No doubt you’ve been affected by the recent COVID-19 pandemic. The past few weeks have been an absolute roller coaster and perhaps one of the most difficult things we faced early on was the uncertainty of what was going to happen.
As a result we have been feeling high levels of anxiety. As most of us didn’t see that coming (apart from the few scientists who had issued warnings a few years ago), our first response was disbelief and shock, quickly followed by panic and fear.
A natural human response to dealing with fear is to try to gain as much control as we can. Through hoarding toilet paper to spend every free minute to check the news, we engaged in behaviours that are designed to give us a sense of security. But unfortunately this is one of the most apparent situations in which we are reminded that we have very little control over life.
We do generally hide behind the illusion we control our lives. Our daily routine, how we create our environment, our goals, our to-do lists are there to make us feel as if we had everything under control. It is reassuring, it gives us a great sense of security – even if it’s an illusion. But most of the time we do get away with this illusion as life doesn’t challenge us much.
But this time it’s different. This time we can’t ignore anymore how little control we have. And for most of us, this is very unsettling and scary.
But even though we are still facing the unknown, at least whilst we are on a lockdown we kind of know where we stand for the next few weeks.
So we now need to recentre and ground ourselves in order to navigate the next phase as calmly as possible. It is time to turn inward and decide how we will emotionally process it all.
Extreme situations like those bring either the worst in us or the best. Let’s work towards openness and compassion. Let’s not allow our fears to take hold of us and disconnect us even more from others. Let’s remember we are all in it together and we will get through this together as long as we offer a common front to this crisis. So let’s help our neighbours, let’s stay home, let’s only buy what’s necessary, let’s share our individual gifts with others whether it’s singing for your neighbours or offering to do their shopping. Let’s not retreat in fear and selfishness, let’s not just try to save ourselves at the cost of our humanity.
It’s also an opportunity to reassess our priorities. Now that we’re forced to slow down and stay home, before we go back to some normality, let’s first decide what’s worth prioritising. Here we have an opportunity to rethink our lives, to examine how we’ve lived so far and if it’s aligned with the best and true version of ourselves.
We’ve taken a lot of things for granted until this happened, we were complacent expecting everything immediately and effortlessly thanks to instant technology. We assumed it was normal to have full shelves at the supermarket, to be able to buy everything we wanted and get it delivered the following day. We were taking for granted to be able to travel as we wished. Perhaps we were living on auto-pilot taking everything for granted. Having forgotten how quickly everything can be taken away from us.
I wish this were a wake up call for all of us. I hope this shock will wake us up in realising how lucky we are to live in a world with all this comfort and convenience. I hope we will gain in humility and wisdom, stopping to take things and people for granted. Yes, the shattering of our illusion of security is painful but gives us the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and perhaps start to treat the planet and each other with a bit more respect and compassion.
What meaning can we find through this challenge? How can we take this opportunity to become better, to reconnect with what’s important?
One of my big concern is how humanity will be changed by those extraordinary events. Right now we are seeing beautiful acts of kindness, people reaching out, singing at their balcony ; but what will happen if this lasts for longer than planned? Being a very adaptable specie, how quickly before we get used to only connecting through screens and work from home as it’s clearly more cost effective for companies? How quickly before the old sci-fi stories of a fully “technologized” humanity becomes our reality? We were already spending so much time on our screens – and now we are learning to live all our lives through them. Will we be able to go back? when we are able to connect again, how long will that connection last again once we’ve experienced something easier and more convenient? Being a specie who always looks for what’s easier and having a mind who always seeks the path of least effort, will we make the time to meet again face to face? Will we take the time to travel to see each other in person again?
Let’s hope that once this is over we will realise how connection is essential and how transient money, material possessions and status are. I hope this experience will remind us how we almost disappeared behind our screens, how we almost destroyed our planet, how we almost forgot what had real value. I hope we get a second chance and do it better next time.