Here we are. Day 3, midday. Things are very quiet in Paris. The schools are all closed so there is an eery absence of the sound of children playing in the schoolyard during recess. One or two people shuffle about, running errands. I’m here writing, working. The loneliness is creeping in, although I’m used to working from home during the day so it’s not such a jarring change as it might be for others.
The weather has been glorious. Sunny and warm (69F/21C). It must be driving the Parisians crazy to be stuck inside. They’re such social creatures. It’s part of the reason we’re in confinement now: they wouldn’t heed the president’s mandate to stay home and practice social distancing. “Defied” is a better word. So now we’re being forced to stay home, with police and military on hand to enforce this new confinement.
To be fair, we are not on total lockdown yet. There is no curfew; we are not confined to certain regions or districts. We are allowed to go to work, run errands, walk the dog, etc. with the proper documents. I’m not sure how long this will last. Word is they are already talking about extending the 15-day confinement. Italy tried softer approaches, too, but now measures are extreme—you could face up to 12 years in prison if you disobey the rules of confinement there. There is a price for denial. And we’re paying it.
If your local and national authorities are telling you to stay home unless absolutely necessary, listen to them. Stay home. No, don’t go to the gym where people exchange bodily fluids. Or to the salon where your stylist has to be close to your head. And no—dear lord!—don’t get a facial. The stories I’m hearing coming out of the States are curling my hair. If your local politicians are not taking this seriously, you must. Don’t deny the facts because the truth is too inconvenient. You can’t compare a year’s worth of flu statistics to three months of this. This virus is more contagious than the flu (RO score for H1N1 is 1.4; Covid-19 is 1.5-3.5*), and there is no vaccine or cure—yet.
The good news: If we work together now, we can flatten the curve of this pandemic, and cut down the number of new cases. Asia has made strides—China, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan are seeing a reduction of new cases. Social distancing works.
So stay home now and we’ll recover from this faster. We’ll return to our lives faster. The economy will bounce back faster. Make a small individual sacrifice for the good of the whole.
One for All, All for One
And that’s my point today: a crisis like this can make us very self-focused, selfish even. We worry about our own lives, the lives of our families. It’s a normal instinctive reaction. But it’s not responsible. We empty shelves at stores, depriving others of what they need to stay healthy and safe, too. Those in denial who continue to go about their normal lives run the risk of infecting others because they don’t feel sick. This is a pandemic. What happens to your neighbor happens to you. If you want your life to return to normal, you’ll need everyone to come out whole.
Think of yourself as a cell in a giant organism that spans the globe. And if that organism becomes sick, the only way to heal it is to treat every cell the same. One rogue cell could could bring down the whole organism. Now is the time to ban together, work together, and get out of our own heads. The moment you do, you will already feel less helpless and fearful. This is the way to live all the time, not just now. If the spread of this virus shows us anything, it’s that we are all connected.
This pandemic will teach us what’s important, what we value. It will also teach us how to live better, healthier, and more humane lives. Crisis brings change. We can’t help the destructive changes that will come out of this, but we can be source of the positive changes.
Tip of the day: Social distancing does not mean social isolation
For those of you holed up alone, like me, being in confinement can worsen this time. Make it a point to reach out to your friends and loved ones every day. Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime—all have video chat options. Set up a Facebook or Whatsapp group for your immediate circle to check in every day. Stay connected to stay out of your head, and this time will go by more sweetly.
*World Health Organization
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