Compassion in COVID
With a family full of COVID-positivity, I have had a chronic tension head and neckache for going on a week. Tensions are high and uneasiness and fear are at as many levels as people in my family (depending on how you count it, that includes somewhere around 20 people give or take in the immediate family). So how do you find the Gift in the Struggle during COVID? It ain’t easy. But here is where I have landed. With compassion.
Have you ever seen the movie, Father of the Bride? Well, it is one of the family favs. And for good reason. The line Steve Martin utters to one about to marry into the family rings truer than true for us. Steve tells his daughter’s unsuspecting fiancé (or maybe I don’t give him enough credit and he did suspect) that theirs is a family of overreactors, and lucky for him, it gets better with each generation – so maybe his kids will be normal.
We live that truth. Not only that, we, like most families, have varying ages, understandings and levels of health. This makes for a capricious time when you introduce the dreaded COVID virus into the family net. So fishing through what is an overreaction and what is a sensible degree of caution is a fluid and unknowable predicament. So, here is where compassion can be a gift.
I personally am an underreactor during a crisis. Some may argue, but I tend to want to react less to counteract the other extreme. This creates tension amongst the troops. Also, I feel pressure to make others feel comfortable and safe, so I try to make sure my faction of the family is doing what makes others comfortable. This creates tension in the troops. Add to that, I am coming off one of the worst years of my life, and I can react poorly out of frustration that “this is supposed to be my year to overcome and thrive!” “The year of ME: Mastering Elizabeth.” I am clinging to hope on this one…and the potential loss of that hope is crushing.
My parents are in the over 75 set which brings a different perspective. When I try to make sure my group is making them feel safe, it is because I understand that my father has lost at least three law partners/close business associates in the last year to COVID. How can he not be afraid? My parents also recently worked on their will. Facing mortality is about the least fun thing you have to do as you age, and with death all around us, of course, they fall into the fearful category. Who wouldn’t? Compassion.
One of my brothers works with adults with disabilities, both physical and mental. He has been responsible for taking care of those who can’t care for themselves and are at higher risk than the general population. He has had students that he cared for die. Add to that his fairly recent diabetes diagnosis, and he lives at a higher baseline of fear than some. Of course, he does – he feels responsible. Compassion.
The adult children are trying to be safe, educate themselves and make good decisions. They are also at ages where they are averse to parenting, feeling controlled and wanting to be independent. They are also trying to go to school, work and support themselves and find any glimpse of the normal things they should be doing at their ages. The older adults still feel the need to guide, express advice/opinions and feel responsible for both the older and younger ones. Tension. Compassion.
The bottom line is this. It is always a good idea to try to understand people’s experiences as best we can. In a family with more than 20 close people – most of whom are adults – you will rarely find consensus – and in this case, information is everchanging and never-ending. How can we be expected to? All we can do is try to respect each other, support each other and get through it intact.
I have not been perfect. Feelings get hurt. I am tired and stressed and worried about my people. But it is because I care. I think we all do. And I struggle with knowing the right thing to do. Don't we all?
Compassion. It is the Gift in the Struggle of the times we live in.
Author, Relationship Expert, Humorist, Advocate of Finding Your Voice
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