In my last column, I talked about self-reflecting, practising gratitude, and remembering the things that matter are good. I stressed the importance of not sweating the small stuff and the challenges life throws at us. Well, life has certainly thrown quite a few challenges at us lately!
Before the pandemic hit, I felt like my life was a sea of over scheduled activities. I was going from gym to job, school to soccer, and running errands in between. To-do lists were long and weekdays were often a logistical nightmare. Life just felt (too) busy.
Suddenly in March, everyone was consumed by coronavirus. It started abroad and then became a reality at home as well. The word pandemic crept into our conversations. All we could talk about was hand washing and social distancing. The noise grew louder and louder.
And life as we knew it was interrupted. Gyms closed. Sport was cancelled. Flour disappeared from the shelves and toilet paper and hand sanitiser became the new currency. The kids didn’t go back to school and before we knew it, we were facilitating ‘remote learning’ and working from home.
At first, it felt really stressful. Online learning portals were the new classrooms, Zoom the new meeting room, and the house felt messier than ever.
The dress code eased and the commute disappeared, but the stress of going to the shops and securing toilet paper, let alone pasta, increased.
There was worry about healthcare workers and family and friends in America. While some people were at home learning new languages, crafting and starting new businesses, I kept reminding myself that if I came out of the pandemic with my sanity, I’d be winning.
Outside of our small world, the pandemic highlighted indifference and inequality across the globe as our phones fed us endless scrolls of human despair, stressed healthcare systems and unemployment. I found myself sporadically crying. The trauma ran deep as situations spiralled out of control across the world.
Amidst the noise of my news feed, there was some light – a glimmer of hope and a glimpse of what the world could look like if we put less stress on the planet and ourselves.
I started reading stories about blue skies in polluted cities and clear waters in Venetian canals. Homeless people were being sheltered and random acts of kindness were everywhere as people dropped food to neighbours and bought masks for grocery clerks. The Italians sang and the Brazilians danced from their balconies at a distance.
And in that time, we had an opportunity to pause. We were forced to slow down. We were given time to self-reflect and think about who we are as individuals, as a society and who we want to be. I realised that a lot of the running around I do is unnecessary and the stuff I think I need, I don’t. This devastating pandemic freed many of us from the prison of our over-scheduled lives.
And personally, we found our rhythm at home. The boys learned online while my husband and I worked. Sure, there were moments of impatience and discontent, but we got through them. There were board games and movies and laughs. We walked together regularly and after dinner, we played cards as a family or online with those who weren’t with us. Friends and I worked out together in our garages, or walked at the beach, at the right social distance. Life slowed right down and we enjoyed each moment.
Historian Patrick Wyman said: “Crises like these reveal what is already broken or in the process of breaking.” I believe this to be true. What has also been revealed is that we can rebuild a broken world. Not one among us would wish this suffering and loss on anyone, but it has shown us that another world is possible. We have seen it.
I can already feel things opening back up and by time you are reading this article, I wonder if the world, and society, will be telling you it’s “business as usual”. If they do, don’t believe them. It is not business as usual and we get to define our new normal – personally, locally and on a global scale.
Take these last moments of quiet time at home to consider who you are and what makes you feel happy, sane, and safe.
We have been given an opportunity to choose what we let back into our lives and the way we move through them in our own “brave new world”. May that new way of living and being go viral.