Updated: May 19, 2020
The ability to do what you want when you want to may seem like a relative impossibility these days. With the #coronavirus winding its way across the globe, affecting innumerable aspects of our collective lives in some ways that we cannot yet even begin to understand; our experience at the individual level is challenging, filled with varying emotions and an uncertain future. This period reminds me of that famous line from Charles Dickens:
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
We have all experienced loss, of the comfortability our routines, of our access to some of the goods and resources that we are used to. We may be realizing how much we took for granted the ability to choose which kind of toilet paper to buy or an afternoon walk to our favorite lunch spot. Some of us are experiencing deep loss, fearing for the lives of loved ones who have fallen ill or for our own health or survival given the current financial instability. It may be spring in many parts of the world, but the #quarantine has dampened the normal post-hibernation vigor. We can't go out like we used to.
The fragility of everything that we took for granted has been exposed.
We have been, to borrow Dickens' words, foolish and incredulous, unwilling to see or change the dynamics which have left us at risk.
These things are B-I-G and affect all peoples and countries: supply chain insecurities, a lack of adequate or efficient health care for all, political instability and in-fighting, to say the least. In recent decades, the world prioritized the use of non-renewable resources and explosive growth in financial markets without regard for what our earthly home could actually sustain. We will never 'go back to normal' because our "normal" wasn't natural or sustainable.
Some of the best news reporting in years is taking place, with authority figures showing their humanity. Our enforced quarantine is perhaps bringing people together, closer than they may have been to each other in years. People are finally able to live their furry-footed adoption dreams with more time at home and a renewed sense of their need for affection and connection.
The changes that have been forced upon us have held some fascinating information about how we are influencing the health of the planet. They have had the unintended consequence of improving the quality of our environment, showing us a new, green way forward. In an eye-roll worthy, better-late-than-never-move, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged the world to lay down its weapons of war and fight our common viral enemy. So I guess all it takes is a #globalpandemic to create world peace, reverse climate change and show people what really matters to them...hm.
There is a new wisdom arising in us, a light on our way forward.
We have everything and nothing before us. We can make our lives, both individually and collectively, whatever we choose.
Our current situation may seem dire or limiting, but that's all a matter of perspective. We are being presented with a golden opportunity, a chance to hit the pause button. To reset and to do things differently.
Haven't you ever wanted to change the way your life was?
This is your opportunity.
We all have the same 24 hours in each day. Let's just use them differently.
If you've wanted to heal a broken relationship, change your financial situation, find meaningful work you love or just finally get in shape; then use this time to reach out to those who've hurt you, seeking peace for yourself. Explore those career changes you've always daydreamed about, learn to paint or cut your own hair. Do a little physical movement every day (it might be free!) finally re-arrange your furniture or quit smoking, and for heaven's sake eat some plants.
Take a page from the book of some of our early Antarctic explorers, who faced months of total darkness and intense confinement in close quarters. Learn a new language, listen to music or use culinary experimentation, diary-writing, and good old-fashioned board games to raise your spirits.
Or remember young Anne Frank, quarantined in an attic from 1942-1944, who "saw her captivity as a chance to face 'the difficult task of improving [her]self... [and] 'discovered an inner happiness underneath [her] superficial and cheerful exterior.' "
It is human nature to fall into autopilot and engage in patterns of behavior without regard for what effects they may have upon our well-being. Our times have never been more illustrative of that.
However, it is also our humanity that allows us to transcend ways of thinking to perceive other possibilities. This freedom in perception is part of what makes us all human.
In the words of Jean-Paul Sarte, "Freedom is what you do with what has been done to you." It is a state of mind, not a set of conditions in your life.
I leave you with the words of White Eagle, a Hopi indigenous leader, who on March 16th, 2020 urged humanity:
"Take care of your home, take care of your body. When you are taking care of one, you are taking care of everything else. Do not lose the spiritual dimension of this crisis, have the aspect of the eagle, which from above, sees the whole, sees more widely. There is a social demand in this crisis, but there is also a spiritual demand. The two go hand in hand. Without the spiritual dimension, we fall into pessimism and lack of meaning. You were prepared to go through this crisis. Take your toolbox and use all the tools at your disposal. Learn about resistance with indigenous and African peoples: we have always been and continue to be exterminated. But we still haven't stopped singing, dancing, lighting a fire and having fun. Don't feel guilty about being happy during this difficult time. You don't help at all by being sad and without energy. It helps if good things emanate from the Universe now. It is through joy that one resists."
Know that restriction and feeling "stuck" are states of mind, not conditions of reality. Choose to try something new. Choose positivity. Choose hope. Choose freedom.
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