“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves”
– Victor Frankl
One of the challenges of COVID lock down has been the constriction of life to the home and limited surrounds during extended periods. Everything changed: the spaces we moved about in became smaller while the distance between people widened, surprising things happened like we got to know our neighbours, gardens became cleaner and tidier, houses were decluttered, outdoor chats among locals from a distance became the norm.
Now the challenge is to bring ourselves out of hibernation and back to the real world of travel, restaurants, gyms and cars as we return to the workplace and to a new life. For some of us, this transition may be difficult and for others a welcome relief and return to a semi-normal existence. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of satisfaction, we have returned to the world with a new perspective. For most of us things have changed. It has not been easy for many. Here are some of the shared learnings from my period of isolation.
Appreciation of the smaller things of life
A common theme for me has been the appreciation of the smaller things in life: the change in the temperature of a day, the different spaces one can occupy in a house, the variety of sensory experiences not necessarily noticeable during the hustle bustle of work life, new knowledge of the habits of our pets, the names of spring flowers, meeting our neighbours for the first time, the sound of a child laughing. I am reminded of Victor Frankl when he said: “live as if you were living for the second time”. If I had my time again, I would focus loving attention on the smaller things in life.
The importance of community
Walking in the local area during COVID, we saw children playing on the nature strip building cubby houses while parents worked in the garden or sat on their veranda chatting, the smell of the bar-b-cue wafting onto the footpath. Reminded me of a time long ago in my childhood when it was normal to live simply and locally. What has been lost in the meantime? Life is busier now. We are more distracted. The traffic is humming. Children are at school. I ask myself: “Do we work to live or live to work?”
Reflections on mortality
Death was in the air during the lockdown especially fear of death. The old adage: live as though this is the last day of your life came to mind frequently. This is not a subject I tend to think about every day, although I wonder why not. Some of my friends and clients were already in trouble, playing roulette with their health. The inevitability of death is part of life and always with us. Why am I surprised when someone dies?
Balance is better for our health
The normal work week may have been a race the end of the week culminating is a weekend away. Not the case during COVID. Breaking the monotony required us to be creative about how we break up a single day let alone decide what to do at the weekend. Some people decided to have three walks a day: one before work starts, one at lunch time and one when work finished. Others mixed it up with yoga, reading a book and playing music. The importance of these scheduled breaks become essential to maintain well-being and relieve stress. Keeping up this habit has brought side benefits for the hybrid workplace as well. Some of us feel better!
Do we know who really matters in our life?
Staying connected was more important than ever during COVID and made us think about how to do this with purpose. Incidental communication no longer existed. We could no longer run into work colleagues in the corridor or over the coffee maker. Access to people was no longer a given. Suddenly people were missing, especially family members. We had to be intentional about staying in contact with those we cared about and not leave anything to chance. We learnt about staying in touch with people, staying connected. A test for my family was helping arrange a wedding with a limit of only 5-10 people. So many friends could not come but we were able to stream the event live all around the world. The impact was extraordinarily intimate for the marrying couple and inclusive for all those present and on-line. Life goes on.
Now we are heading towards the end of the year and festivities are starting, I wonder what we are going to do differently.
See you on the other side!
Fraser, A (2012). The Third Space: Using life’s little transitions to find balance and happiness.
Frankl, V. (2006). Man’s Search for Meaning(1st edition 1946), Beacon Press.