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The Great Reset - 04/27/2020

Updated: Apr 30, 2020

When I first started reading reports in the news about the Coronavirus in late January, I would have never believed that by April 1 most of the country would be effectively shut down. I would have scoffed at the idea that a mere virus could bring the entire world to, if not a screeching halt, at least a greatly slowed-down pace. I would have never expected that the great bustling US economy could be brought to its knees - by an illness. Obviously, I was wrong on all counts. And although it is a terrible thing for so many people to be sick (Three million worldwide, one million in the US as of today) and so many to die (nearly 212,000 worldwide, over 50,00 in the US), there are certainly unexpectedly good outcomes from this time of forced slowdown. I am referring to it as "The Great Reset." The situation is as if nature decided that we weren't doing things right, and we needed a reboot. So we have been forced to stop and figure out how to start over again when the virus is no longer such a threat. And it is up to us to decide how to incorporate what we like about the shutdown into our lives in the future.

First, though, let's think about the unexpectedly good outcomes that have been occurring. Probably the most dramatic is the almost complete lack of airplanes flying and the greatly reduced number of cars on the road. Although admittedly this will have huge negatives associated with it if the airlines go bankrupt and the oil industry goes bust (oil is currently at $0 a barrel - they literally can't give it away), right now the positives are evident in the clear blue skies of LA, the fish that have returned to the now-clean canals of Venice, the views of the mountains from perpetually polluted cities in India and Japan. Scientists report that the planet is no longer vibrating as much as it was before COVID-19. The Earth is literally calmer. With businesses mostly closing down at 8 PM, the nights are still, and wildlife is venturing out, reclaiming spaces that once were theirs. Parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite, now closed to tourists, are teeming with buffalo, coyote, deer and bear in the plain light of day.

People are enjoying the slower pace, too. With many people out of work (like myself, since the schools closed), temporarily furloughed, or working at home, many people are taking the time to enjoy the outdoors more. The streets of Tucson are more heavily populated with bikers and hikers than any time I can remember, and although most of our dog parks are closed, people are walking their dogs themselves, many several times a day whether the dog wants to or not. Of course, again there are negatives to this - dog walkers and pet sitters have lost much of their business, and people who have lost their jobs may not get them back. But for now, it's nice to have more time at home, to spend with pets and/or family members.

We are cooking at home more too. Facebook and Instagram are covered with pictures of casseroles, soups, stews, cakes, and homemade breads - the comfort food that we are all craving right now. I have made banana bread twice in the last two weeks, for the first time in about ten years. I'm not much of a cook, but it was really good banana bread! My friends moan that they are gaining weight, with eating at home and not exercising as much (the gyms are of course all closed), but I think many are also enjoying eating as a family again, at home. I see lots of people are gardening, planting herbs and vegetables in their backyards or on porches or in community gardens. It reminds me of my mother, who grew up in the Depression and always kept a large garden in our backyard when I was growing up. It's like we are rediscovering the skills that our parents had, that we've never really needed before. It's nice to see people are resourceful, resilient, and even cheerful about putting these half-remembered skills to good use.

While we are spending time at home, we are taking care of ourselves differently. High maintenance is out, low or no maintenance is in. With many of us doing meetings for work on apps like Zoom or Skype, we're finding that the top half of our clothes is what matters. The joke is that we are doing these meetings without wearing pants, but for most, it's not a joke. They might be wearing pajama pants or shorts with their suit jacket and tie, but they're definitely not wearing work pants. Many women say they haven't worn a bra since the quarantine started. I have spent a lot of time in my pajamas, but that's nothing new for me since I have been retired for 22 years. I still dress every day to take my dog to the park and to go to McDonald's for my daily Diet Coke, but that's about the extent of my self-maintenance. Because I usually wear a mask over the lower half of my face, I don't worry much about makeup, except for mascara. Earrings are important to me, but I have to be careful - I've already lost two hoops due to their getting caught on the mask straps.

Personal hygiene is of course still important, but the emphasis now is on washing your hands and not touching your face. Most of us have realized we were not washing our hands properly, and have learned to use soap and wash for 20 seconds, or the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday." Most of us have also realized that we love touching our face. I had no idea how much time I spent with my chin in my hands or my hand on my forehead until I was told I shouldn't do it. And all that washing has led to seriously chapped hands. I'm more concerned now about healing hand lotion than face moisturizer that repairs wrinkles. Of course, one way to protect your hands is to wear rubber gloves. Those who work in medical or food services wear gloves all the time at work, and I have started wearing them in the last two weeks since I have still been having symptoms of the illness (they haven't tested me for it yet, but that's a subject for another day). They do help keep your hands clean, but they are also uncomfortably hot and sweaty, as are the masks. But that is a small price to pay to keep the risk of infection down.

Haircuts and manicures are other luxuries that have had to be put on hold. Salons have been closed for about a month here in Tucson, for two in cities like LA and NYC. Women are being forced to either forego coloring their hair or do it themselves, and the natural look is the thing now for nails. My own hair is longer than it has been at any time since I graduated from high school, almost down to my bra strap in the back. I haven't had it colored in four months. Fortunately, I have a temporary rinse that I use that helps hide the gray (or in my case, white) that covers most of my head now. And I do have home hair color that works; I just don't like to do it myself. Having my hair done is a luxury that I really hate to do without. Other people have told me that they are cutting their spouse's hair now, and it's working so well that they may never go back to a salon. Personally, I can't wait to have my hair trimmed, but to each his own. I almost understand why the people who are angry about the shutdowns are protesting.

Which brings me to some of the craziness that is being inspired. On the one hand, many people are enjoying the changes brought by the shutdown. Introverts are thriving. Some almost feel guilty for how well they are doing, and are not really looking forward to going back to "normal." Others, however, particularly in areas which are not as hard-hit as the more densely populated cities, have become impatient and angry with the shutdowns and want the economy to open back up right away, risks be damned. There have been protests recently in nearly every state, and some politicians have publicly stated that the risk of mostly elderly people dying from the virus is worth it in order to re-open our economy. It's true that many jobs have been or will be lost due to the vast closures of businesses. But studies have shown that the death toll is likely to be much lower due to the actions that have already been taken. Doctors urge caution at the rush to re-open, and believe that the virus has not yet peaked in the US. In the meantime, some states have begun loosening restrictions while others remain cautious. Here in Arizona, we are scheduled to remain shutdown until May 1, with a re-evaluation at that time.

I confess that I am not that eager for things to go back to the way they were. I love the fact that there is so much less traffic on the road, even here in Tucson. I am enjoying talking more to my neighbors, who are home more, and helping each other out with shopping or pet walking. That never happened to me before the virus. I'm enjoying the lack of FOMO (fear of missing out), because with the virus, concerts, movies, plays, and even church services have been cancelled. Much of this has moved online or to streaming TV. There have been some terrific live concerts in the last month, all free for streaming. And late-night TV, even though filmed out of the host's homes, is more creative than it's been in years. Employers are flexible about schedules, and people like me who can't work long hours but who are willing to do jobs like stock shelves, take care of seniors, and deliver food are finding plenty of opportunities to work. It's certainly not what we are used to, but it's not that bad.

So I'd like to see us as a society learn the lessons of The Great Reset. Since working from home has worked so well for so many, maybe telework becomes a permanent option. Telemedicine has been a great way to triage patients, and hopefully will remain an option for most doctor's offices. Reduced hours for stores and restaurants? Why not? We didn't always have the option of 24 hours a day food and shopping. Why not keep it that way? Travel may never return to its pre-virus levels; at the very least, planes and airports will have to make some adjustments to reduce the possibility of spreading disease. And live events may be different as well. Movie theatres may not survive. They were already struggling, with the increasing popularity of streaming on-demand. And now that people are used to this model, they may find they prefer it. I hope that businesses will listen to customers and implement a return to normal based on what people's preferences are and not just maximizing profit potential. We have been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make the world work better than it did. Let's not pass up this chance.

What are some things that you are doing differently during the shutdown? What would you like to see continue after the shutdown is over? Why, or why not?

#COVID-19 #shutdown #GreatReset #quarantine

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