The other day my mom was sick; she is doing better now. I feel terrible that I couldn't be with her, that I couldn't hold her hands into mine and tell her the magic words "maa (mom), everything will be fine." A few weeks ago, a friend's dad died but she couldn't go to Bangladesh to see her dad for the very last time.
These are our everyday tales these days. Death, grief, sickness, helplessness - all such features define life today as if nature has surrounded us in grey and black.
It's not easy to remain optimistic in this apparently never-ending pandemic. Last Friday, I was listening to a podcast by famous therapist, author, and writer Esther Perel, who was explaining how people dealt with unpredicted prolonged war period in Germany and other European countries during the World War II, and how human brain acts when one discovers the peril is not going to end, that the war might not end soon. As Esther explained how people learned to mate in captivity, to find love and happiness in the midst of a world war, I realised, our brain can adapt to new situation.
It's been 11 years I left Bangladesh and have embraced the US as my second home. One of the little things we enjoy is smiling and nodding to a stranger, making small talk - meaningless chats, like "isn't it a beautiful day?" chanting to strangers when it is sunny. I miss that with a mask covering my nose and mouth. Well, I've adapted to change. Now I smile, under my mask. I know the stranger couldn't see me. But my heart enjoyed that smile.
In this more-than-year-long pandemic, I moved from New York to Maryland, changed jobs, colleagues, neighbours, and, most importantly, home. It was hard, but a nice change. I started running a lot more, started doing yoga more frequently, started making peace with myself more. I tried practising kindness as much as I could.
My husband and I started to cook more to forget our grief, to overcome our emptiness of missing our closed ones, the emptiness of not seeing our friends and family members, the emptiness from being unable to dine out on Sunday branch in mundane regular restaurants like IHOP. We started looking for ways to escape the pandemic grief. Did that work? Well, yeah, a sort of…
No, the emptiness coming from not visiting parents, grandparents, close relatives, and friends are not going to vanish away. But filling up the times by doing stuffs that make us happy may help. Pandemic has reminded us the obvious fact that life is short and not in control. Still, we can take the charge by kicking ourselves up from that couch, going out for a masked short walk, calling up a friend, and do whatever, just from moving.
As I write this piece, I feel extremely grateful that my three-year-old 'kiddo' is doing okay and agreed to take his afternoon nap, so that I could have some time to myself .After all, this pandemic taught us to be grateful for the tiniest things. The Covid-19 is not going anywhere soon. We can't just roll over and moan forever, but figure out ways to push ourselves. If you are grieving, my heart goes out for you.
However, your loved ones would want you to remain active, remain happy. Positivity comes from peace of mind, but I also have learned from Esther Perel's talk that you bring yourself peace of mind through practising positivity.
While the nation is under new surge of Covid, novel virus variants, and waves of lockdowns to deal with, please BE KIND. Be kind to yourself, forgive yourself and those around you. Be kind to yourself by figuring out ways to remain optimistic. We can and should look for ways to heal and to survive through the pandemic days.
Naima Farah, PhD in Economics from University of Calgary,is working at Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Washington DC.