Feelings just are.
I have had a conversation lately with a few different people about the validity of feelings. In this time of a global pandemic, I have had people who are feeling really down say, “I know there are people in far worse situations.” Yes, that may well be true but that does not invalidate your feelings. This is a time of trauma unseen in the course of our lifetimes unless we were alive in 1918. We have surely had national tragedies and I think it is the sheer randomness of these tragedies that infuse us with terror. We may well be feeling the same fear of this disease. I realize there are things we can do to minimize our likelihood of contracting the virus, but nothing is foolproof or 100 per cent.
I think it is good to be aware of nuance and degree. The ER nurse who needs this job to support her family surely has a huge challenge which many of us can’t even begin to measure. I am in awe of the medical professionals on all levels who risk themselves for others. My middle school principal/high school assistant principal daughter is also an EMT. She tells me they have protective gear and she is careful but she has been on calls with infected patients. Relatives of people in my Facebook world have been infected. It is a scary gig, indeed. I think we will agree that medical professionals have a really big worry right now and we worry for them. Being on the front lines of this pandemic is an incalculable service to mankind. I am not sure society will ever be able to pay our debt to these brave people.
Let us not forget the high school student or retiree needing some extra income, both of whom are working at the local food store, also are at a great risk. These are the people that some of society scoffed at not long ago as a throwaway kind of labor that was easily replaced. Now, we see how valuable these workers are and they are putting themselves at great risk for not much more than minimum wage.
There are so many others who are keeping the country running during this time – delivery people, letter carriers, pharmacists, truck drivers, and the list goes on. Kudos to all of these people for taking their work seriously and providing our society with necessities.
I am a teacher and we have been put into the position of teaching our students by remote learning. This is a difficult task. I am very glad to have my job and to be able to teach as best I can under these circumstances. This enables us to complete our year and not penalize children for the pandemic. Is it dangerous to teach remotely? No, of course not. Is it valuable? I think it does have value. Is it stressful? Very. There are those who are convinced that teachers eat bon-bons all day and think about how they will spend their summer vacation. We worry, instead, about our students sinking into the abyss and how, remotely, we are less able to save them. How about the parent who is home with a number of small children that they have to help navigate their online learning? How about the teacher-parent who has to do both? How about the students with no quiet place to work and siblings to care for?
How about everyone? I don’t know how people can be unaffected by what is going on in the world. When we began remote learning, I assigned my students something I called “Daily Journal of Living History.” They were to write journal entries about what is going on and how they are coping with it. This is, after all, an historical event they are living through. Some of these entries were so detailed, honest, and insightful. Some were just awful. I had one student who said that this is not really affecting him. I have to say, I hope he decides to delve a little further.
The point is, we all are deviating from our norm, some to a greater degree than others. I like to be alone but this is difficult on some days. Some parents of younger children are trying to help their kids understand why they can’t see their friends or their grandparents. Some people are worried about finances. Some people have underlying health issues and are particularly worried. The list goes on and the list is fluid. On some days, you might feel okay. You slept, you accomplished something, your coffee tasted particularly good, the angle of sunlight coming in a window and its warmth gave you hope. Other days, you might feel hopeless, stir crazy, or weepy. Knowing in your mind others have it much worse just adds guilt to this already lopsided equation.
There are always people who think their situation is the be-all-end-all worst situation, EVER. Hands down. No one has it worse than they do. Beware of these people. They can never recognize the validity of your feelings since they are busy trivializing them. Step away from these people. And quickly. There is not much worse than having a bad day only to have someone who should be supportive instead cast aside your feelings because, in their minds, you shouldn’t feel that way. They seem to believe only their feelings are valid. Not true.
I am not suggesting you wallow in feelings and, frankly, I have seen little of that. Most people who are having a bad day remind themselves how much worse it could be. While you are recognizing that fact, be sure you allow yourself to feel what you feel. These are, as I said, traumatic times. There may be greater or lesser degrees of trauma, but most of us (maybe not that one student of mine) are riding a rollercoaster of emotions throughout the day. People are losing sleep from the stress and that is also exacerbating the situation. Take heart. In the words of the brilliant and resilient Maya Angelou, “Every storm runs out of rain.”