It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of our fears and the summit of our knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone. — Rod Serling, 1959
By the time you receive this, approximately 300 million people in the United States (~90% of the country’s population) will be living under state- or city-mandated shelter-in-place policies. The daily rhythms you were familiar with will have come to a full stop.
Here in San Francisco, the streets are quiet. Schools, skyscrapers, stadiums, restaurants, bars, theaters, and places of worship sit in ghostly silence. Many storefronts are boarded up. The decreased din of humanity has even changed the Earth’s vibration. Scientists tell us the Earth is shaking less.
We wait in lines, 6-feet apart, to enter the grocery store. We wave at our loved ones through computer screens. We don’t touch each other anymore. The world has entered a twilight zone called COVID-19.
Not all of the news is bad. In our fourth week of shelter-in-place in the San Francisco Bay Area, we hear of encouraging signs that this practice is working. To date, the surge of hospital admissions has not occurred. In fact, emergency room visits decreased by 50% . While we are not out of the woods yet, this brings hope, both to us and you, that we can do something — namely, stay home — to fight this pandemic.
However, when it comes to managing this new shelter-in-place reality, the particulars matter. Do you live alone? Do you reside in a multigenerational household? Are you still going to work? Are you suddenly working from home? Are you out of work all together? Kids or elders to contend with? Pre-existing health and life conditions to manage within this new health crisis? Wondering how to make ends meet and what will remain once this time passes?
You are being asked to respond familiar situations in new, and perhaps unsettling ways. Behind all of these questions and uncertainty is the real prospect that you will be called to confront mounting illness and death of friends, neighbors, colleagues and even family members.
How might you navigate life in the COVID-19 Zone?
This graphic perfectly maps out my shelter-in-place arc over the last few weeks.
For the first ten days, I was in the Fear, and I might add, Lost Zone. We stocked our pantry, binged on social media, and exhausted our Netflix, Hulu, HBO, PBS, and even Youtube watch lists. Exercise came to a halt, as did regular eating, sleeping, and showering. We immersed ourselves in information (both sensational andbalanced) and increased our intake of junk food. I asked myself how long I could stand this.
But at 3am on day eleven, I woke up and told myself that things would be different. I entered the Learning Zone and enrolled myself in an free online Yale University course — The Science of Well-Being. Later that day, I reached out to my Kumu (hula teacher) and we set up a shelter-in-place plan for my continued learning. I eased up on social media and cut back on British period dramas. I began to read old-fashioned books. I re-visited and re-instituted a number of my daily routines — showering, eating balanced meals, wearing actual pants with a button and a zipper.
This stage evolved quickly into the next — the Growth Zone. I began to host zoom calls with friends and colleagues to discuss opportunities to build beloved communities in the midst of this crisis.
I also immersed myself in a “when I have the time” project — digitizing and archiving fifteen boxes of family photos and documents. I discovered stories about my ancestors that gave me hope in these current circumstances.
And I rebooted my Facebook page — Love and Revolution — which is based on the premise that love, not guns, will be the tool for the next revolution. These everyday heroes/heroines/heroixes were recently featured on the page -
J Stevenson — a critical care nurse from Texas (and nephew of a dear friend) who is headed to New York to join the front lines.
Ashley Lawrence — a college student from Kentucky who developed a mask for people to communicate with deaf/hard of hearing folks who read lips.
Zak Hoops — A 6-year old from Montana, who ventured out in the snow and offered a traditional ground blessing dance to heal the world.
The Mera Kitchen Collective — A group of refugee chefs (Chef Iman is pictured) from Maryland who are providing thousands of free meals to people in need.
Barrios Unidos — my brother Nane Alejandrez partnered with Trader Joe’s and Costco to support a food distribution center, serving thousands of people in Santa Cruz, CA.
The stories of these remarkable people affirmed that we are adjusting and we will survive!
In isolation, we can all do something to bring hope and healing to ourselves and others. We have strength to match the fear and — if my discovery over these past several weeks is any guide — we have the skill to navigate our way through the COVID-19 Zone.
Questions for Reflection and Consideration
1. Ask what you have always wanted to do when you had the time. Then ask, if not now, then when? Write a few of these things down and keep this list nearby, just in case.
2. Talk to a friend about how this crisis is presenting opportunities for us to rebuild community with people that we love.
3. Ask what you’re feeding your mind. How might you move away from what brings fear and toward that which reminds you how to reconnect?
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