Post COVID-19 – The Future?

That’s the most difficult part, isn’t it? Not knowing what to expect. Not knowing The Future.

All through 2019 I was restless. I knew my life was about to change. I could sense it. Nothing I’d been doing for the past eight to ten years fit anymore. I kept plugging away at the same-old same-old because nothing had appeared to take its place.

Mom died in August. Okay, I thought. Maybe that’s what it was. Maybe some part of me knew…

But it wasn’t.

The restlessness didn’t leave. Christmas came and went. The world barreled headlong into 2020 and my seventieth birthday arrived. My daughters gifted me an astrological reading. The woman’s first opening was in March. I asked her to let me know if she had a cancellation. She said she would.

Seventy was a big number. I wanted to mark the new decade in a special way so I gave myself a trip to Italy. A month in Praiano, I decided, would satisfy a dream to return to that rugged coastline and would also provide time away to gain perspective.

It partly worked.

By the time I returned to Bali I’d stopped doing the things I’d been doing and made space for whatever was next. I landed on March 7th. On March 8th, borders in Indonesia were closed to flights from Italy. My reading with evolutionary astrologer Jessica Murray, was scheduled for March 11th.

Jessica had been practicing astrology for forty-five years. The more I read about her, the more excited I became. I wanted some light shed on the path forward and I felt if anyone could see into that formless void, she could.

The reading was extraordinary. Even though I’d never met Ms. Murray, and even though we were on Skype with an ocean between us, she knew things about me that hadn’t even been clear to me until she spoke them. She asked no questions at all. My comments were mono-syllabic: Oh. Really? Wow!

When our time was almost up she told me I was going into a period of personal transformation that would shift everything I’d previously known about myself. At that point I spoke. I told her I’d sensed something coming and I’d made a few changes, but I didn’t know what was ahead. Her answer made me shudder.

Even if you thought you knew, Sherry, you’d be wrong.

Theories outlining a post-COVID world abound, some utopian, some dystopian. But there are still too many variables to predict an outcome with any accuracy. Jessica’s words for me seemed to apply to the world situation as well: Even if you think you know, you’ll be wrong.

So how do we deal with the unsettling reality of not knowing?

During a particularly difficult juncture in my life when everything familiar had dissolved and the way ahead was complete and utter darkness, I survived with two mantras.

The first: Be in the now and allow.

The second: Trust the unfolding.

Now is all we have. The present. If we allow whatever we’re feeling to come, then go, come, then go, the shifting moods, the capacity to manage followed by the meltdown, the cooped-up craziness or the solitary loneliness, the rare moments of acceptance and peace, are acts of self-kindness. And if we take a minute to name the feelings, ANGER is what I’m feeling now; right now I feel SAD, I’m feeling HOPELESS, psychology tells us that helps to diffuse those emotions.

And then, because it’s impossible to know what’s ahead, if we can stop reading or listening to dire predictions and decide instead to trust the unfolding, that will bring a measure of calm to our nervous system. Don’t feed the fear.

I’ll say it again: DON’T FEED THE FEAR.

There’s no way to sugarcoat the state of the world and what is happening to more and more people every day. Jobs lost. Homes lost. Lives lost. That’s reality. If ever there was a need for mental stamina, tools to manage the machinations of the mind, it’s now. Sometimes we don’t know how resilient we are until we’re put to the test.

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” Marcus Aurelius

I hope these simple mantras and the reasoning behind them can help us maintain sanity until the future is once again within sight. Meanwhile, do what you can to be kind to yourself.

Travel surprises in a COVID-19 world

Travel is stressful under the best circumstances. But add a global health crisis to the mix and intensity escalates.

Packed and ready for the long journey home.

Even though I couldn’t have been more isolated if I’d stayed in a monastery in Mongolia, the fact that I’d just spent a month in Praiano was like having ITALY tattooed on my forehead. I felt vulnerable.

So I was surprised to find how absent any mention of the caronavirus was in airports and on planes. If a person hadn’t read the news there would be little indication that anything was amiss with the world. No one employed by the airline industry wore a mask. Everyone was exceptionally engaging, smiley, and helpful.

On both flights seatmates offered me sterile wipes and we all dutifully wiped down our tray tables, movie screens, armrests, safety belts, etc. Convinced we’d disinfected our surroundings, we plugged in earphones and tuned each other out.

Usually I’m a serial movie-watcher on long flights. After the sanitizing ritual I selected Ford vs. Ferrari with Matt Damon and Christian Bale. I loved every minute of it, Then fell asleep and didn’t stir for seven hours.

That was a first. I’ve never been able to sleep on a plane. It was my shortest 12-hour flight to date.

The layover in Singapore was just long enough to stretch, check in with WhatsApp and Messenger, take my bags through security and board for the final leg. Nobody mentioned the C-word.

Once in the air, flight attendants distributed a yellow slip of paper from the Indonesian Ministry of Health. Anxiety prickled in my chest, what questions would it ask that I didn’t want to answer? The form was as basic as it could get: name, flight number, passport number… At the end were two boxes with this inscription: Is your present condition sick or healthy, check one.

Efficient. Maybe not terribly effective at detecting illness, but definitely efficient.

Upon landing in Bali, I joined all incoming passengers in line with our yellow forms. Here I assumed my temperature would be taken and they’d ask where I’d come from. As I approached the end I couldn’t see any of that happening. Then it was my turn. A person with a mask exchanged my declaration of ‘healthy’ for another slip of paper, also yellow, with COVID-19 stamped in bold block letters. In small print it said to keep this in my passport and if I got sick to contact the nearest health facility immediately and bring along this card.

That was it.

I proceeded through immigration, no questions asked, handed in my ‘nothing to declare’ form in the customs line, and sailed out into the chewable night air.

I breathed in the moist, incense-laden, warmth of Bali and tension left my body. The long journey was over. Ketut was at the airport to meet me with a bottle of water and his 2000 watt smile.

I’m home.

Thank you all for coming along on my 70th birthday adventure. You’ve been great travel companions and have made my experience even more enjoyable by sharing it with me!

I’m in Italy — So is COVID-19 — Am I afraid?

Shall we ignore the elephant in the room?

I think not.

The coronavirus in Italy had a 25% surge in the past 24 hours. The Local it (Italy’s news in English) reports there are now 520 confirmed cases and the infestation has spread to the south with the area of Puglia reporting one and Sicily with three.

According to Sergio Matalucci out of Milan, eleven towns have been quarantined. Schools, universities, cinemas, clubs, and museums are closed. Events have been cancelled. Supermarket shelves stand empty as people panic-buy groceries, unsure of what’s ahead.

He goes on to write that grocery owners say they don’t lack stock in their warehouses. They just need to get it to the stores more quickly – a timing issue, not a supply issue. That’s good news.

It was slim pickings in my fridge. I climbed to Tutto per Tutti market this morning and found that even here in sleepy Praiano, in an area in the south of Italy as yet unaffected, shelves had empty spaces that hadn’t been there on prior visits.

Nicola, my host, told me people who had booked his rental properties for March have cancelled. He’s concerned for himself and his town. The economy of Praiano hinges extensively on tourism. Economic consequences are being experienced worldwide. Some types of businesses will profit. Many more will not.

So what’s actually happening? How much of the reporting can be trusted?

We’ve been bombarded for several years now by cries of ‘fake news’ from the very top of the power pyramid in the United States. Media giants have the ability to sway the thoughts and actions of the entire world population by choosing what to allow on their channels or what to suppress. I highly doubt, highly highly doubt if they even know if their sources are valid.

As I read article after article, these are the thoughts uppermost in my mind. Frankly, I don’t think we have any idea what’s really happening. We have limitless quantities of information at our fingertips. We can click ourselves down rabbit-holes and wind up light-years from where we began. But we have absolutely no way of knowing truth from lies.

Yet I’m addicted to that stream of information. Some part of me still trusts, or desperately wants to.

So I’ll keep reading the news. I’ll take precautions. According to the WHO more than 80 percent of patients infected with the virus have a mild reaction to the disease and recover. I’m here in Praiano until March 6th. Nobody can predict what will happen in the coming eight days but if planes are still flying, and I’m still healthy, I’ll leave Italy from Naples on that day and head back home to Bali.

Meanwhile, I’m grateful that the sun still rises. The sea is still blue. And this town of ancient stairways and kindness is mine to explore.

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