I was leaving work the other day with two friends when a coworker asked, “Are you guys scared of what’s to come in the next two weeks?” I thought for a minute, reflecting on my own emotions recently, before answering yes. She followed with, “Do you think what’s happening in New York will happen here?” I said yes. She then asked, “Do you think we’ll be asked to go work elsewhere?” To this I had no answer, because that’s something none of us knew at that point. We are nurses in a pediatric hospital in New England, an interesting place to be in our current state.
The truth is, I do not feel intense fear overall about what’s to come in the weeks ahead, although I know it is coming and I have other intense fears related to this outbreak. I am far from the front lines, but I do feel a great sadness of what is happening all over the world, uncertainty about how all of this will play out, and an intense fear that I could expose the little ones I work with daily. This is very different than the nurses who are battling COVID-19 daily, whom my heart goes out to, as I cannot even fathom what they are facing. I feel helpless, and yet, doing what I can to stay healthy, stay honest, and advocate for and honor these colleagues, known and unknown. However, I did not come here to write about my perspectives as a nurse, but rather to expand on the fact that my coworker reached out, expressing what we are all feeling inside.
I think we are all scared, sad, and anxious to a certain degree, whether we admit it or not. You see it with the uncomfortable side looks as you walk down the street, the awkward steps to get just a little further away from one other, the questioning eyes of everyone you meet. Or maybe, it’s the much more obvious outburst by a mother who has been bottling up her emotions until she breaks. Perhaps a mask is hiding that glare, or maybe it’s not. But let me ask you this: Has anyone said that smiling is a source of spread with this disease? Do we really need any more reason to feel anxious or scared? In the words of my favorite author Brené Brown, “We don’t have to be scary when we are scared.”
We are all experiencing this pandemic in different ways, but I think we can all agree that collectively it is an unsettling time. We are scared that we may get sick, that we will lose a loved one, that we can’t pay rent, that we don’t know when our life will return to normal. We are sad that we cannot see or hold our loved ones, that pursuing what brought some of us joy may not be an option currently, that so many worldwide are suffering in some unimaginable ways. We are anxious about our jobs, about our family and friends’ safety, about the way in which our world has suddenly been flipped upside down. It is tough times we live in currently, and perhaps now more than ever, we need each other. Just because we are physically distancing at this time to help protect our society as a whole does not mean we need to disconnect socially and isolate ourselves. Although it may look different, there are still so many ways to support one another during this strange and difficult time.
I am guilty of the occasional outburst to those closest to me as I navigate the emotions brewing inside, but I am working daily to recognize it and seeking to correct and reconnect where I can. I am doing my best to be honest with those I love and those I encounter daily to ensure we all feel seen and heard. These are not easy times for anyone, and we need each other. Be kind, be courageous, be gentle. Find hope and joy amidst the fear and sadness, and smile when you can. You don’t know what another is feeling, but I can promise you we could all use a little more love and joy these days. Stay brave, my friends, and stick together, even while staying apart.