The universe decided for all of us that we needed some motivation to learn what we had been refusing to acknowledge. Businesses are closed (including my dance studio), events are cancelled (everything I had lined up is off the books), people don’t know if they will have jobs when this is over, performers, artists, and most of those in the service industries have lost all their income, and on top of this, the fear of contracting a serious illness with no cure or treatment looms in the background all the time.
But this isn’t what I want to talk about. It’s happening, we have to deal with it, it is scary and difficult and unknown. The world is changing. The world has changed. We are changing. We have changed.
This unprecedented event has forced us to make the best of something that feels very much like hope is far, far away. But the bleakness is being softened by a connectedness that I have never experienced. A knowledge that the energy of the brightest spirits and souls has moved to a new level, a new place. A place of innovation, creativity, connectedness, empathy, joy, delight and wonder.
Innovation in a Time of Quarantine
This situation brought the creative community to a momentary standstill. No public gatherings, no live performances, no classes, no work. For some performers, these events are their very livelihood. For others, the ability to create is an absolute necessity for mental health and wellness. As a person who performs and creates, I felt like the removal of these possibilities took with it a part of who I am and what makes me enjoy life.
But artists are artists because they have to be. It’s not a choice. Adjustments had to be made to ensure that we could keep doing what we had to do. We started online shows, live stream events and virtual community groups. We found ways to share what we had to share and bring light and laughter to a place where it felt there might be none for quite some time. At this point no idea is a bad idea when it comes to innovation and trying to make this situation work the best we can.
Creativity in a Time of Quarantine
I know I have personally been absolutely amazed by my showgirls. The flood of ideas pouring out of them is completely magical. Wonderful things are happening that I don’t think would have even been considered without the backdrop of these difficult times. Sometimes we get so caught up in what is coming next that we don’t have the time to really develop all the fantastic things that we wish we could. I know that I personally had been thinking about doing an interview/talk show for a long time, but my schedule has been so overwhelming that I just kept setting it aside. Well, not now. I already have a waiting list of people to interview. And I love it. Who would have thought?
Now is the time to try out the things that you might have been thinking about but haven’t had the time to try. Honestly, could anything you think of be stranger than what is happening in reality? I doubt it. Go for it.
Connectedness in a Time of Quarantine
This one might seem a bit out of place given the social isolation trend, but hear me out. I am seeing communities come together in ways I never thought possible. Legions of people are trying their best to help small businesses stay afloat. Online communities for restaurants, artists, performers and more are popping up in cities all across the world.
People who might never have met each other in different circumstances are now enjoying each other’s art, music, food and company. In my own little corner, I have been able to spend time with people I really care about and genuinely enjoy being around; my showgirls. It might seem as though we spend a lot of time together, but the reality is that we rarely spend quality personal time just being. During shows we don’t get to talk. We are running around prepping and performing, with only a sentence or two shared normally.
But in these past few weeks, we have spent many an (online) evening together, laughing and eating and drinking and sharing. I feel closer to them all than ever. Haven’t talked to someone in a while? Now is the time. A call or a message or an online video chat. Check in with people. Talk to people. Ask how they are doing and talk to them about how you are doing. You have the time.
Empathy in a Time of Quarantine
Have it for others (and for yourself). Empathy is a word that people use a lot, but I think they don’t always know or understand the real meaning of this word. I am still learning what empathy is (and what it isn’t). For me, empathy means that I can set aside what my beliefs and wants and needs and personal lens of the world is and look at another person’s experience without bias or judgment. Think and feel how another person thinks and feels. Let another person’s feelings enter your heart and your mind and sit with those feelings without trying to change them or analyze them or make them more like your feelings.
Empathy doesn’t mean feeling bad for someone or saying, “I know how you feel.” Empathy is walking out and sitting with someone in the pouring rain, not trying to make them come inside before they are ready. Empathy is ducking into the shadowy places that feel uncomfortable and scary but being present anyway. Empathy is allowing someone to simply be. Empathy is allowing yourself to simply be.
I was feeling a lot of guilt for my frustration at this situation going on, and the ways that it has affected me, from endangering my internship, to closing my studio, to losing my gigs. I wasn’t providing empathy to myself. I feel hurt, I feel scared, I feel anxious, I feel worried. And that is valid. Other people feel those things, too, and that is valid. I see people genuinely caring for and about one another.
Please also take the time to genuinely care for and about yourself in this time. Many of us don’t even know where to begin to care for ourselves from a mental health perspective. Ask your friends what they are doing for self-care, or even make an appointment to speak to a counselor who is available via telehealth. Care for yourself and you will be able to care for others.
Joy, delight, and wonder in a Time of Quarantine
Although the world feels very far from these words right now, we need them now so much more than ever. We have the time right now to experience these things, and we even have the time to find new things that we might love.
Pick up a pen, a paintbrush or an instrument. Take an online class, talk to someone new, try something new or express yourself in a different way. Find a new author. Find a new musician. Find a new artist. Find a new teacher. Become a new author. Become a new musician. Become a new artist. Become a new teacher.
Ask yourself what really brings you true joy. What brings a smile to your face or a flutter to your heart? What makes you curious and eager? What have you always wanted to do but didn’t have the time for? How can you bring joy, delight and wonder to others? Make a list!
These are really scary times. We don’t know what’s going to happen. Anxiety and uncertainty are floating in the ether. I can’t make the promise that everything will be OK.
But the fact of the matter is that we have no choice but to live each day and do the best that we can. There are so many things we simply can’t control, and those burdens have to be set down. They are heavy and we can do nothing with them when we reach our destination.
What we can control and what we must hold onto is our hope. We can make the decision to live with grace and care and understanding for ourselves and for others. We can appreciate the ways that beauty is blossoming even amid the chaos and dread.
Innovate, create, connect, empathize. Feel and give joy, delight, and wonder. Cry when you must. Laugh because you should. Live every day as much as you are able. Be kind always.