I looked out my window a few days ago and saw clear skies with almost no smog. The birdsong was louder than usual, there were definitely more birds calling to each other than I’d heard in the many years I’ve lived in my current home. Mulholland Drive and Laurel Pass, both visible from my living room, had next to no traffic where the cars used to be lined up bumper to bumper. When I go out, I rarely hear anyone honking their horns. Apparently the canals of Venice are blue for the first time in many years, the air pollution in China and Italy is greatly improved, and people are slowing down and communicating with each other.

I’m not trying to say that everything is rosy. Far from it. You have only to look at the rise in domestic violence and the faces of our health care workers and the elderly to see the toll this disease is taking on so many people. We have only to witness the political mess we’re in. At the same time, a lot has changed for the better, but look what it took to get us here.

It took fear of death to stop us from running around aimlessly, rushing and getting nowhere.

It took fear of scarcity to stop us from using up our precious resources.

It took extreme boredom to get us to clean up our houses and organize the junk drawer.

It took weeks of isolation to make time for our creative and artistic endeavors, like writing that story, playing music and and painting that picture.

It took a forced quarantine to get us to spend quality time with our families and learn how to communicate with each other.

It took fear of contamination to give us permission to forego an unwanted hug or kiss.

We are sometimes a stubborn and often spoiled group of people who are not accustomed to doing things for ourselves. I’m talking for myself as I hate to admit that I haven’t cleaned my own house for so long, I had no idea where to begin. What cleaning products and tools did I need to use? A friend of mine hadn’t washed her own hair for decades and when she finally did, in her own words, it looked like a tsunami had hit her bathroom. People are learning to cook for themselves, they’re baking, eating healthy food at home, doing crossword and jigsaw puzzles, reading books and playing music. We’re taking long walks and being friendly with each other. We are less interested in how we look because a mask hides a world of wrinkles. It’s ironic that as we isolate and live these forced insular lives, we have never felt so connected and appreciative of our friends. The cliché, “we are all in this together,” doesn’t seem like a cliché any more. It feels like the truth.

If there’s someone you haven’t spoken to for a while, this is the time to do it. It’s time to reach out and check on each other, listen to each other, find compassion where there was none, and give our time and energy to the people who really need it. This is a time to make up, to settle arguments, to let go and stop judging. There is no right way to do this quarantine so we have to do what makes us comfortable and let other people do what works for them. Tolerance and patience are valuable right now, qualities that we haven’t exercised for a while. Most of all, let’s forgive each other, forgive ourselves and when this is over, let’s keep on doing it. The world will feel better, I’ll feel better and so will you.