“Normal” Goes Bye-Bye in the Wake of Covid 19

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!

By |2020-04-22T16:26:22+02:00April 19th, 2020|Healthcare in Italy, My Life in Italy, Personal musings|26 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!

26 Comments

  1. Ellen Hurst Griffith April 23, 2020 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    Dear Jed!

    You are eloquent and insightful on the human condition during this time. Emotions can rule us and push us to realize what our capabilities are to manage. Thank you.

    I left New York City 4 weeks ago….and I miss it so yet the risks and the isolation were challenging and family beckoned me to leave. Happily with family near Boston for now. My silver lining is being with my 4 year old twins grands who I would typically see every 3-4 months for just a few days, so I am grateful.

    My friends and co-workers in New York describe the eerie silence but for sirens and the beauty of Central Park in the spring. One thing for certain, your paintings and photographs are busy guarding my apartment and will greet me upon my return. They give me joy everyday…each with a mood to fit an emotion.

    Please take care! Day by day we progress and look forward! Onward!

    • Jed April 24, 2020 at 5:19 pm - Reply

      Hi Ellen. I’m so pleased to hear from you and to know that you are safe with those so dear to you. I can’t imagine what it must be like in New York with the halt of so much activity and the lowered volume of energy always coursing through the veins of the city. We’re in a city of just over 80k, so it’s nothing like such a massive metropolis.
      We progressed today to taking a decent walk to my bank ATM to withdraw cash (so we can pay the amazing pizza takeout/delivery folks just three doors down from ours). Before leaving, we dutifully filled out our form with our legal details and reason for being out. After almost two months, taking this stroll felt very weird. But, one thing I’ve noticed is that I’m aware of a ton more. I’m feeling more present. I hope this sense of being in the now will stay with me!
      We’ll be able to move about more broadly on May 4. I will be able to jog the perimeter of the city center as long as I do it solo and as long as I maintain a 2-meter safety distance. Life is going to be very different!
      Lastly, I’m so happy that my paintings and photographs will be there to welcome you back to New York on your return. xoxox Jed

  2. Tom V. April 20, 2020 at 9:59 pm - Reply

    Hi Jed,

    In light of some of the comments I have read here lately chastising President Trump over his response to the COVID-19 issue, I thought I would add my two cents to the conversation. This is from an email I received from a friend that feels the same way I do about some of what our biased media is spewing at these trying times.
    .
    “I’m mad that our government didn’t act sooner.”
    I’ve seen that statement on quite a few of my friend’s posts, a thinly veiled accusation that Trump didn’t act quickly enough

    Well I’m mad too.

    I’m mad that Pelosi and the U.S. House wasted close to 3 months pursuing an obviously futile impeachment of the President.

    I’m mad that Pelosi sat on those very impeachment papers for 28 days before sending them on to the Senate.

    I’m mad that the Senate was shut down for 21 days in January and early February dealing with Pelosi’s impeachment, thereby leaving Trump to deal with Covid alone, with no support from either the House or Senate.

    I’m mad that the day the President closed travel to and from China, Chuck Schumer declared the action “racist”.

    I’m mad that 28 days after the travel restriction, Nancy Pelosi, downplaying the severity of the virus, begged people to visit Chinatown in San Francisco, again playing the race card.

    I’m mad that Pelosi swooped in at the last hour of the stimulus package, adding things that were pure politics and had nothing to do with the dire circumstances at hand.

    I’m mad that the Obama administration didn’t replenish the National Medical stockpile of masks after the H1N1 virus scare.

    I’m mad that there are top doctors and experts in many fields having to waste their time at daily press briefings just so the “media” can pester them with gotcha questions that they think might be their ticket to a Pulitzer.

    I’m mad that Pelosi is now talking about an investigation into Trump’s handling of the Covid crisis.

    Every day, every turn, every word, every breath since before he was elected, President Trump has been attacked, mocked, accused and belittled by Pelosi and her gang. (And don’t even get me started on the media.)

    So there it is. I’m mad as hell that our country is going through this and the petty bickering from the left won’t even stop for people dying and our economy imploding.

    Hey Nancy, why don’t you man up and stand side by side with the President to work through this mess? American citizens need to see Washington working together and you’re infuriatingly absent.

    Oh yeah, and just remember that if Trump and Pence were to go down with the virus, she would be your President. Let that sink in…!!

    • Jed April 21, 2020 at 11:21 am - Reply

      Hi Tom,
      This particular post was meant to address the monumental changes we’re all grappling with, not to invite a political discourse or assign blame.
      Perhaps my previous posts and subsequent comments regarding the deadly serious topic of Covid 19 invited these passionate comments.
      I believe that leadership in all political parties must rise to inspiring and responsible leadership in the midst of this crisis. No one should be off the hook. But, the head of each country MUST, in my opinion, be held to the highest standard of honesty and swift, decisive action.
      The President of the United States is the “Commander-in-Chief.” He is the most powerful and influential voice for a nation needing both a General and a shepherd in the face of Covid 19. For these reasons, I believe he should be not only the most responsible adult in the room but a role model for all others.
      I also believe it is right and expected for people to take him to task, above all other leaders, if he doesn’t rise to the exemplary behaviors needed in these times. Diverting the conversation to blaming other lesser players doesn’t answer the essential question as to whether the current President of the United States is performing at the highest standards.
      I invite each person to do their own thorough research of the facts, stripping away commentary, and cross-referencing the facts with the veracity of what has been done and said publicly by The President of the United States. Have his statements honestly and consistently represented the facts? Has the content of his messages been limited to the most essential messages or have self-promotion and self-congratulation been unduly elevated? Has he acted decisively and expeditiously to head off the impact of Covid 19?
      The facts are there. The statements are on public record. Let’s answer these questions first before leading any discourse elsewhere. If we don’t, what are the consequences of more of the same?

  3. Mary Anne Della Fera April 20, 2020 at 9:33 pm - Reply

    Hi Jed. It’s been a while since I’ve commented here, even though I read every new edition! Can I offer some perspective on the notion that we are seeing physical death on a scale that we’re not used to? Yes, that is true in the west, but mainly because we choose to look away. Worldwide, 3700 people die of car accidents EVERY DAY. Even more shocking, 27,000 people die of starvation related conditions EVERY DAY around the world. Infectious disease-related mortality and morbidity seem unusual only in wealthy countries.

    I realize that it doesn’t make it easier for those of us who are used to having enough to eat, freedom of movement, and relative ease in our daily lives to know these things, but when I’m feeling sorry for myself because my plans have changed, probably forever, or when I’m feeling anxious because I don’t know what the future will bring, seeing a larger picture helps me snap out of my self-absorption.

    It’s human nature to grieve what we’ve lost, but my wish is that the world never goes back to the way it was. The gulf between the haves and have nots is so immense that we cannot even see all the way to the other side anymore. There are so many things that humans need to change about themselves. My despair is that COVID-19 won’t be enough of a lesson. I wonder how many pandemics and environmental disasters it will take to make human beings more conscious?

    • Jed April 21, 2020 at 11:29 am - Reply

      I concur with so much of what you share. I, too, hope that a lasting effect of this terrible crisis is that the disease of self-absorption is exposed, prompting people to change. It’s also far too easy for much of the developed world to normalize starvation and other infectious diseases. Covid 19 has come to the doorsteps of all world citizens. I hope we learn and rise to greater levels of shared responsibility and humanity. Thanks for writing.

  4. Beth Skinner Zuercher April 20, 2020 at 8:57 pm - Reply

    Jed,

    Another great “Italy Wise” posting! This helped lift me up from another day of waiting for better news, although we heard that tomorrow we will have more shopping stores open! ‘Hope your city’s restrictions improve and are removed soon!

    take care!

    Beth Skinner Zuercher

    • Jed April 21, 2020 at 11:34 am - Reply

      Hi Beth, I’m glad you found this uplifting. Italy slowly will be opening up starting May 4, but I will err on the side of continued caution and restraint, doing most of my non-food shopping online, and staying home. Let’s all hope that when freedom of movement returns everyone acts responsibly!!!

  5. Michele DeMaio April 20, 2020 at 8:50 pm - Reply

    Yes , I resonate with what you are saying as well.
    The only way we will have any kind of” normal as we knew it” is when a vaccine or treatment for Covid -19 developed.
    I only know you by your Blog but I find myself waiting to hear from you,a voice expressing the realness of life in Italy during this pandemic..
    In an effort to build up my ” mental tool box”,I am eagerly awaiting the delivery of the book:
    The Tools
    By: Barry Michels, Phil Stutz
    My mind is open to anything that I can do to help myself whether this storm.

    • Jed April 21, 2020 at 11:41 am - Reply

      Thanks for writing, Michele. While we all share many of the same struggles in weathering this health crisis, I believe it’s quite a different “animal” here in Italy. Each country’s culture can color the experience. I can’t imagine how Italy will be in the short term and whether short-term changes evolve into long-term practices. This will be interesting to watch.
      Thanks also for drawing my attention to The Tools. I’ve already taken a look at the overview, and I’m very intrigued!

  6. Susan L April 20, 2020 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    You’re always on point, Jed. Sharing your wisdom and perspective on my FB page. This will be the dawning of a new era. What will we have learned about so many things? It can all be a lesson, albeit a hard one, but out of the ashes we’ll troop like we did after 9/11. Life comes back but in a different way. I just wish the lessons could stay with people and maybe despite the horror of the lives it took and those affected, we can once again communicate with our families and our loved ones in a more organic way without all the “noise” of things that just don’t matter. Stay safe!

    • Jed April 21, 2020 at 11:44 am - Reply

      Thanks, Susan. I, too, hope the lessons stay with us and that we just don’t veer back into life as it was before and lose ourselves in the things that don’t ultimately matter. For me, taking losing ready access to my family and so many friends, helps me realize that they are what fuel my life and bring me joy.

  7. Maile Busby April 20, 2020 at 5:16 pm - Reply

    My first 18 years were spent as a military dependent – 13 schools in 12 years. I got married at 18 settled into a routine and we raised our sons with all of the joy and problems that make up life. My husband died suddenly after 28 years of marriage. I thought I had a grip on problem solving, you don’t solve a death. I picked myself up and moved on. I remarried, we found our way to Introdacqua, we spent almost 6 years rebuilding a ruin – a project that we had initially thought would take 2 years max. We moved in a year ago February and almost made it for the lockdown, we have sat it out in our home in So. California. We are paying attention to those we know that can use some assistance – we can’t fix this but we can be kind, thoughtful and share some of the bounty we have been blessed with. Each day is a gift and how we use it is our choice. We have bonded after almost 20 years of marriage. We have no real idea what tomorrow will bring, we enjoy today.
    I so enjoy reading your posts and I hope our paths will cross, Introdacqua has so far no cases of COVID19. Lots of projects have been completed, everyone is well ready for it to be over – the whole world is. It will be a different world, I will continue as I do, I can’t solve the worlds problems but I can do what I can when I see a need that I can respond to. I wonder what gift I will discover today?

    • Jed April 21, 2020 at 11:58 am - Reply

      Hi Maile! It’s so nice to read your comments and to know that you have a newly-renovated home in Introdacqua. I’ve been fortunate to visit other lovely homes there and meet the passionate people who have breathed life back into a dying town. Thanks for sharing your journey in finding such a gem in Abruzzo. I’m sure you know from my copious posts about the area that I’m in love with the region and its residents.
      One thing that you wrote that particularly resonates with me, “you don’t solve a death.” That has been the lesson of my life in the past seven years, both in losing my mother and in the death of many cherished ideas and beliefs. Covid 19 has taken that to a new level. But, life goes on, and death can re-sculpt us if we let it. I, too, hope our paths cross so that we can continue this conversation in person. I spend a lot of time in Sulmona, so let’s hold the vision it can happen in the not-too-distant future!

  8. Susan Pohl April 20, 2020 at 4:34 pm - Reply

    It is a roller coaster ride for sure. I think of Covey’s model of circles of area of concern and then within it the area of influence. So easy to focus on area of concern over which we have no influence. Hope you are able to get down here. Would love to see you.

    • Jed April 21, 2020 at 12:00 pm - Reply

      And I’m so ready to get off the ride! But, I’m afraid I’ll have to settle for being grateful for the arrival of softer hills and dips. I’d love to see you guys as well. Hopefully in summer!

  9. Stephanie April 20, 2020 at 3:41 pm - Reply

    So thankful you are safe and sound. I know this has been a scary time for you all. Take care. I’m not sure if things will ever be back to normal again, but I believe they will be great again! Love you Jed!

    • Jed April 21, 2020 at 12:01 pm - Reply

      I’m ALWAYS heartened by your loving words. I, too, believe that life can be great again, though vastly rewritten, as long as well all keep holding one another up! Love you to pieces! Jed

  10. Barbara Brown April 20, 2020 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    Thank you for your insight. Sums up many of my feelings. Stay safe and sane. Sending hugs from New York.

    • Jed April 21, 2020 at 12:05 pm - Reply

      Ciao, Barbara. It’s helpful for me to journal publically about this. It IS how I stay sane. I do miss my more robust exercise routine. Once we enter a slightly relaxed phase of confinement, I’m going to start doing the six levels of stairs in our building. That will further help my health, physically and mentally. I’m always delighted to hear from you. Bacioni! Jed

  11. Bondy April 20, 2020 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much… I sincerely enjoy your post’s Jed.
    I too am an ex Pat living in Italy.
    A change of topic for you…
    I’ve worked many years in Hospitality and understand how dangerous second hand cigarettes and vapour smoking is. I would like to see…
    ( NOW is a perfect time to educate on how dangerous smoking is to others )

    NO smoking in outdoors areas of Restaurants, Bar, Shops … in general all business after all it is 2020, there’s nothing worst then sitting outside in a Restaurant eating while at the next table someone lights up a cigarette or when you need to enter a business there standing in the doorway smoking, you try to enter without inhaling then ( they throw the cigarette in the streets) that’s another issue… what’s with throwing the cigarette butts and rubbish on the streets ,car parks ,outside of shops and most of all the beaches SERIOUSLY MARINE LIFE Don’t EAT cigarette butts , plastic bags nor plastic bottles…it’s 2020 move with the Times People , and smoking in cars with children? SERIOUSLY Theses future generations have no voice… let’s keep Italy clean. Thanks for listening a very passionate ex Pat … Love to you all in theses difficult times.
    Stay safe well strong and healthy…
    See you on the other side.👍😷🇮🇹🙏

    • Jed April 21, 2020 at 12:08 pm - Reply

      Hi Bondy, Thanks for your comments about smoking and its dangers and effects on others. I’ve been hoping that people will learn from Covid 19 that smoking can compromise one’s resistance and possibly lead to more serious complications. And, for the effects on the environment and future generations, I hope people wake up and change. You too, stay safe and healthy!!

  12. Steve April 20, 2020 at 2:04 pm - Reply

    Another excellent blog. Thank you Jed for making us sit back and think logically about the future.

    • Jed April 21, 2020 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome, Steve. Thanks for the encouragement!

  13. Brent Cagle April 20, 2020 at 6:33 am - Reply

    Completely resonate with this. Thank you.

    • Jed April 20, 2020 at 1:04 pm - Reply

      Thanks, my dear friend. I miss you terribly!

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