I’m pregnant, yet I am unbothered right now. I may be well into my pregnancy and smack in the middle of a global health crisis, but I’m actually doing just fine.
To some, this statement may sound callous at first, but the truth is, I’ve struggled so much in life that I am meeting this challenge feeling prepared, calm, and focused. Of course, I worry about my loved ones, essential workers on the front lines, and all of the vulnerable people around the world. We’re all definitely on very shaky ground right now, but I’ve been here before. I’ve been isolated, broke, jobless, carless, homeless, and depressed. Each of these very real challenges helped me to hone my sense of gratitude, and they ended up intensifying my work ethic.
You could say that in my life, I’ve been through an emotional, psychological, and financial boot camp. Now I’m standing on the other side, having earned my stripes.
This resilience is inherited. I come from a long line of people who have managed to carve out bits of joy and peace from otherwise harsh living conditions. I work hard to break the cycle of multigenerational disadvantage, yet I encounter discrimination toward marginalized peoples like me at every turn. So when recent headlines emerged announcing that African Americans and Latinos are disproportionately affected by the pandemic, I thought to myself, “Well, aren’t we always?” Whether it’s a global financial crisis, a housing crisis, a health crisis, or a natural disaster — there we are, scrambling, hustling, clawing our way out of calamity.
Thriving under these conditions unburdened by cynicism and despair takes work. So here are four ways my lifelong struggle is helping me cultivate peace of mind in the midst of complete chaos right now.
Remember this too shall pass.
Many of us have been recently thrown for a loop, realizing the temporality and fragility of our daily lives. Yet this is something I am all too familiar with. My husband still has a bedroom in the house where he was born and grew up. That kind of lifelong stability fascinates me. I can remember when I was a child, my mother and I had to separate because we were rendered homeless. She stayed with a relative, and I stayed with a classmate for a few months. Later in life, I found myself with no place to live once again, and I had to tap back into that precarious childhood experience. “This is temporary,” I reminded myself. “You had a home before and you will have a home once again.”
That’s why, when the government issued a restriction on movement, urging everyone to stay home, I was ridiculously grateful to have a home of my own in which to shelter in place.
Look outside your window right now, or stand in your front door. Imagine everything behind you disappears. Imagine your clothes in garbage bags at your feet. Now, try not to let a sense of desperation take over. Relax. Breathe. No matter how unbearable it seems, this too shall pass.
While we are certain this period of quarantine will end, we simply don’t know when things will go back to normal. Another certainty is that we will all emerge changed. For better or worse, this experience will change the way we move in the world. My advice is to embrace it.
Only a few years ago, I had to pay for my groceries in coins — that’s how utterly broke I was. At the time, I was plagued by feelings of shame and failure. But that’s also the time when I learned how to bake my own bread. And I learned that fruits and vegetables are cheaper than meat and processed foods. Soon, I began eating healthier and making alchemy of the most basic ingredients.
So when I went to the supermarket last month and found aisles of empty shelves, I shrugged. With online deliveries completely halted, I looked back to one of the hardest moments in my life and simply made magic with the resources I had on hand.
Be your own hero.
My childhood was — how should I put it? — unconventional. Survival required escape. But when you live in a city plagued by violence and drugs, peace seems so out of reach. Danger waited at our doorstep, and staying inside was vital to our safety. Remind you of anything?
Later, as an adult, I fell into a psychologically abusive relationship. Normally an extrovert, I was stripped of my family and friends before I realized what was happening.
Both of these experiences taught me to be my own hero. I had to find sanctuary within myself. I remember very little of those periods of extended isolation. But I do remember the books I read. Becoming a voracious reader, and later a professional writer, saved me. So while the outside world may be closed off to you right now, find refuge within yourself.
Just keep swimming.
Part of the reason why I am unfazed by the health crisis is that I simply don’t have the bandwidth. I had been working seven days a week for months before the virus hit our city. I said yes to every opportunity to work and squirreled away money. That’s why, when my husband lost his job a few weeks ago, I said, “Don’t worry baby. I got this.” Now I am my family’s sole breadwinner. I roll out of bed and bring loads of snacks to my comfortable work-from-home space. I work crazy-long hours while my husband looks after our child. I worked on my birthday, and I intend to work until two weeks before I give birth. I take lots of breaks, and I make sure I get a full eight hours of sleep each night. So yes, my work ethic is pretty insane, but it has to be.
If I stop swimming now, I’ll drown, and so will my family. So my last piece of advice to you is to call forth your inner Dory from Finding Nemo and just keep swimming. Make time to rest and recharge. Find your peace and pockets of joy. Just remember, we’re not out of the woods yet. So in the meantime, just keep swimming, just keep swimming.