I am an asthmatic. Since I was a child, I have spent many evenings breathing deeply. Because of my asthma, I am well aware of the torture of respiratory diseases, and when the coronavirus hit the headlines, I was one of the first people to isolate themselves. In the past month and a half I have had a lot of time to think about this new reality that has been imposed on all of us. It is a reality without social contact, hairdressers, beauty treatments or reckless expenses.
When I resigned myself to the financial loss that came from the limitations of COVID-19, something pretty magical happened. Much of the stress that life puts on you to be a certain way and impress your friends with your accomplishments and possessions is gone, leaving a much happier person. The burden of socializing when there was no real desire to do so was lifted, and I was surprised at how liberating it felt. Surrounded by a tiny group of people I love, I felt warm and protected.
I was quite surprised to discover that I had little desire to contact my friends electronically. I'm a face to face person, so all other forms of communication - unless it's for practical purposes - are a chore. It's not that I don't love my friends - I do. I also feel obliged to stay in touch, but I don't want to unless there's something special to say. I know I should call her, but it wasn't me. The virus allowed me to remain silent.
My priorities have changed dramatically. I am no longer obsessed with hair, nails, beauty treatments and even exercise. I'm more worried about what I'm doing for lunch and dinner, grocery lists, and housekeeping. There is a special "je m'en fous" feeling (I don't care) about anything other than our daily life. Everything else will happen when it happens. I have been looking through my calendar and moving everything to a distant date in the future and for the first time in my life this is fine. Stress is far below. My only real concern is that they open schools too early and the risks involved.
I feel that the nation's mood is not much different. Under the threat of accidental death, most of us stopped worrying about Brexit, Megxit, exotic vacations, or even how many genders you can be at one time. I haven't seen a word about climate change, and Greta has only appeared twice in my news feed, one of which was about corona virus.
The magnitude of the danger posed by the corona virus has put things into perspective. "It is important / it is not important" is now much easier to distinguish. The world will not go down if I miss my TÜV, delay my taxes, pay my bills late or skip the daily run. After all, there is a deadly pandemic that can make any minced meat, almost indiscriminately.
Which brings me to my original question: after I have determined what is not important, how do I find out what is important and what lesson should I learn today?
Based on some observations from social media, I found that people cook and bake. Not amateur baking, which says I'm in a hurry, but proper baking in the old fashion. They complete recipes that have not seen the light of day for at least a generation. Then there is homeschooling or whatever you want to call to spend time with your kids instead of parking them in front of the TV and outsourcing everything - including hugs - to strangers. Some beautiful people use their talents to bring happiness to others. Musicians, painters, authors, actors, dancers; All creative people share their gifts with the world for free. To date, 300,000 British people have stopped smoking, and I read today that the majority of couples feel closer and fall in love again rather than going down each other's throats. Oh yes, there will be coronavirus babies for sure. Many of them!
So society is becoming more altruistic, caring, loving and deliciously slow. After the initial shock of the “car accident” that loses a person's job and lifestyle, people seem to be enjoying the time that has been given to them. We are talking about several generations in which every moment of breathing was occupied by an activity. Children who have been pushed out of infancy, parents whose mortgage often exceeds their monthly income, cramped jobs, jobs that can be done at any time, and commuters who resemble unfortunate sardines. Is there any wonder why young and old are starting to lock themselves up?
Suddenly we have an absolutely valid excuse to live, to have the second cup of coffee, to wake up naturally, to take care of our children and our parents, to enjoy a leisurely lunch, nothing fancy, but oh, so wonderful! Everything is uncertain. We cannot plan a vacation, work project or move. All we have to do is make it to the supermarket and lie in the sun next to our family.
I don't want to downplay the stress of financial difficulties or domestic violence that many experience. These are terrible scenarios, and much of the world is feeling its effects acutely. But even in such situations there is a silver lining. When things come to a head, most people are ultimately forced to take action. You can end the dead end, start your own business or leave the abusive relationship and ultimately often question your decisions for the better.
The ban has taken away an audience from our consumerism. This, in turn, has eliminated the fear of consumption, which has been replaced by the happiness of life. An extra hug, a seed sprouting in a pot on the windowsill, freshly baked bread, a book that was read without interruption, a conversation in which we really listen to what is said; so many simple things that were out of reach before we can enjoy them now.
Is the entire Western world learning the same lesson at the same time?
It was a pandemic before we realized we were hamsters on a bike to nowhere. Now the wheel has stopped and there is silence. After standing on the stationary bike and looking around in shock, the little hamsters that we are all took the first tentative steps on the green grass and we smell the flowers. Is that so bad And what does it take to get back on this bike and run again? What shiny toy will the catalyst be? It will be a pure need for some, but many others may turn their backs on things and things that force the bike to go faster.
I am sure that a significant majority will reject our old ways and face the challenge of creating a friendlier, slower society - a kind of community that gives life a real purpose. Yes, COVID 19 was a massive accident that amputated the world. But similar to most amputees, we find that there is life after the accident and not only that, it can also be a happier and more fulfilling time. This virus has shown us the way into this life. It gave us an oar, and when we get out of the lock, we can use it and change our direction.
I am planning to do it!
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