What a pandemic has taught me – Lesson 3

As you know, I teach classes about mindfulness.  Jon Kabat-Zinn brought the concept of mindfulness to light and defines it as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally”.  Dictionary.com defines mindfulness as “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something”.  

There are so many things in our lives that just require an awareness for us to make changes.  When we become aware of habits, we can take steps to change them.  When we become aware of emotions or how our body feels, we can acknowledge and take any steps necessary to find healing.  When we become aware of the fact that our feet are on fire, we can take steps to put that fire out.  Sidenote: my husband uses that example for questioning being in the present moment.  He always says that if his feet were on fire he wouldn’t want to be in the present moment. “That moment sucks”, says he.  To which I state, if you weren’t in the present moment, you wouldn’t have the wherewithal to know that your feet were on fire in the first place.  We are still at a stalemate on this.  

Anyway, you get my point; I hope.  In order to thrive in this life, we need a level of awareness.  When I teach this stuff, I use the example of the Costco shopper (sorry Costco but you could replace with Walmart or any other store that draws masses).  How many times have you been shopping in Costco and you’re trying to get down the aisle only to have it blocked by a cart by someone who is completely not paying attention to the fact that there are other shoppers in the store who may just want to shop in the same aisle? I’ll come back to this a little later, but wanted you to understand.  

So, last week our local health unit put out a recommendation that everyone should wear masks while inside indoor public places.  There was a bit of a fuss.  I’ve seen this in the media already in bigger cities with people protesting that they shouldn’t be forced to wear a mask and it’s their right not to wear a mask and so on.  

I, myself, don’t get bent out of shape about things like that.  If the health unit recommends that we wear masks then it must be for good reason.  Where I live, it has not been made enforceable but more as a preventative measure to keep the curve flat and our community healthy.  I get and respect that.  It’s a recommendation made by those who deal with all that is public health (obviously) to mitigate the risk of transference.  I see this as similar to my choice to wear a helmet when I ride my bicycle.  It’s not a law, but I choose to do so to mitigate the risk of squashing my gorgeous melon if I fall off or get hit.  

I wear my seatbelt because studies have shown that your chances at surviving a motor vehicle accident are much greater if you do.  I wear a helmet when I ride my motorcycle because it is quite clear to me that if I have an accident on a motorcycle and hit my head, well then, I’m either severely cognitively impaired for the rest of my life or I’m dead.  I would do these things even if they weren’t the law.  Call me a rule follower.  I guess you could also call me a recommendation follower.  Why take the risk?

Alright, so I’ve set the scene.  Now I will lead you into my third lesson as a result of a pandemic.  My husband calls it…wait for it…”covetiquette”.  Cute, right?

In order to keep each other safe and healthy, we need to be aware of some general rules that need to be followed. I say this because, in my opinion, this is how we will all get through this together, with a sense of community and with kindness and compassion.  Feel free to correct me with supporting data if I’m wrong.  

Past experiences show that we human beings show our kindness, compassion and helpfulness during times of need.  Think of any disaster and the outreach that has happened.  For most of us, it’s in our nature.  

But with this COVID thing, it’s a little different.  Everyone is a potential threat.  However, what we should have all realized, at this point, is that we are all just human beings on this planet trying to survive.  I keep hearing that we are all in the same storm, just in different boats. 

So, as a fellow human being, let’s take a moment to review some “Covetiquette”. These are general practices, rules if you will, that we should all employ to ensure the safety, efficiency and fairness in our new norm when out and about.  You can also call it “how not to be an asshole in public”. Sidenote: keep in mind that I had just watched Zombieland 1 & 2 before I wrote these so they may have that feel.  

  1. Be prepared.  You know the shopping world has changed.  We have to stand in line, wear a hot mask and keep our distance in the store. When you go to a store be prepared to make yours and everyone else’s time efficient.  This would include having wipes handy, having a list, being ready to make payment when you get to the cashier.
  2. Pay attention (aka be mindful or aware).  You are not the only person in line, in the store, at the checkout.  Notice your surroundings – there are other people trying to get their shit done too.  As indicated above, this is something that applied pre-virus that I called the mindless shopper.  You know, the people who are in the middle of the aisle so no one can get by, or that leave their cart and block everyone or decide to have a 30 minute conversation with some long lost neighbour in the store holding everyone up.  Awareness is key to survival at any time.
  3. Be respectful of others.  We are maintaining physical distancing so as not to spread the virus.  Learn what 2m or 6ft look like. Put a pool noodle on your head if you can’t figure it out (yep, saw that online).  Give people space – many of them are scared or have vulnerable people in their lives.  Or just trying to get their shopping done safely.
  4. Be respectful of people’s time.  Things take longer to do now because of limited numbers in stores, waiting lines and physical distancing.  Don’t spend time standing in an aisle trying to figure out what the hell you want like my recent experience; how long does it take to select a tomato when there are 2 other people waiting to select a tomato or something close to the tomatoes like cucumbers?  I really hope that guy who took 4 minutes (that’s a long time when you’re waiting for someone to pick a tomato – just ask anyone I’ve told to do jumping jacks for even one minute) really enjoyed his salad/sandwich/salsa. Be considerate so people don’t have to wait on you to figure your shit out while holding everyone up.  See #1 – be prepared. 
  5. Stay home.  That is still the message from health officials.  Ask yourself why you are out in the first place.  Are you just bored and wasting time?  Don’t put yourself and others at risk.  Find a new hobby, go for a walk, find ways to be a better person, spouse, parent etc. instead of just floating around trying to fill your time.  Consider this time as a gift to do some self-discovery/introspection/find your purpose. Maybe try some free online yoga classes…I might be able to help you out (wink).
  6. In general, don’t be a dick.  This rule applied before coronavirus but I feel it needs to be repeated…repeatedly.