Toilet Paper?

By Pam Minichiello, LMHC

This time of crisis has been like a roller coaster with jarring ups and downs and some achingly slow climbs where we can’t see where we are headed.  The COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine has had a profound effect on most of us.  We have suffered anxieties because of the “not knowing,” fears of infection, times of overriding grief for so many lives lost, hugs missed, an internal sense of emptiness from the separation we feel from friends, family, and coworkers, and of course the disruption of our daily routines and curtailing of simple freedoms such as going to restaurants, movies, parties, theatre, museums, concerts, traveling, etc. Some have experienced the loss of a loved one to the virus.  Our experience is both a shared human trauma and a unique individual experience.

When lockdown first began, we were consumed by an unsettling scarcity and the unknown.

We worried:  

Can we get toilet paper?

Do we have enough milk for the week?

Can I get the food I want?

Is there enough equipment and professionals to treat us?

How can I manage to teach my kids at home and still do my job?

And then, what if I or _______ gets sick?

Is it safe to go out?

When will this end; Will it end; What will it be like afterwards?

Will I lose my job; How do I manage now that I’ve lost my job?

And along with so much loss, frustration, and worry, there also has been another side of the experience – for many, stronger connections to loved ones and a slowing down of sorts. 

So, my question to you is this: What will you take from this time and this experience? Will it become just a bad memory of that time when we all worried about being able to buy enough toilet paper and milk and tried to figure out how to bake our own bread?  Or can you take something deeper and more lasting from this time?

What if you spend some quiet time asking yourself what is it that you really want for your one and precious life?  Many of us avoid this inquiry because in order to do so, we need also to acknowledge our own mortality, and this can be a frightening truth.  Nonetheless, I invite you to be brave. Allow yourself to reflect on what is truly important to you in your life and what you have learned during the quarantine.  Deep in your heart, what do you long for and need for happiness and meaning?  What else do you need to ask yourself?  I encourage you to spend time with these big questions – because if not now, then when? This is difficult work. While thinking through your experience, embody a non-judgmental curiosity and gentleness and be aware of fears that may arise. Take something more from this time than a plan for the bulk buying of toilet paper.  If you are willing, this time could be the start of the most important journey you ever take.  

Be well and safe.