may be stuck at home alone.

  • Read. A book. Ideally, one you have in your home. Maybe even one you’ve read before. Read one to your children or have them read their favorite book to you.

  • Do some experimental cooking. Whether you have a fully stocked pantry with whole food staples like brown rice, flax seeds, apple butter, and quinoa or had slim and unusual pickings at the supermarket, this is a prime opportunity to get savvy with urban homestead cooking.

    Skip the fou fou cooking shows and apps (unless you are visually inspired like me or have a ton of exotic ingredients and fancy cheeses - they always have fancy cheeses in those recipes, no?) and check out one of our fave frugal and good food friendly resources, Leanne Brown’s Good and Cheap Cookbook. (Check it out - you can access free pdf English and Spanish versions.)

    And if you have kids, cooking, especially baking is a fun dual purpose way to learn and eat.

    • Take that long bath, do solo yoga or meditate. Self-care is rarely prioritized, but now is the time to cash in on those much needed moments doing nothing or something you love to do but rarely get to do. Women are often tasked with homemaking and household responsibilities on top of out-of-the housework, so many of you may feel like CEO, teacher, janitor, and chef all in one. Take the bath. Lock the door and claim the time alone as self-quarantine.

    • Play a board game with your family. If you don’t have a game, play cards or charades. In fact, you can make up your own game and if you have the supplies on hand, make your own gameboard, cards, pieces, and rules.

    • Clean your house. Yes, I mean with soap and water. A real clean, under things that haven’t been moved in like forever. You’ll find some change (might be helpful in this economy), and rediscover your hardwood floors.

    • Buy Nothing. Join your area Buy Nothing Facebook Group and purge your unwanted or needed things as part of a gift economy. When external restrictions gloom, it’s counter-intuitive to be generous with what you have, unless you perceive yourself in a state of overflow. Purging, a la Marie Kondo as an example is an act of assessing what you really need and feeling a sense of security in that assessment.

      Buy Nothing groups are judgment-free and you can participate by either asking for something or by gifting something. No exchanges and pick up/or delivery logistics can be made through the group. While a benefit of the hyper-local group design is to build community, face-to-face engagement is not required and in this case, porch or doorman drop-off are kosher.

    • Mindfully document your experience. I lived in NYC during 9-11 and I journaled daily about how my city was shape-shifting in so many ways. This was pre-Instagram and TikTok, so a selfie of me in front of Ground Zero was not only not possible, it never crossed my mind, and fortunately no one else’s. My journal did end up in a collection of short stories which was later published to benefit 9-11 survivors and injured first responders.

    • I have the book somewhere in storage. Perhaps I’ll reread it over the next few weeks. Most likely I’ll pass it on to my daughter as a an artifact of her mother’s shared experience with the world. Hopefully, she’ll see it as a window opened to the past and into our humanity at that time. What record of this moment in time can you create? A poem, an artwork, a song, a public health campaign? The possibilities are in these cases quite unlimited.

    • And above all else. Stay safe and healthy.

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