Is there some way to find meaning, if not beauty, in our quarantine?
A New York Times journalist goes all the way back to the Holocaust for inspiration, citing what Viktor Frankl calls “tragic optimism.” Frankl, a holocaust survivor himself, describes tragic optimism as “the ability to maintain hope and find meaning in life despite its inescapable pain, loss and suffering.”
That tragic optimism wound up affecting how quickly people recovered from the shock of 9/11, whether or not they had lost someone, and it shows up in the difference between people who recover from a trauma and those who develop PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder.
And, we have been traumatized, make no mistake about it. One licensed professional counselor, Jennifer Yaeger, has a widely-shared post on Facebook that talks about how this trauma affects us. We may become numb and shut down or we may become hyper-vigilant (scrubbing down groceries, for example). It’s hard to focus.
It’s time to be gentle on ourselves.
But it’s also time to look for meaning, while we have the time and space for this kind of reflection. Finding meaning, finding the good in this Coronavirus, is what is going to make us resilient. It’s what is going to make us bounce back when we do open back up.
I turned 60 on the 29th of March. I had planned to make it a big celebration with my husband, daughter and son-in-law and a few hundred others all attending this big Great Gatsby party at a gorgeous mansion in Asheville. I had my flapper dress and fake pearls and bright red lipstick. I had also planned a bit of self-reflection. After all, it’s a big decade-changer.
Well, then the Coronavirus happened and that big, fancy celebration is postponed until fall when everyone hopes life is somewhat back to normal. My daughter is an Emergency Room nurse, so she is not going to even visit me that weekend, in fears that she’ll infect me now that I am at the advanced age of 60.
When she first mentioned this, I protested that I wasn’t in the high-risk population (this was still when they thought only old people were getting the virus).
“You will be in two weeks,” she told me flatly.
NOT how I wanted to spend my big birthday. But you know what? I got some unexpectedly sweet gifts on my birthday and they may never have happened without this quarantine.