We all waited for 2019 to be over. The memes were wonderfully creative in an effort of a communal comical relief from what seemed to be a world gone upside down. The double 20 rolled in with dreams of better and a new energy in the veins of society, which seemed to let out a loud sigh of relief as the clocks struck midnight. And the humanity wasn’t privy to information that there will be a cruel joke at the other end. A false safety was rudely interrupted.
We’ve always somehow felt more ready for a large disaster which we can see, a demonstration of nature’s power, but a virus? Something so microscopic was the sinister jokester that harked into the mundane and our way of life, making it impossible to continue as is. Basic chores were now under new safety restrictions, finances hung in the balance, the mainstream news fed of the panic, enhancing it and feeding of it again in a feedback loop… We started paying rigorous attention to our bodily hygiene and stepped into a universe of every self-respecting germaphobe scrubbing away anything in sight in panicky disgust. When we needed social connection most to ease our fears the joke had a kicker – you need to isolate yourself and limit human contact, as all of us are potential unknowing carrier or victim. Relieving your anxieties through socializing become virtually impossible or a feat of bravery to be undertaken at our own peril.
Some of us got it better some worse, some went through it mostly alone, some had people close by, some found a place inside which appreciates this unexpected break distancing and used the time to reflect and reorganize, to better themselves, their homes and skills, some fell into the Netflix bottomless pit, some remained calm and decided to ride it out and follow the guidelines, while others used collective panic as a match lighting up their own. Some depressed found relief in the confirmation that a worst case scenario (or at least pretty bad) manifested in reality, some got depressed and lonely and never seemed to have an inclination towards it before.
There was a big dark, led heavy, ominous cumulonimbus creeping from the horizons, but silver linings are always there no matter how much tragedy or fear is packed into the blackest part of a cloud. We all found out some things about ourselves which couldn’t have been known if not pushed to this edge, we’ve learnt to better handle the condition of not knowing the end point, we got reminded of the values of hope and gratitude and we’ve all become more us in some way. The personas created to answer “I’m fine” have begun to melt and we speak our mind more, expressing our true feelings. It is no more shameful to be afraid or worried, to be sad or confused, to be lonely or feel isolated, it is no longer shameful to recognize and verbalize that we need other people to keep us sane. It seems that this world wide predicament somehow got us more connected even if we had to be physically secluded. When we ask someone “How are you doing” now it’s a far different question that a drive-by “How are you?” where you pray for a short neutral answer that doesn’t rock the boat and allows you to go on with your day. We’ve learnt to be more compassionate. The closing of borders opened us up to a genuine compassion towards humanity united against a common enemy. It made us better as the infantile ignorant bliss of not feeling deep compassion, if a thing is not happening directly in your back yard, has been overcome. Will this connection stick or be forgotten once life returns back to normal? We honestly don’t know.
There seems to be another silver strand in this stormy weather – a release form the relentless feeling of missing out, of the grass greener – a decrease in envy. Suddenly, as philospher Alain de Botton said, there is no better party somewhere out there. This is the party and none are excluded in this planet wide standstill.. Somehow the envious beast inside went silent, as staying healthy and safe become the prime commodity. There is so much tragedy surrounding this pandemic, but there is also cleanliness of a sort, a atonement in reassessing priorities.
The cloud is still there but so is the lining. You are free to choose what you’ll focus on and what you’ll see. Fear is a teacher, if you let it. It is not the first time we’re all in danger from a sneaky disease, but it is the first time we have the technology, resources and infrastructure to network, implement solutions in unison and fight back. Our heart goes out to you all. Don’t be naive but keep your eyes at the shimmering silver. There is no greater party now. This is it, this is where we are now and, as all things, it will pass and something else will take its place.