It would be a massive understatement to say things are feeling a bit different lately. The world feels like it’s on fire, mostly everyone I know is under some sort of lockdown-style restriction, schools are closed indefinitely, we’re all working from home, and stores have been sold out of toilet paper for weeks. People have lost their jobs. People have lost loved ones.
All because of COVID-19.
In the midst of the anxiety and the chaos, the constant barrage of bad news and daily pressers from our government, though, it seems a lot of people have suddenly developed the ability to know everything about a person with a single glance.
[That’s sarcasm for those of you who didn’t pick it up, by the way.]
It’s really easy to make assumptions. As humans, we do it all the time. As humans, we’re also really bad at it because we let our own internal monologues and prejudices take over. I try hard to check my own bias and not be judge-y (though I will shame the shit out of you if you’re not making an effort to follow these regulations, I tell ya), but yesterday I experienced the sting of someone else’s.
And it still hurts.
I was at the pharmacy picking up three prescriptions, including one that was written to me well over a week ago that I had such anxiety about filling, I let it go 10 days before I dropped it off and spoke to a pharmacist. I’ll be on this medication (or another version of it) for life and that’s something I’m having a really hard time coming to terms with. I also picked up the $150 puffer my doctor tells me I’ll probably need to use forever, and a puffer for my asthmatic son.
On my way out of the store, since I was feeling overwhelmed and a little like I’ve lost control of everything, I decided to grab a magazine and Easter candy for my 10-year-old – the kid who’s asked three times if Easter is cancelled. I was in the store for fewer than 10 minutes. Two little bags of Easter candies and a magazine later, I made it to the checkout where I decided to ring myself through rather than wait in the lineup for a cashier.
Does that look like essentials to you? Honestly, people coming out to get Easter candy!
The two women in line muttered something about “ridiculous” and “no wonder we’re in this mess” as I tried to finish as quickly as I could. The hot shame and guilt that I shouldn’t have felt hit me like a tonne of bricks. I knew if I turned and confronted them, I’d cry, and the last thing I wanted my kid to see when I got back into the car was my tear-stained face. So I swallowed it and I paid and I left. But it’s bothered me ever since.
My social media timelines are filled with people shaming and slamming others for taking too long in grocery store aisles or daring to buy Easter gifts for their children or – oh, horrors! – hitting a drive-thru or takeout option for dinner. But here’s the thing: we have no idea what another person’s life is really like.
Just like the two women at the pharmacy didn’t know I’m 6-weeks into recovering from double-lung pneumonia, or that I had almost $300 in essential prescriptions in my purse I’d just picked up, you don’t have a clue what the stranger you’re side-eyeing for getting a take-out coffee has gone through today.
Being judgmental and shaming or scolding people isn’t going to get us through this. Maybe try exercising a little compassion or kindness? Perhaps working on building some empathy would be a better way for you to spend your time at home.
Don’t worry – it looks like you’ll have lots of time to practice.