When the Carlton Complex fires broke out and the valley lost power for eight days, what did people do? They did what Methow Valley families have been doing for generations: they went straight to those in need, delivering hugs first, followed by food and supplies.
In the years after the Carlton Complex fires, folks in the Methow Valley got particularly adept at responding to needs with their physical presence, showing up to shovel truckloads of debris out of people’s homes after mudslides, to sift through the rubble of houses lost to wildfires, to deliver clothing and meals. Showing up for each other is intuitive: reflexive rather than conscious.
As resilient and as helpful as we have grown to be, particularly over these past six years, facing this novel coronavirus crisis as a community is requiring quite a shift in mindset. Our first instinct in the face of stress is to reach out to each other, to take and provide comfort in each other’s presence. Congregating helps mitigate our own anxiety about the future; there’s refuge in numbers. We’re accustomed to literally “being there” for each other.
What we need to do now flies in the face of our natural instincts. “Being there” for each other now requires, counterintuitively, “not being there:” no visits, no potlucks, no book clubs, no hugs. In the age of coronavirus, the one thing we have been accustomed to giving — ourselves — is not a gift but a disservice. “Social distancing” is a kind of love and compassion that we aren’t skilled at practicing yet.
But we are adapting quickly. After just a week or so, living 6 feet apart from most of those around us now feels like standard operating procedure. Did we actually used to lean our heads together to speak in confidence, fill up carpools, offer hugs freely? Did we use to share bites of a delicious meal from a friend’s fork, organize 400-person events, cluster shoulder-to-shoulder at parades? Of course we did, and we will again, but for now, those are all habits we need to break.
Depending on where you source your data, you’ll learn that forming a new habit takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days. We don’t have the luxury of even the shortest of those time estimates. Methow people have reliably shown the ability to adapt to challenging new environments, and it’s time to do it again. If we want to all be standing up at the end of this, now is the time to stand down, step back, stay home, and, for a while, not “be there.”
Need some good news? Welcome home, Frankie Morales. We’re glad you’re back.