After 11 long weeks, in my little microcosm outside of Washington, DC things are finally beginning to reopen– in baby steps.  This week, court staff was allowed back into the courthouse, which had been closed since March 15, except for emergency hearings.   New procedures have recently been implemented to facilitate e-filing and participation of uncontested hearings by phone, which is something that will likely continue for some time (especially while the public and attorneys continue to have limited access through July 20th).  Meanwhile, some of my colleagues and clients have now resumed in-person meetings and mediations, which I personally prefer, even though it is apparent that many will continue to opt for online legal services long after this pandemic subsides.

For an uber-extrovert like me, this social distancing has been tough, especially without family (except for my son) nearby.  Several celebrations (including my brother’s wedding set for May) were canceled,  and future plans of reuniting with family and friends remain uncertain at this time.  Nonetheless, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to support many of my friends and colleagues the past 2 months through social media, including the production of 17 YouTube videos and various blogs featuring experts with timely tips for families on a variety of topics during COVID-19.

As we now cautiously resume some of our normal activities, we need to try and suspend passing judgment on others.  Clearly, the images we see in the news and social media demonstrate that there is a wide range in everyone’s comfort level with taking certain risks while this pandemic continues.  Within my own circle, some people I know are still wary of going to large grocery stores, while others never stopped and were among the first to schedule a haircut once salons reopened.  Some are gladly enjoying small backyard happy hours with friends and limited outdoor restaurant dining, while others are still skeptical about getting take-out.  Just this past week, I polled my Facebook friends about travel, and everyone is all over the map on that question.

So, moving forward with this “new norm” I would encourage people to embrace the advice of Don Miguel Ruiz in The Four Agreements, which basically proposes that we do the following: (1) be true to your word; (2) don’t take anything personally; (3) don’t make assumptions; and (4) always do your best. Now more than ever, we really need to say what we mean, and mean what we say to others. Meanwhile, we need to accept that the world does not revolve around us, and none of us are capable of reading minds. Ultimately, all we can do is focus on being our best selves.

Understandably, while facing tremendous uncertainty, fear and anxiety it is hard to be your best self.  That’s why you need to be patient.  It takes time to train your brain to reframe situations, stop negative loops, and develop healthy ways to soothe yourself and calm that inner child. Remind yourself that you are not alone– we are all in this crisis together, and no one is going to walk away unscathed.  It is okay to reach out to loved ones or seek professional help when you feel unsteady.  Your ability to acknowledge your own vulnerabilities is not a weakness, but rather should be considered a strength.

This coronavirus crisis has exposed vulnerabilities in everyone– none of us are immune to the possibility of death, financial loss, major life setbacks, or situational anxiety or depression. How we choose to cope with these challenges, however, varies greatly, and depends entirely on each individual’s emotional toolbox.   Keep this in mind as we begin to reconnect with the outside world.  Tread lightly with others, and just focus on you while doing your best to suspend judgment.

By Regina A. DeMeo