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Life With Benny 4.0: Let's reach out to each other

Where do I even begin? We are living through an incredibly unique moment in modern history, and it’s changing the very basic ways that we all live. With the worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), we’ve all had to stop and think about the ways we do the most basic things - like washing our hands. Some entire nations are on lockdown, and the County of San Diego, following state of California guidance, has put a legally enforceable order in effect restricting gatherings of more than 249 people from taking place.

Universities have shifted all instruction to online only. Beloved community events, theater productions, and public gatherings that were scheduled to happen have been postponed or outright cancelled. Even some events, like Los Angeles Pride, scheduled as far out as early June, have announced the postponement of their 50th anniversary celebration. The e-mails and Facebook event cancellation notices keep piling in, we are bombarded with news about the pandemic, many people have had their work hours reduced or completely cut, and many others have been re-assigned to work from home.

The term of the day is “social distancing” and we’re learning how to adjust our lives to have limited contact contact with others, and of course, practice much better personal hygiene including washing our hands more often, using hand sanitizer frequently, and not touching our faces (who knew how often we all did that until we’ve started thinking about recently!). Of course, the panic shopping is happening as well, with supermarkets and stores like Costco seeing extra long lines with people stocking up in case of a quarantine, and seeing shelves emptied of items like bottled water, sanitizer, disinfectant products, and of course, toilet paper. 

The health advisories and precautions that our government officials have released are necessary, and hopefully a majority of the population will follow them so we can kick this pandemic to the curb and get back to our normal lives. And our community, more than many, knows how to come together in the face of a difficult situation like this. 

But this time is a little different. Often, when we face a crisis that leads so many people to be fearful of something, one of our responses is to create spaces for people to come together, be in community, give lots of hugs, and do what we can to maintain a sense of normalcy.

But this is anything but normal.

I don’t have many answers, but I’m putting this out there to encourage all of us to check-in on each other more so than usual. This of course, is where we’ll need to use our technology for good, since many people, especially the more vulnerable populations like those over 65-years of age or those with compromised immune systems have been asked to have as limited contact as possible with others.

Whether you are taking this pandemic seriously or not, please keep in mind that it is causing great stress for many people. 

-People in the high risk medical groups are concerned about their health and what contracting COVID-19 might mean for them. 

-People in the arts, entertainment, nightlife/bar, service, event management, theatre, and other related industries are worried about their livelihoods. Many of these people have had their work hours drastically reduced or for some, completely cut because their entire job relies on serving spaces that have had to shut down due to health concerns.

-Community members who already feel isolated, may have had some of the only social interactions they have been put on hold since many support/discussion groups, religious services, and other social gatherings have been put on hold. 

-Whether we think it’s “selfish” or not, some people absolutely look forward to major community events each year like music festivals, circuit parties, and other similar events, and having these postponed or cancelled causes emotional stress for many who were excited about these aversions from daily life. 

-And of course, all of us are bombarded with non-stop daily news and updates, we all have family members or loved ones in high risk health categories, and having to change our daily routine is difficult.

This is stressful for everyone - and we need to be there for each other. Absent of being able to hold physical space for each other, let’s get creative. Whether it be creating online video support forums, chat groups, or just sending someone a text to say hello, it can go a long way. The old fashioned phone call is an incredible thing, too!

We need to especially check-in on our senior community, too. Just like we always say we should do on those really warm summer days, we should do the same now. Whether or not they are ill, many have an extra amount of worry they are carrying around right now. We need to let them know we are here for them. 

I’m typically pretty emotionally strong, but found myself feeling pretty anxious toward the end of yesterday, after being bombarded with news, and started to see the event cancellations roll in. A couple of my close friends were also taking the news really hard and I was doing my best to reassure them that they and we would be ok. But I found myself more worried than usual and in a state of panic. I’m lucky to have a great support network, but realized not everyone does - and even for those who do - we’re all feeling a little off right now.

More than ever, let’s remember to take care of each other, check-in on each other, and check-in on ourselves. It’s going to be scary for a little while, and life is going to feel different for a while, but we’re going to get through this - and hopefully come out stronger. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at anytime if you, too, just need someone to chat with!