I try to be a glass half full kind of person. Positivity is one of my top 5 strengths. Searching for a silver lining helps me dampen down my anxiety. I acknowledge that there is an enormous, incalculable, downside to this pandemic. I saw a picture this last week taken in India where people had not been able to see the Himalayas for thirty years and now could. I realized that as bad, uncertain and catastrophic this pandemic is, there is some upside.
Here are my thoughts on the upside of this pandemic:
Less air pollution:
This has really caused me pause. I live in eastern North Carolina and I never figured that air pollution was really an issue. I must tell you that I’ve noticed that there are more stars at night. I’ve noticed that the sky seems so much bluer. I thought it was an aberration. But if NASA can see the difference from satellites, maybe there was some truth to my observations. As Marina Koren wrote for The Atlantic, “As cities and, in some cases, entire nations weather the pandemic under lockdown, Earth-observing satellites have detected a significant decrease in the concentration of a common air pollutant, nitrogen dioxide, which enters the atmosphere through emissions from cars, trucks, buses, and power plants.” So, step outside at night and look up at the stars. They really are brighter – your eyes aren’t deceiving you.
I live pretty far from a highway and my home is usually quiet. I typically hear birds chirp and geese honk. I have noticed in the last month that it has been more of a cacophony of avian sounds. As Laura Rawlins wrote for Focus for Health, “Some regions of India can see the Himalayan Mountains for the first time in 30 years, cityscapes are smog-free, and you can find a stream of twitter threads about people asking if birds are chirping louder these days or if that is just the effect of less pollution, noise and the like, in the atmosphere.” Koren wrote, “With so many people staying home—and public-transit agencies cutting service as a result—there’s significantly less noise from cars, buses, trains, and other transportation. Erica Walker, a public-health researcher at Boston University, has taken a decibel meter with her on her socially distance walks, and she has been stunned by the measurements. “It’s a lot quieter,” she told me.” It’s surprising that because cities are quieter, people can finally hear the birds. In my case, I feel like there is a population boom in the variety of birds causing the change in my soundscape.
I’ve noticed an increase in kindness. Last weekend, when my boyfriend Roy and I hiked for the first time in two months, there was a palpable ebullience. Hikers smiled and had a spring in their step. In my neighborhood, the abundance of families and couples taking strolls is evident and everyone is waving hello even if you are a stranger. I’ve had anonymous cars in front of me in a drive-thru pay for my meal. Strangers pull aside in the grocery aisle. Everyone on zoom calls is wishing everyone well as we sign off. As Rawlins wrote, “We can all restore our faith in humanity, because kindness is trending amid COVID-19. There is an abundance of stories of people going out of their way to help. Whether they are getting groceries for their elderly neighbors, sewing masks for medical facilities, or even taking care of a newborn baby when the entire family tests positive for COVID-19, it’s clear that this kindness surge is just as contagious as the virus itself.” I’m grateful for the kindness that bubbles up from this pandemic.
I have struggled with all of my plans being on hold. I have felt groundless without a destination to look forward to. I am sad that my one of bucket list items won’t be achieved this year (I wanted to visit Alaska to have been to all 50 states). On the other side of that is an awareness of what is present right now. I have to thank Roy for that. Roy has an appreciation for the moment right now. It’s might be stopping to look at Purple Martins swooping the sky, or admiring countless gaggles of Canadian Geese with their broods of chicks, or noticing a (what seemed like a shark size) carp swimming next to our kayak. Focus on right now. The stars in the sky, the sunrise or sunset, the cup of hot tea, the warmth of the blanket or the tap of the rain outside. Instead of striving to get to my next destination, I can be here right now. Appreciate what is here right now.
A year from now, this may likely all be a memory, or it may not. I just want to try to experience it and pick through the array of changes in my life to find the moments of good. I want to accept the pause and find what is available now. Is there an upside for you in this pandemic?