This is a strange time. A time of uncertainty, of displacement, of loss, of anxiety and fear.
But it is more than that. It is also a time of creativity, of slowing down, of taking stock of what is important, of learning to see ourselves and our world in a new way.
The world is changing whether we want it to or not, and it’s not just going to “go back to normal” any time soon. In fact, I’m pretty convinced by now that it’s never going to “go back to normal”. We will get through this and we will come out the other side, but what used to be normal will have shifted and we will all find ourselves having to adjust to a slightly different reality than the one we used to know.
As much as we may have resisted this global crisis as it unfolded, it’s a part of all of us now and has forever impacted each of our lives in different ways. It has caused many people to go out of business and has killed friends and family members. It has completely changed the way we live in the short-term and will have lasting impacts on how we interact, work, play, connect, and share community.
Destruction and creativity
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be all bad. It would be easy in a time like this to sink into a pit of despair and allow the negativity spiral to consume us completely. To become convinced that nothing will ever be bright and shiny again and that we are doomed forever. I know I’ve spent a few days in that place and it is not a nice place to be, nor does it do any good to anyone around us.
I keep trying to remind myself that we as a human race have made it through tragedies before and we always come out the other side. We have made it through much worse than this. While this pandemic may be unique in many ways, we are not the only humans in history to face a big, scary, global crisis.
Whether on an individual level or the entire world’s, destruction makes way for creativity. It clears the path for something new and allows space for rebirth. Among the rubble and the smoldering ashes, space is made for new ideas to slip in and settle and grow.
I keep thinking about the 2011 earthquake(s) in Christchurch. So many homes and buildings were destroyed and many people died or were injured. Many small business owners lost everything and weren’t even allowed to enter the center of town where their business was located.
But as time went on, the wreckage was slowly cleared away and people began to put their lives back together. New bars, restaurants, and art galleries began to pop up in previously undeveloped areas of town. Of course, there continue to be lasting impacts of the huge amount of damage and devastation, and many families are still struggling to recover from the blow, but there has also been a surge of creativity and a host of opportunities for new projects and new ideas. Entrepreneurs, artists, and designers have worked to rebuild the city and make something beautiful out of the chaos that has been forced upon them.
It may not be what many people would have chosen for themselves, but given that we can’t move backwards in time, our only choice is to move forwards with what we have been given. As Johnathan Larson wrote in Rent, my favourite musical of all time: “The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation”.
We have all lost something in the past few months, some much more than others. Whatever challenges you have faced, you are a human being and human beings are freaking amazing. We are smart and strong and resilient and we all have different skills and strengths and gifts to share. Where can you create in your life right now, instead of allowing destruction to take over?
I want to be clear that I am not in any way trying to suggest that things are not really terrible for many people right now. Losing your job is terrible. Being unable to pay your rent is terrible. Being isolated from the people you love is terrible. Losing people that you love is terrible. Working on the front lines in a hospital that does not have enough resources to care for the sick people that keep pouring through the doors is terrible. A lot of shit is terrible right now.
I have been extremely lucky. Because I am currently in school, I didn’t have a job to lose. Because I am living off of student loans, I am still able to pay my rent. Because I have a good computer, I am easily able to transition to online classes. Because I have friends and loved ones who are willing to host me, I have been able to return to my hometown and hunker down safely.
Despite the many stressful uncertainties in my future, I am incredibly grateful for my current situation. I have not had to worry about money or food or shelter and because of that I am able to focus on the positive; my basic needs are met. If your basic needs are met right now, I’d say you’re doing pretty great. Those of us who are doing ok need to be thinking about those who are not and finding ways to help.
I know that there are many people in far worse situations than me and yet I have seen incredible resilience in the face of such adversity. I have seen people come together and find beautiful ways to hold each other up through difficult times. I have seen entire communities rally around those in need and offer emotional and financial support. I have seen people who have lost their jobs find new and creative ways to share their gifts and skills with the world. I have seen people putting themselves at risk on a daily basis so that others can live and get the care they need.
It might sound cheesy, but we are a species with an incredible amount of strength, resilience, and beauty. In times of struggle, there will always be people who take advantage, but this is not the norm and it is not who we are at the core of our being. It may feel that way when you watch the news, but I think most of us want to help rather than hold each other down. I think most of us are looking for ways to give and we recognize that this is a time when we all need to come together rather than breaking apart. At the end of the day, we are a social species and we thrive when we work together as a community and allow each member to share their strengths with the group. There is a lot of good happening out there right now, all you have to do is pay attention.
Although we may not physically be able to be together right now, there is so much we can do to support one another and continue to build community. I know that I had never used Zoom before this all began and now I am finding that I can connect easily with friends and family all around the world. I’ve been a part of virtual Sunday Night Dinners, workout classes, birthday parties, and happy hours and I have started sending more handwritten letters than I have in a long time.
I have also discovered that I don’t have to be a part of a studio to teach yoga. I can teach virtual classes from my bedroom and reach friends and students who I haven’t seen in months – how great is that!? And I can teach my favourite styles of classes exactly when and where I want to teach them, rather than relying on a studio to tell me what they want me to teach. This is something I probably never would have tried if I hadn’t been forced into isolation and I am grateful for the new door that has been opened.
How can I help?
If you are looking for ways to help out during this time, other than staying indoors and slowing the spread, there are a lot of resources available to point you in the right direction. Some of them involve giving money, but there are plenty of ways to help that only require your time. This article from Consumer Reports gives a bunch of good suggestions, from donating food to your local food bank to offering your skills online. VolunteerMatch.org has a lot of virtual volunteer opportunities that allow you to help from home. If you want to support your local zoo or aquarium, consider buying an annual membership. If you are feeling healthy and well, find a local blood drive and donate blood.
There are so many other small ways to put some positivity into the world right now for people who need it. Take this time to call up a friend you haven’t checked in on for a while, or write an actual handwritten letter! Make a nice sign and put it up in your window for others to see. Plan a virtual dinner party with your friends. If your basic needs are met right now and you have some extra time on your plate, spend a few minutes each day thinking about how you can help others, even if it is something very small.
One day at a time
And so, given all of this, I find myself doing my best to live one day at a time and take things as they come. I’m sure I am not alone in this. When the future is this uncertain for everyone on Earth, when the current keeps rushing forward, taking twists and turns without any regard for which direction you want to go, what else can you do but learn to accept and embrace change as it comes?
We can kick and scream and struggle against it, cursing the callous universe for failing to consider us. We can squeeze our eyes shut tight, withdrawing from the world and hoping that it’s all one bad dream that we will eventually wake up from. Or, we can take a deep breath, settle in for the ride, and allow the current to carry us forward, one day at a time.