Our lives have been irrevocably altered.

The Covid 19 crisis isn’t just a major speed bump in our lives. No, it’s more like an earth-shifts-on-its-axis occurrence. The section of the road of life that we’ve anticipated heading down has been swept away. We’re being signaled off the road to take a different route. Maybe it will end up being only a long detour but I’m beginning to believe, with each passing day, that our ideas about life and our corresponding behaviors are being severely challenged and altered.

Am I ready for such a monumental shift or am I stubbornly waiting to have my old life back?

Stuck in waiting for how to move forward in the face of Covid 19.

My life in Italy during the next phase and after this pandemic is hard to fathom. We’re getting snippets of what the next phase will bring on and after May 3. Italy’s government has given that day as the tentative date for relaxing the current lockdown. That’s all dependent on our infection and fatality curves continuing to head downhill to a manageable level. What is even manageable is beyond my imagination and intellectual abilities. And, our curves (see them on World O Meter) are creeping down, not racing down. At the current rate of descent, I can’t imagine how we’re going to be at levels that give us confidence in venturing out in more than small ways.

We're still pretty much in the dark about the next Italian phase of response to Covid 19 will be.

Fleeting glimpses of life ahead here in Italy.

We’re hearing that probably, after May 3, all Italian residents will be confined to the borders of their respective regions. Maybe this is in response to growing tensions between the central and regional governments. Sound familiar to those of you in the States? Consider this from Giada Zampano’s online article at Anadolu Agency (read the full article here):

“As the northern Lombardy and Veneto regions started to plan possible re-openings of productive activities even before the end of the lockdown on May 3, the southern Campania region threatened to “close its borders” to northerners to avoid risks of a new contagion.”

If regional movement is prohibited, for us that would mean we can’t leave Veneto and head to our secluded home in the hills of Umbria. There, I think we’d breathe more easily (literally) as we ride out the Covid 19 crisis. Perhaps there will be some “give” for people like us with second homes. But I believe the government won’t want to open that potential can of worms while this pandemic still has legs. I’ve been watching, with a good bit incredulity,  coverage of the people flocking to the beaches in Florida now that the restrictions are being gradually lifted. I believe that’s a prime example of how human patience wears thin. Floridians only had to endure just over two weeks of lockdown. Here in Treviso, we’re entering week seven of restrictions. I can only imagine how Italian residents will behave after so many weeks of lockdown.

Beyond regional movement, speculation is that bars and restaurants will remain closed. Maybe more restaurants will be open for takeout and delivery. I sure hope so to give people a fighting chance of staying in business. A face mask may become a semi-permanent facial feature. Gloves may also become part of the equation. And, possibly high-risk people may be obliged to stay in lockdown longer. That one is a toughie, especially since we are learning, with more and more studies, that asymptomatic youngsters can bring it into a household with older occupants. Keeping Italian grandparents away from their grandkids is going to be a tall order. Plus, where is the age cutoff? How would that be enforced?

I’m starting to break myself from even uttering the words “back to normal.”

You might think that I’m adopting a jaded attitude in the face of this pandemic and that I should be more optimistic. Well, I am optimistic, but not in the way that most people think or want. I’m entertaining the idea, albeit feebly, that life might offer something better and wiser when the threat of Covid 19 passes. Yes, I know that’s a tall order, especially when we feel like we’re living a real-life disaster movie. And it’s particularly challenging to do while swimming in a dearth of information about what lies ahead. We might have ideas, many of them educated, but let’s face it, it’s still a guessing game.

At best, a peace treaty with Covid 19.

In the short term, I believe the best we can hope for will be a dependable, therapeutic treatment. At least it will stop us from feeling like we’re on the ropes and being pummeled by the coronavirus. It can buy us time and restore a certain measure of order and sanity until an effective vaccine can be ramped up and rolled out. Then maybe Covid 19 will be knocked back to the status of a pesky ailment like the common cold and flu.

But, the fact remains that Covid 19 has taken life as we know it offline for a solid chunk of time. How businesses can ramp up again in the wake of coronavirus? How can people whose lives have been thrown so far off-center regain their footing? What about all the plans and dreams that have been dashed?

Grieving the loss of the “known.”

I’ve had to have a come-to-Jesus talk with myself as a result of the Covid 19 crisis. This thing hasn’t been vanquished and the crime scene cleaned up, allowing me to pick up my life and my plans as they existed before.  I’m referencing the Five Stages of Grief as articulated by Elisabeth Kubler Ross & David Kessler (read the article at Grief.com). Covid 19 is delivering physical death on a scale with which we’re not familiar. It’s also delivering a death of our expectations about how life is supposed to turn out for us. In case you don’t already know the five stages, they are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. In retrospect, I spent several weeks in denial, primarily because an experience of this magnitude just didn’t compute. I also suffered from the disease I call “This will never happen to you.” Well, it hasn’t physically landed on me (not that I know of, but until I’m tested I won’t know). But, it has stopped most of my life in its tracks. Anger came quickly, and it still makes regular guest appearances. Bargaining? Well, that came in the form of trying to do some kind of mental magic to harness Covid 19’s impact on my life. You know, if you keep obsessing about it, and attacking it at every angle mentally, and maybe even spiritually, it will yield?

Now? I’m somewhere between depression and acceptance. I’m experiencing plenty of moments feeling dejected and hopeless. Riding with and through those emotional hit-and-runs aren’t easy, but they do pass. Now acceptance is making itself known, even though there has been plenty of internal kicking and screaming along the way.

Covid 19 makes us re-render our lives.

Covid 19 sends us back to the canvas of our lives.

As an artist, metaphors and symbolism are essential elements on my palette of expression, just like my paints. So, I lean on the analogy of being forced back to the painting of my life that I’d convinced myself was being nicely completed. Now this pandemic comes along like a giant hand with paint solvent and a scrub brush and wipes large parts of my hard work away while muddying and smearing other parts. I can throw down my brushes in disgust, walk away, and have an extended temper tantrum at the unfairness of this sudden life upheaval. Or I can stay at the canvas, having a good cry, and then see how I might pick up my brushes and paints and begin again, and in a different direction. Maybe, somehow my painting will turn into something I wasn’t able to imagine before.

There's a solid chance the Covid 19 crisis will have you looking in new places to find your "cheese."

Acknowledging that your cheese might just have moved locations.

By cheese, I mean what feeds your life. One of my favorite books is Who Moved My Cheese? by Dr. Spencer Johnson (find it on Amazon.com). I love the metaphor of life being a maze and us being mice who find a spot where we find cheese reliably delivered on a continual basis. Consider this spot our conditioned lives where we’ve figured out how to get our rewards. Then, Covid 19 shows up, and cheese delivery to the same, dependable spot (sources and behaviors) is vastly reduced and possibly dries up. As Dr. Spencer points out in his book, a good number of mice stay stuck in the same old spot, convincing themselves the cheese HAS to start showing up again just like before. I liken such mice to the many people who insist that life goes back to normal (there’s that word again) now in spite of the risks.

No one wants their cheese moved, myself included. No one wants to have to head back into the maze of life in search of different cheese. But, I believe that’s what is going to be asked of most of us as we dig our way out of this pandemic. Two many things have been monumentally altered. Businesses have been hobbled or shuttered. Job losses are at levels we haven’t experienced. Worldwide travel has almost come to a standstill. I’m already trying to make peace with the fact that it might be a very, very long time before I can return to the States to see my friends and family. Will they even be able to travel here? Freedom of movement is a liberty that I’d taken for granted, but as I re-render my life, it’s a factor I have to consider.

And, what happens with the next pandemic? How do we ready ourselves to not have a repeat of Covid 19?

Consider that new possibilities may arise in the wake of this pandemic.

This has been my lifeline. Without entertaining that life might emerge from the ashes of this tragedy reinvigorated and with some unforeseen betterment, personally and as a species, I can’t anchor myself in acceptance. I fully realize that I’m being asked to have faith in the unknown when I’ve lived most of my life only taking steps forward when I felt that I could see and understand the road in front of me. Covid 19 has changed all that. If I’d needed for something to make me cry “Uncle!” in a way that nothing has before, this sure fits the bill.

Now? I wait. I do the things I can to stay productive within the confines of my lockdown, however it evolves in the near future. I’m being asked to trust that the seeds (possibilities) are there and to keep providing water (faith).

Stay well, stay safe, stay open, and stay hopeful!