Gratitude in the Midst of Covid-19: Listening for What the Universe is Trying to Tell Us
Updated: May 3, 2020
"Many people are going to meet themselves for the first time in this quarantine.”
– Daphney Guillaume
“Thank you. Yes, I understand. Thank you again…” I heard the beep of his mobile as the call ended and waited for him to reappear at the bedroom door. Well?” I prompted looking for traces of hope in his face. “It’s like I said.”, “What?” “He’s gone.”
As the news of my ex’s father succumbing to the coronavirus sank in, I fully understood at that moment that recovery rates, underlying conditions, at-risk populations, and advocating to close the gaps in health disparities by class, immigration status, and race does not make up for a person’s loved one, let alone parent, no longer living as a result of Covid-19’s unprecedented pillaging of our communities. Our world is hurting right now. Deeply and scarred. None of the stats and figures can do much to bring comfort in that moment, with the possible small exception of knowing that for each person who has been directly impacted, he, she or they is not alone in living through this unthinkable experience.
With many families across the five boroughs, our nation and the world waiting to receive that phone call, the darkness behind this silent disease is not only in the illness itself and the isolation we have all experienced while sheltering in place, but it is the isolation Covid-19’s casualties are relegated to in their final days and hours without the presence of familiar faces, a hug and a kiss, a touch on their arm from those who love them. It is an image that I have difficulty digesting for others and do not want to imagine for myself. Yet, from this experience, I take solace in how quickly the coronavirus has brought into view all we do have to be grateful for if we are available to listen.
It was 3 or 4 years ago when I first began making a concerted effort to focus my attention on gratitude. Something that started as a personal quest for peace of mind, gratitude has become part of my everyday practice from making gratitude lists and daily readings to prayer and meditation. Then somewhere along the way, I felt the impulse to start sharing the good news about gratitude with my community and friends which led to my #gratitudechallenge series across my social media channels. While focusing on gratitude may feel counter-intuitive or inauthentic in the midst of trauma and tragedy, I assert that staying in gratitude is the most critical tool in our spiritual toolbox to even begin to process the enormous weight of the present state of the world.
As the novel coronavirus, with its global full-stop, neck-breaking pause, continues to broaden its impact on all of us, having the ability to maintain our joy and point out all the good has become central to our enduring. In fact, when embraced, gratitude is a force that gives life, allows us to be our most creative, and in this case can bring us back to asking how can we contribute to, yet be originators, within the collective consciousness.
SO HOW DO WE MOVE INTO AN ACTIVE STATE OF GRATITUDE IN THE MIDST OF COVID-19?
At its foundation, our ability to make positive contributions to the collective consciousness begins with getting quiet. As we navigate our second month of self-quarantine, moving into an active state of gratitude requires us to be fearless in taking time out to be with ourselves, whether through meditation, taking a social distancing walk, or any method you find most soothing in centering yourself. For many of us, there is a reason “all my distractions have been stripped away”, to quote Brandi Harvey from this month’s Breathe by OMNoire's Virtual 2.0 Retreat.
“In fact, the greatest gift we can give ourselves in times of deep uncertainty and its subsequent adversity is to practice gratitude…and, in the case of Covid-19, doing our part to #stayhome and practice social distancing.” – the author
While I initially struggled to set boundaries around the blitz of all things virtual, doing the most to engage in every Zoom, webinar, and digital conference that felt relevant to my business, livelihood, and previous social engagements, following the powerful messages I gained from the retreat, I found myself stepping back to take stock. To acknowledge in my drive for social intimacy I was overdosing on technology and introducing new distractions where the former ones had just been taken away.
I felt clear that the universe is trying to tell us something, and it is not to fill the void of physical distractions with digital ones. Who is it that I am running from? What feelings of anxiety or sadness do I want to avoid? As my friend Daphney commented to me one day, “A lot of people are going to meet themselves for the first time in this quarantine…” I concurred, “If we allow ourselves to.”
All around me the rush to get back to “normal” felt detached as if the world is afraid to find out who we are if we just sit still for a minute. What will happen if I take time to think about what I want to awaken in myself coming out on the other side of this extended solitude?
To turn my experience right-side up, it has taken a willingness in the quiet moments to feel my uncomfortable feelings about my isolation, loved ones lost*, and the uncertainty about the future. As I honored how I really felt, I was able to see how much I have been driven by externals to make myself feel better, when really the universe is calling me to go within. Inside is my own rhythm, my innermost visions, and my core sense of gratitude that acknowledges all in my life that I cannot take for granted.
As one thought in gratitude leads to another, from the basics of food, health, and safety to cherishing the bonds with family and friends that feed me, focusing on gratitude activates the true opportunity presented by this experience...to be released from the unconscious drivers that limit our clarity, our viewpoint, and our self-expression. Instead, space is created to receive what is our unique offering to contribute to the collective consciousness. It’s peeling back another layer in our journey to the freedom of being our highest selves.
For those of us not in the medical or related professions, doing our part to stop the spread of Covid-19 by sheltering in place can easily feel like “I am not doing enough”. It is an intrinsic part of the human experience to be drawn to helping others however we think we can. Yet, in doing our part to #stayhome, I assure you it is enough. I commend all our healthcare workers for showing up for the awesome task they have been given, for which we can never repay. My gratitude is in the unity and beauty of my neighbors and I wholeheartedly cheering at 7 pm on the dot, and in the nurse, I shouted “Thank you!” to as I saw her coming home from a night shift early this morning. It is in the recovery stories of those who have weathered through coronavirus and have come out on the other side. It is gratitude for the lives that were lived.
While my ex’s father, Josiah Alexander Peddie, touched all the boxes, age 76, black and diabetic, is now counted among the more than 66,000 people who have died in the U.S. and the more than 239,000 deaths worldwide** and counting, his life lived and contributions made forged a path for future generations. He loved and he was loved. I’d like to think he and anyone loss to this pandemic had someone there who gave the same tender treatment and sense of humanity in their final transition as the care nurses like Simone Hannah-Clark illustrated in one of the most sincere op-eds I have read in The New York Times in a very long time, as “we wrap the patient’s body securely, stroking her brow and wishing her well on her next journey…”. It is in these moments of gratitude that we begin to memorialize and to harness the wealth of talent, history, information, livelihood, and ingenuity, each life represents.
For those dealing with a loss, the journey is far from over with the end of that phone call. Navigating overflowing funeral homes, travel bans that prevent families from mourning together and a 30-day backlog on cremation add to the devastation. Yet, even here there is a sense of communities banning together. My heart is warmed by small businesses led by black women like Candid Art, Eki’s Famous, and HUMAN INTONATION’s commitment to pivoting their creative work in ways that support our communities through Covid-19.
It is a sense of community I hope will outlast the return to “normalcy”, though I foresee how I choose to spend my time after this will be different. The world after this is going to be different. When we are free to move about, I believe what we have practiced focusing on now will lead our experiences into the new world. With the time we have remaining in quarantine, what will receive your focus? My focus is on gratitude.
*Dedicated in memory of my Godfather Cyrus Allen who we loss to Covid-19 on April 22, 2020.
**Statistics at the time of publishing according to Worldometer.