Yes, of course, there are crucial things to do now. RIGHT NOW. Immediately and urgently. We know about those and we’re doing them.
The problem is that our hearts and minds can’t keep up with all of the genuinely crucial and urgent things we need to do. So as we busily wash our hands and buy canned food and stay away from each other, our insides are spinning because the reality of NOW is genuinely terrifying.
What to do about schools is one of the many maddening parts of our Now.
The Harvard students I know planned to come back to campus to study, take their final exams, and graduate. But in this gray, drizzly Now, they’re wondering how to complete their first-rate education over Zoom and apply for jobs through social distancing. First-year Harvard undergraduates live together in Harvard Yard. In their bizarre and bewildering Now, they’re commanded without notice to evacuate the premises. Move out of the dorms where they live within a few days. Move Now. But move to where?
What about visiting students from South Korea or Italy? For them, as with many students who can’t go to school for the foreseeable future, this Now is a nightmare.
Now is Not All We Have
Here is where the beauty of Later comes in. Because it’s frankly too nerve-wracking to keep all of our mental and emotional focus on the Now.
When the cancellations and the lockdowns and the rising number of cases is more than your mind can handle, imagine lovely things that will happen….Later. When schools make you stay home, only teach classes online and shut down your dorm….imagine a joyful and productive life…Later. When this is over. When we’ve made it to the other side. Later.
Consider that people in Wuhan are starting to go back to work. New infections in China are falling. Travel restrictions are relaxing. The tide is turning.
Back in January, the city of Wuhan with 11 million people was in lockdown. It was likely impossible to imagine the easing of fear and suffering. Their Now was too painful and all-encompassing to envision a Later when the lockdown was over. Yet here they are, the people of Wuhan, slowly emerging from that terror and loss. Their Later has arrived.
Now it’s our turn – all of us who didn’t start this journey in China. In the US and in Europe and in Australia and in…well, everywhere that isn’t China…it’s our Now that is mind-bending and panic-inducing. It’s our Now that we can’t predict and don’t understand.
In every age bracket and stage of life, we need to continue every hour of every day to take every action needed in this crisis. We are and we will. To do that for weeks or months, we need to give our hearts and minds a break once in a while.
We have the power to do it. The Power of Later.
Picture yourself at work – at the office, with colleagues. See yourself playing sports with your teammates. Going to a conference. Flying on a plane. Fast-forward the clock in your mind’s eye and see yourself in your normal routine. Running your errands or running your business or simply out for your morning run. Picture your 5th year college reunion when you’re talking with former roommates. You’ll remember the insane, unprecedented madness of the spring of 2020 and give a sigh of relief that’s all behind you.
Later will happen. Our Later will come.
Hang in there.
You can read more about my perspectives on coronavirus at Forbes.com