My journey with this experience started over a month ago. As a small business owner in NYC, I host hands-on culinary events for corporate team-building and milestone celebrations (bridal showers, birthdays, etc..).

SPOILER ALERT: Not Corona Friendly.

Back in mid-February when the calls started coming, I was vaguely annoyed. Then within about 36 hours, I was looking at four cancellations from one major bank. They were the first of many organizations that would establish an employee travel freeze. Within a week, my events calendar was ½ full, though I would have said ½ empty just a week ago.

This thing has come in phases, but all changes happen at lightning speed. Watching things go from bad to worse takes a major toll because each time, at least at first, you think it can’t get any more awful, and then it does.

Once there was nothing left resembling my company that three weeks prior was flourishing, after endless and expensive legal conversations occurred, after documents and policies were written & re-written, after full time employees became part-time employees, and then part time employees were all let go too, after tears & then screams in agony about the destruction of my employee’s lives, my life’s work, and my only real plan for feeding a child… that’s when I woke up.

I looked around, newly desensitized to horror in a way I never imagined, and I saw others catching onto, and up with, what the hell was happening. I couldn’t be anything but thankful that I’d already arrived in our new reality. A few days later, I knew that my decision to accept this reality, and maybe even embrace it, is what will keep me alive now. The alternative is epic depression and anxiety.

I’m the type of person who has spent what many would consider a successful career waiting endlessly for the next shoe to drop. I woke up every single day before this crisis worrying how close I might be to homelessness or starvation. However, as I drifted further and further away from that irrational fear becoming an actual reality, I lost touch with the most vulnerable pieces of myself.

I have managed to avoid the loss that so many I know, and love have experienced.

Outside of the emotional, struggle had become a distant memory.

I forgot that making my child be creative every single day is essential to her survival.

Until three days ago, I hadn’t consumed a leftover dish of food since the 1990’s.

Today, I have a dining room full of empty brown paper bags. My daughter keeps asking me why they are there, and I keep saying, “I don’t know yet, but we might need them!”. I realize that makes me sound like I’ve simply lost it, but the bags represent something, and that something is possibility.

It is possible that we will make a giant paper bird and fly it over the yard. It is possible that soon, we won’t have a yard. It is possible that everything is going to be okay, and it is possible that it will not. It is accepting what is…at this very moment, that will get us through, and it is keeping room and space for possibility that will help us transition into whatever comes next.

As much as that fear of my eminent demise lived in my psyche for decades, I never really gave it a seat at the table. I never talked to it, I never planned for it, I never actually honored it as a real option. Instead, I let it fester, and simply shewed it away when it came knocking. As a result, I wasn’t prepared when it arrived.

So, the question is this:

How do we collectively avoid rage, depression & severe anxiety when the world appears to be falling apart, piece by piece, day after day?

Working hard to change things for the better is something most of us are taught how to do, but accepting things as they are…we have no tools for that.

Acceptance is such a simple lesson, and it shouldn’t have taken me half a lifetime, or a pandemic, to get here. But now, for the first time ever, when things are quite possibly at the worst, I could choose something besides high-strung, on-edge, high-alert. This is because I’ve finally accepted that I control very little.

This lesson will allow me to carve out purpose for the first time in eons.

I can waste less, I could love more, I could practice gratitude.

I could plan better, I could give in new ways.

Most importantly, I could move through hardship without letting it take the one thing that I can salvage…my perspective.

This past Wednesday, I had a moment where I felt my anxiety level just swelling in my chest. I took some time to acknowledge it, I told it:

“Shit be crazy right now, girl! It’s okay that you feel things and want to freak the fuck out. Forgive yourself, and then go stare at your succulent that just made a flower. Things are still beautiful somewhere, and we must find that place.”

So maybe, to avoid the collective rage and depression, we find something beautiful or hilarious, but not to distract, only so we can perceive something uplifting while acknowledging our collective misfortune and underlying anxiety.

Thinking of you all on your own journey of learning and renewal.

May you find a way to accept your reality.

May you find a purpose within that new norm.

May that purpose give you comfort and calm.

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Lisa Marie Justice

Lisa owns and operates two recreational cooking school spaces based in New York City. She is the single mother to one 9 year old sprite.