A few weeks ago, while wrapping up my busiest season of work and kids’ soccer, someone unsuccessfully attempted to break into my car, damaging the door handle such that my ability to get into my car became unreliable (now fixed). Soon after, my work computer crashed and was unable to get past the log-in screen (still not fixed). I wondered if these were signs of the times — with systems breaking down around me, am I still expected to keep functioning at the same level of productivity?
Two years in, and we are in a much better place than we have been before in terms of the pandemic, at least here in the U.S. And yet to be honest, things to continue to feel a bit apocalyptic. Supply chain shortages and raging inflation, war in Europe, the current state of SCOTUS — all of these things (in addition to many problems that were already evident) seem ominous.
Still, as I’ve written before, it’s essential to maintain hope. Maybe things are especially bad now, but maybe also this feeling of being on the edge of apocalypse is in fact part of the human experience. The bubonic plague is thought to have killed about half of the world’s population in the fifth century, and continued to be a major problem in Europe for centuries to come, finally winding down late in the 17th century. World War I was supposed to be the war to end all wars, and then it was followed closely on the heels by the horrors of WWII. We continue to grapple with disease and war, and now we’ve added the threat that might finally do us in, human-caused climate change.
I’m sorry, perhaps that doesn’t sound hopeful. I mean only to say that the fragility of human life and civilization is not new. Still, bearing witness to the fracturing of our society doesn’t feel very good.
One of the current crises in our country right now is a baby formula shortage. While I acknowledge this is a serious problem and have nothing but empathy for the many families who are affected by this, I also have to ask — how did the human race survive before the 1950s, when modern baby formula was invented? This seems to be a problem in large part caused by the marketing machine of the formula companies that have for years convinced new parents that formula is more convenient than breastfeeding. Yes — some women cannot breastfeed for various reasons, and some need to supplement with formula because of low milk supply, but those numbers should be much lower than they are. I had a very challenging time with breastfeeding my first child, but I was determined to be successful and ultimately breastfed both of my children for two years. I can imagine other moms unable to cope with a similar (or more challenging) situation and would never want to shame anyone for choosing or needing to use formula. But — breastmilk is far healthier than formula AND free, and should certainly be the preferred option in the first six months of a baby’s life. To be clear, if you are in need of infant formula during this time you should consult with your pediatrician and not follow Internet recipes for making formula at home.
The baby formula shortage will be resolved, but some of our other problems are here to stay. How to stay grounded and hopeful in times that may or may not be turning more and more dystopian? For me I’ve worked on strategies to help myself stay resilient throughout the pandemic and I will need to continue relying on them in the months and years to come. These include: exercise, healthy food, prayer & meditation, journaling, practicing gratitude, counseling, engaging in meaningful work, and being a part of a faith community. And perhaps, being okay with being less productive at times. We’ve been bad Cub Scout participants, for instance. What helps you stay grounded in these unpredictable times?