Engineers are racing to produce ventilation masks, virologists are tracing viral behaviour, geneticists are mapping viral DNA (RNA in this case), pharmacologists are testing vaccines, health care workers are training for infection control, hospital managers are organising wards and staff, public health policies are locking us down, police officers are enforcing it, artists are hosting facebook parties and churches are uploading sermons unto YouTube. There is not one person whose life hasn’t been altered in some way by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are not delivering an ‘essential’ service it will be altered in a different way. You might be facing something either terribly dreadful or very liberating – time with yourself.
If you can’t numb yourself any further to the inevitable questions of existence by the business of work and play you may have been granted a very fortunate prolonged quiet time. Inevitable psychological milestones might hit you earlier like the midlife crisis or you might get an early taste of what retirement would be like. If not this, then maybe the unpredictability of life will get hold of your attention. The closeness of death, unexpected inner urges and desires or ‘unacceptable’ character flaws surfacing will hopefully force you into what is known as the ‘inner journey’ if you have not begun this important journey yet.
Anxiety and depression might be clues that your psyche is unhappy and is seeking change. This would be a change of lifestyle, of mindset, of priorities or understanding of purpose. If everything you have spent so much time and money on suddenly seem so insignificant, then what is significant? Is there something more to be alive for if not for money, work, holiday plans, emigration plans or health? If future plans can crumble so easily, then what is solid? Do I like myself even if I don’t achieve something at work?
Many have found these questions insurmountable – husbands that used to be busy have started abusing their wives again, or other things. Others have just found alternative ways of keeping on keeping busy in and around the home, but mental healthcare workers are hoping that many will take the courageous steps into self-reflection. But they will also be preparing to treat the anxiety and depressive disorders or the burnout that will come from this pandemic.
Why is this important? Other than reaching a meaningful life, why do we need to reflect on our lives? Well, behold, skies are turning blue again; nature is gasping a breath of fresh air while the human race is on ventilators. Mother earth is taking care of herself, because we didn’t. We selfish, egocentric, money driven, ever unsatisfied generation of people are unable to live with ourselves and forever need to produce something new to be happy. We have neglected our families and children, the vulnerable ones. Let me ask you a better question: why did our comfort and our financial status had to be stripped so violently from us before we could identify a building to house the homeless in our city? Why did we have to lose half of our investments before we tried living slightly simpler? Why did we need to get locked down before phoning up friends again?
While health care workers and other ‘essential’ service providers are risking their lives outside, the world needs you to stay at home for a very important reason and it is not only to stop the pandemic from spreading. While thousands are fighting for their breath this is a chance for millions to take a much needed psychological breath of ‘fresh air’. Don’t let the opportunity slip away. Meditate and plan your future so that you can start living intentionally. Now is a chance to think, to read, to ask.
“The unexamined life is not worth living.”Socrates