Selflessness before selfishness in dark times brings light

March 18, 2020 | Payton North

I think I can safely say that we’re all aware of how serious the current coronavirus situation is – and if you’re not aware or taking it seriously – it’s time to educate yourself.

I still stand by my column from a few weeks ago, where I asked readers to be rational, cautious and to not panic. Sending yourself into hysteria will only hurt you further and leave you even more at risk. I understand first–hand that is easier said than done, but we all need a little bit of that cautious optimism to keep our spirits up.

With that said, our situation has escalated since then. As I’m writing this, I’m typing on my laptop from my desk at home. All Reminder Publishing staff has been asked to work from home, if possible.

While I do enjoy writing from home in my pajamas, I also find myself missing bouncing ideas off of coworkers. Nothing compares to a bustling newsroom where reporters can constantly talk about what they’re working on. However – I will say – it was getting a little emotionally and mentally draining not only writing about the coronavirus all day, but discussing it, analyzing it, and re–analyzing it over and over again. We’re still doing that, but from the comfort of our homes.

Though we’re continuing covering important stories that do have to do with the coronavirus, we’re also covering regularly scheduled events, such as candidates that are running for upcoming elections, local authors who have penned books and –quite simply – people in general who are doing great things in our communities. 

There are some fantastic local health clubs that are offering free online classes to the public, other area bakeries are offering pick–up cake decorating and cookie kits for kids, many restaurants and organizations are bringing food to local hospitals for the doctors and nurses who are working tirelessly, some eateries are offering free food to families who suffer from food insecurities. 

What I find amazing – but not surprising – is how well communities come together to help one another. When the tornado ripped through Western Mass. in 2011, everyone lept into action. I distinctly remember baking hundreds of snickerdoodle cookies and bringing them down to the First Church of Monson with my mom to pass out to not only displaced families, but also people who had volunteered all day to aid in the relief. Though today’s circumstances are different in the sense that we don’t want any personal contact, the support for thy neighbor has not changed, judging by the selfless acts I witness on social media every day. I applaud all of you.

There does come a time, though, (usually around 9 p.m. when I can’t fall asleep) where I find I really need some time to decompress from all the stress of the day, and I’m sure all of our readers can relate. Here are a few things I’m doing that are helping me keep some of that cautious optimism I mentioned earlier:

  • Reading a book. One of my goals for this year was to read at least 12 books, one for every month. I used to read so many more, but with how busy I have been I fell off track. I’ve made the commitment to keep up with reading this year. Some books are fun, some are career–related. I tried to start reading a career-related book the other day, but it didn’t feel right. I felt as though ALL I was thinking about was work...and that’s not healthy, despite loving my job. Pick up a fun, light–hearted read that allows you to mentally escape for a little while.
  • Listening to a podcast. One of my favorite pastimes is listening to a podcast. I use podcasts as an outlet – another form of escapism if you will – so I don’t spend too much time listening to informational podcasts. A few favorites of mine when I’m looking for a laugh or to catch up on pop culture include “The LadyGang” and “Chicks in the Office.” Another favorite, slightly more serious podcast that I enjoy is called “Mental Makeover,” by an Australian woman named Lauren Curtis. She discusses all things happiness, body image, self–love, relationships, spirituality and reaching your goals.
  • Walking my dog. I have a six–year–old, 110 pound, German Shepherd named Scout. He’s a fearless, protective beast that I adore. He loves to play frisbee and also enjoys long walks. I took him for an afternoon walk on a hiking trail to clear my head, and both he and I left happier. I’m planning on making this part of my daily ritual.
  • Calling my loved ones. I know, I know. It sounds obvious. In this time of isolation, it’s so important to keep in contact – socially distant contact – with our loved ones. Check in on them to make sure they’re safe, to see if they need anything and to simply talk about their days.
  • Cleaning my house. Again – it seems obvious – but if we’re really trying to look on the bright side of things, this is a wonderful time to get those spring cleaning projects done. I deep cleaned my bedroom over the weekend – went through my closet and packed clothes up in bags to send to goodwill when everything returns to normal, organized files for bills and insurance policies, dusted, vacuumed, disifected, changed sheets, washed blankets, etc. Then after that I was on a roll, so I helped my mother completely empty her kitchen pantry and organize it with labels and clear canisters. Normally, we all leave our houses and avoid these little projects that we know need to be done because we really don’t want to do them. This is the time! I felt fantastic mentally after completing the chores; I didn’t realize that these were tasks that were hanging over my head. It felt good to keep myself busy and be productive at the same time.

What are you doing during this time to keep busy? Is there anything in particular you’re focusing on to help keep your mind at ease? Drop me a line at and let me know. For now – at the risk of sounding like a fortune cookie – I wish you all health, safety and most of all, happiness during these trying times. I urge you to find your cautious optimism.

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