Admitting that I’m not OK… and be OK with this new reality.
Since WHO declared that COVID-19 a global pandemic, the world has turned upside down. There are over 3.5 million people that have contracted the virus. Most significantly, there have been over 247,000 deaths globally. The US has surpassed 1.1 million cases and over 67,000 deaths.
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Putting numbers into perspective
The number of deaths caused by COVID-19 is jaw dropping but it’s difficult to assess the numbers and get a sense of how many people have died. To put the numbers into perspective…
- The biggest NBA arena, the American Airlines Arena where the Miami Heat play, has a capacity of 19,600.
- The biggest NHL arena, the Bell Centre where the Montreal Canadiens play, has a capacity of 21,273.
- The T-Mobile Arena, where the Seattle Mariners play, has a capacity of 48,116.
- The Yankee Stadium, where the New York Yankees play, has a capacity of 54,251.
- The Soldier Field, where the Chicago Bears play, has a capacity of 61,500.
- The Gillette Stadium, where the New England Patriots play, has a capacity of 65,878.
It is unfathomable to consider that the dead bodies from COVID-19 in the US can fill up some major famous professional sports stadiums. In fact, the number of dead bodies can already fill up the biggest sports stadiums in the world, twice!
- The Michigan Stadium, the biggest sports stadium in the US, can hold 107,601.
- The Sardar Patel Stadium, the biggest sports stadium in the world, can hold 110,000.
Note: I am ignoring the Rungrado 1st of May Stadium in North Korea since I don’t trust that capacity number of 114,000.
Unfortunately, with no effective treatments and no vaccines in sight, the death count will continue to climb…
Our world has been turned upside down
For us, we started the COVID-19 staying-home-social-distancing practice on March 13, so we have been stuck in the confines of our home for over seven weeks now. Both kids have asked why they aren’t going to school, why they can’t see my parents, why they can’t go to the playground, why they can’t have play dates with their friends, etc. All we can do is explain to them that there’s a virus going around, and we have to stay home to be safe. Although we are trying to stay positive as much as possible and create daily routines, our world has been turned upside down because so many things that we used to do that were considered as “normal” before the lock-down are simply not available anymore. Things like…
- Going to school
- Gatherings with family and friends
- Going to work
- Eating out
- Community centres
- Working out at the gym
- Going swimming
- Birthday parties
- Hand shakes
- Giving and receiving hugs from friends and family
- Play dates
- Business and personal travels
Personally, I really miss going swimming in the early morning and lifting weights at my work’s gym. I also miss those walks I have with my co-workers after lunch every day. I also miss being able to drop by the grocery store and pick up a few last-minute items.
My sister-in-law and brother welcomed their first child in mid-March. The stay-at-home normality means that neither my parents nor us have seen him in person. We have seen pictures and videos but it’s just not the same. We feel terrible that we can’t be there to help my brother and sister-in-law. With no clear timeline on when social distancing will be lifted, who knows when we will be able to see and hold the little guy in person.
The good and bad moments
Staying at home with the kids has had its good and bad moments. Most of the time, both kids are playing nicely alone and together and everyone is having a good time. I cherish those moments wholeheartedly.
Then there are bad moments.
Some days, one of the kids would wake up on the wrong side of the bed and start the day completely grumpy. They would get upset easily. Crying, screaming, not listening, and even trying to hit us when would be common on those days. When that happens, it is a challenge to stay level-headed, not get frustrated, and continue to be a good, supportive, loving parent.
Then there are also days when the kids would fight over small things and cause hell to break loose. For example, the other day Mrs. T and I woke up to a screaming Baby T2.0. Blood was pouring out of both her nostrils. We immediately took her to the bathroom and tried to stop the bleeding. It was then we found out that Baby T1.0 had hit her really hard on the nose because they were fighting over a blanket in their room. I lost my cool and yelled at Baby T1.0, asking why on earth he thinks it’s OK to punch her sister in the nose, especially given that she has had nose bleeds frequently. We managed to stop the bleeding after around 10 minutes. Once everyone was calmed down, I sat down with Baby T1.0 and talked things over.
These good and bad moments are nature ebbs and flows of life. But being stuck inside our house means we are under the same roof 24/7. It becomes difficult to find “alone” times throughout the day. Because of this, all four of us are still learning how to manage and adjust to this new normality.
A while ago I wrote an extremely personal post where I talked about some of my struggles with mental wellness. I have sought help since and have been feeling good mentally for the most part. However, there have been moments during our seven-week-stay-home-lock-down that I did not feel like myself at all. I was frustrated, impatient, and little things would trigger me to raise my voice. Of course, having both kids throwing temper tantrums did not help when I was not feeling great mentally.
On the other hand, Mrs. T has had tough times, too, having to homeschool both kids on the weekdays and keep them busy. Here and there, she would feel that she hasn’t had any breaks at all. By the end of the day, she would be completely worn down and frustrated.
Fortunately, the two of us talk every day and try to help each other as much as possible. We have had talks about our mental wellness (or sanity) and came up with a few plans. For me, I have found that taking 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) has helped me tremendously. So whenever I can feel something does not quite feel right, I would take a 5-HTP capsule over meal for a day or two. A bunch of my friends from university had a Zoom chat last Friday and being able to chat and see each other via video has also helped me with coping any anxieties I might have. For Mrs. T, we agreed to find times during the day when I would look after the kids for at least an hour, so she could get some alone time. She also started a Facebook message chain with a few moms where they could talk about their days, express their frustrations, and help each other.
What I have realized, over the last seven weeks, is that it’s OK to admit that I’m not OK. Nobody will judge me. We are not perfect. We don’t have perfect lives. There are always struggles that we have to face on a daily basis. There’s no shame to admit that we are not feeling OK and need a helping hand.
We are fortunate
Mrs. T and I are very grateful that we are all healthy and safe, including our immediate and extended family. Nobody has tested positive for COVID-19 and everyone is doing well so far. We are also grateful that we are OK financially. I am fortunate that my job is secure and I can work from home without any impact to my productivity. During this lockout period so far, we have been able to cut back on expenses which has allowed us to save more money for investing.
We are also very grateful that we have our dividend portfolio working hard for us, generating dividend income each month. The dividend cuts announced by a few companies have reduced our dividend income, but we always knew the risks with dividend growth investing—that the dividends are never guaranteed. A few weeks ago when our portfolio value was down by close to $250k compared to mid-February, I had a small moment of uneasiness. But I was able to brush off this uneasiness quickly by reminding myself of our long term goals and assuring myself that this is simply a short term pain.
Many people aren’t OK
Unfortunately, many people aren’t as fortunate as us. Many have lost their jobs, some have been forced to close their businesses and layoff their employees. Then many have loved ones who contracted the virus, or even have lost loved ones because of complications from the virus. These people are grieving for their loved ones, wondering how they will put food on the table, how they will pay for their rent, etc.
It is heartbreaking.
There are also people that need the daily social and physical interaction with others to fill up their happiness buckets. The social distancing is definitely taking a toll on these people.
To help out those people in need, we are donating money to local food banks. Now that the weather is getting better, we are also trying to socialize with our neighbours by chatting with them (from a safe distance, of course).
But I wish we could do more.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown me that there are so many heroes in our communities that do not get the recognition that they deserve. They are heroes, and we should all thank them for continuing to work so the rest of us can stay healthy and safe. They include doctors, nurses, scientists, health workers, police, fire fighters, grocery store workers, farmers, truck drivers, garbage removal workers, meat processing plant workers, pulp plant workers, and many more. Without these heroes, we wouldn’t be able to continue to stay home and stay safe.
It is time for us to stop putting actors, actresses, celebrities, and professional athletes on a pedestal and celebrate their fame. It is time for us to celebrate and show respect to these heroes in our communities and have them recognized for all the work they have done throughout the pandemic.
What will happen to the world economy?
Most of us know that the stock market tanked in late March. For some unexplained reason, the stock market has been on a gradual incline since then. With so many people unemployed and so many businesses shut down, the S&P 500 is now only down about 18% from the mid-February high. The value of our investment portfolio has certainly increased in value compared to late March.
In case you forget, the stock market is based on future expectations and not current status. Back in March when WHO declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic, the outlook did not look so good. People were worried and scared. For the majority of us, this is the first global pandemic that we have experienced. There are many unknowns and uncertainties. However, after an extended period of lockdowns and getting used to the new normality, people change their perspectives. Some companies have started reporting Q1 revenues and the impacts from COVID-19 weren’t as bad as some people believed (although I’d argue the full impact will be seen in Q2 results). Some countries have started, or started to ease stay-at-home orders. The world is not looking so scary compared mid-March when the WHO declared COVID-19 as a pandemic.
But I wonder what the future holds for us. Given that governments around the world are borrowing massive amounts of money so they can give their citizens financial help, I wonder how this will impact the bond market, interest rates, country gross debt, and future GDP. Who is going to pay all the government debt? Those of us that are still working for the foreseeable future? Or the future generations to come? And what’s going to happen to income taxes? Would governments increase income taxes as a way to reduce national debt level?
On the other hand, I also wonder if small businesses, especially local businesses, will be able to recover. And how many industries will survive this pandemic? Will the travel and hospitality industries ever be the same? Both of these industries certainly employ a lot of people. If these industries are not going to recover fully, what will happen to these workers?
There are so many questions waiting to be answered but probably won’t get answered for many years to come. It is human nature to bounce back from bad things. History has taught us this important lesson. Therefore, I remain optimistic and believe that we will survive all the chaos and come out better than before.
The positive by-products
Interestingly enough, the nationwide social distancing lockdown practice has produced some positive by-products for the environment.
- Air is now drastically cleaner everywhere than before the pandemic. In some of the most polluted cities like Delhi, India, one can finally see blue sky.
- Water is now cleaner in many parts of the world. Water in Venice canals is now blue.
- Nature has come creeping out of the shadows. Many previously uncommonly sighted wild species have been spotted regularly.
Who knows, maybe the lockdown will slow down global warming slightly? Maybe after seeing the vast environmental improvements, people will take global warming and environmental protection even more seriously?
I don’t know when COVID-19 will end. Doctors and scientists are working hard to find effective treatments and a vaccine. If a vaccine is available, it will probably take another 12 to 18 months before it is approved for human use. However, like HIV/AIDS, there may not be a vaccine available at all. Does that mean the return of normality will never happen and social distancing will become the new normality?
Not necessarily. If effective treatments can be found, then there will be ways to manage SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. HID/AIDS are still around but fewer and fewer people are dying because there are effective treatments available.
I remain optimistic that we will return to the old normal eventually, or at least close to it. It will simply take time.
For now though, it is totally OK to admit that you need help. Nobody will judge you. Let’s be friends and let’s help each other through this difficult and challenging time.
Let’s work together for the better good of humanity. We will come out of this ahead.