So much has changed. The world has changed. I have changed. Those around me have changed. And life in the desert has certainly changed.
While we each found our way to this unique place for different reasons – some to escape city life or retire in the sun, others to take care of parents or simply try something new – one thing we share is a love for desert life.
We were drawn by the beauty and nature, splendid seasonal weather, and the vast array of events, festivals and happy hours that make our valley a world-renowned resort destination.
Many, like me, however, didn’t expect to discover such a strong sense of community. We belong to social groups or clubs and play pickleball, golf, or tennis. We hike, bike and ride horses together. We schedule bunco and mahjong and convene for lunches and dinners. We thrive on business-to-business opportunities and give back through volunteering. We support each other’s galas and gatherings, and along the way, make new friends, feel fulfilled and develop a strong sense of purpose.
At this time, much of that is missing.
Our individual worlds have become smaller and the mere thought of communing can evoke uncertainty and fear. We each live in our own little COVID cluster and no one knows how the other looks. It’s so different and strange.
Who would have ever thought this of our desert paradise?
I miss my friends, our community and desert life immensely. While I know it’s temporary, I can’t help but wonder, will it ever be the same? How will quarantine change us individually and as a society?
A February 2020 report in The Lancet reviewed 3,166 papers on the mental impact of quarantine.1 Some of the adverse effects reported include post-traumatic stress symptoms, confusion (anyone else have COVID brain?) and anger (COVID crazy). These feelings are brought on by fears of infection, frustration (why does everything seem so challenging?), boredom, inadequate supplies, inadequate information, financial loss and the long durations we are experiencing now.
But do these feelings last? Several studies in the review concluded that it could take months or even years to return to a sense of normalcy and to feel comfortable in crowds again. Unfortunately, two vulnerable groups at higher risk of long-term consequences appear to be health care workers and children. Those on the front line certainly see the worst and often experience stigma from others who fear to get close or develop a greater fear of closeness themselves. One study comparing parents and children stated that post-traumatic stress scores in kids were four times higher. These precious groups certainly deserve the support we need to provide them at this time.
The good news is there appears to be less distress and fewer long-term complications associated with voluntary quarantine, especially when leaders keep us informed and supplied with necessities, and remind us that we are self-isolating for the greater good. The health and progress of our community is in our hands and we are all in this together.
Finding the good in it all
In April, I wrote about the positive impact our human interlude has had on the global environment (Pause and Reflect; May/June 2020). But as time goes by, it gets harder to celebrate the big picture with so much concern for your personal tribe and own state of being.
I’m having to reach deep to find the good in it all, but feel hopeful that these unparalleled times are designed to help us evolve into better human beings.
Slowing down is teaching us to be comfortable with slowing down. We are taking time to focus on what truly matters and realizing our health is the most important thing we have. Simple hobbies long thought to be “old fashioned” are making a comeback, and we are learning new things. We are taking less for granted and making a concerted effort to share a smile. We are learning to manage stress through meditation, breathing and rest. And the love for everything we have – and everything we miss – is greater than ever.
Desert life will return someday soon; maybe not exactly as it was, but with the possibility that it could be even better. We will come together again more bonded than before with a deeper sense of purpose and a greater appreciation for it all.
Lauren Del Sarto is founder and publisher of Desert Health and can be reached at Lauren@DesertHealthNews.com. Visit her blog at www.LaurenDelSarto.com