It is obvious that our lives are changing and with it our daily routines. Whatever we so far considered “normal” may not be as such when we eventually exit this unprecedented crisis. Even the concept of what is “normal” has now obtained a controversial meaning, along with whatever we previously considered as given or obvious facts, such as the need for cleanliness which, although formerly seen as an obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), now has become an imperative necessity.
The fear of contracting the coronavirus (Covid-19) during its violent and uncontrollable spread is now accompanied by the anguish of when cities and markets will regain their pulse after weeks or even months. What scares us the most is the unpredictability of all this.
We are treading on unchartered waters, moments that will remain engraved not only in our minds, but in global history. And we are unprepared for it. Because instead of investing in research and health programmes – in the essential – we grant importance to the ephemeral, things and people who in times of crisis will have no value or use.
There are many theories circulating regarding the Coronavirus. How it is a conspiracy of the strong and powerful to further manipulate and subdue the weak masses; on the conflict between East and West; on economic interests etc.
Whatever the case, the current pandemic constitutes both a challenge and an opportunity.
It is a challenge for healthcare systems that have broken down due to lack of infrastructure, and resources both human and material; for state aid to be offered to those most affected; for social solidarity that is necessary now more than ever; for individual responsibility that many continue not to comprehend; for our mental health primarily, and for every kind of relationship we have.
This absence of regularity, the abrupt disruption of our daily lives, our routines, has shaken us to the core. This is aggravated by the fear of the economic impact or an imminent financial crisis, together with the lack of connection with other people. Suddenly, we find ourselves with an abundance of time, but no people to spend it with. All this heightens the feeling that we have lost our sense of safety. And this in turn makes us miserable; it brings upon us an undefined grief.
It is only if we manage to find the positive in a negative situation, that we will be able to fight it; to save ourselves both physically and mentally. For every illness, the remedy is always a strong immune system – resilient antibodies – to be able to cure ourselves. The same goes for the thoughts that we allow to occupy our minds. A head full of fear has no room for dreams. So let’s be optimistic, because as Winston Churchill said, “it does not seem too much use being anything else”.
The truth is, we should be grateful about how privileged we are that amidst a global pandemic we have been ordered to stay at home – in our refuge – in the safety of our own space, reading, watching TV, working, creating, with a full fridge and few worries, waiting for this all to end. Most of us are called to fight this invisible enemy from our couch.
Yet, we complain for the opportunity to get away from the routine we constantly criticised for draining our energy and leaving us little time to do the things we really want. Here is our chance to remember our hobbies, to watch TV, to learn something new, to read books, spend time with our loved ones, to (finally) get acquainted with technology, to invest time in ourselves and our priorities and evolve stronger, improved.
But we still complain. When other worse hit countries are forced to choose who to save because their healthcare systems are overwhelmed. We complain because we are staying home, when there are people who don’t even have that. We spend a lifetime staring at a screen, yet now we suddenly all want to go outside. The forbidden is always sweeter, they say. Even now, under these dire circumstances.
In the time of Coronavirus, everything is changing.
And when all this shall pass – because it will – what will we be left with? Apart from an earth that has pushed a small ‘pause’ and managed to heal itself, and leaving aside reports about a new hantavirus, what will we have learned out of all this? Will we wash our hands and our communal spaces better? Will we maintain social distancing? Will we consider that our individual actions have an impact on others? Will we appreciate more the time we have, the people around us and everything we consider as granted? Will we view life with a different lens?
The Coronavirus pandemic has proven how unprepared we are, because we consider so many things – even health – as granted. It is a shock on the global health system, on governance, security, but mainly on our values. It showed that everything around us is so temporary. Things we revolved our lives around: our work, gym, cafes, malls, cinemas, society itself, have all become irrelevant as we are now learning for weeks to live without them. It has taught us that we are so technologically advanced we can actually work from home, i.e. anywhere, and we can remain more connected than we believe. But in the end, it is up to us to demonstrate that the lives lost daily are not in vain. It is our responsibility to change ourselves to change the world.
It’s interesting to witness how a state-imposed self-isolation affects our social relationships. Funny memes are going viral in that, during just the first few days of quarantine due to coronavirus (COVID-19), people are rediscovering their homes and the people in them.
If we choose to remain optimistic and see the positive in every situation – even this one – we may realise that this is an opportunity to take a pause and allow the world itself to breathe. By staying home, the decrease of environmental and atmospheric pollution is already evident. But there is more to that: we can take a break from the routine we keep complaining about and rediscover ourselves and the people around us. We live in a world where we can communicate with everyone / anyone anywhere at the click of a button, we can work from home, view films and series, tour museums online, read books, go online for shopping. There are so many things available at our fingertips.
It is during this time that we acknowledge how important it is to have people around us who we can communicate with even if only via a digital chat. People who can keep us strong and positive, and with whom we can exchange useless information simply to keep each other distracted and busy enough to forget to despair that we are “stranded” at home.
Some of us are actually “stranded” in another country away from our families. And due to the closing of borders as tight precautionary measures we will have to wait for a few months it seems to be able to hold them again. Because via videochat we can see each other every day and check-up on each other.
This is the time to realise that we can never tell what the future holds. Even if we plan things, they may not turn out the way we hope.
Most of all, we are given a chance to acknowledge all the things we take for granted and don’t appreciate. First of all our health and the time we have with our loved ones.
Let’s seize this opportunity to stay home, stay strong, stay safe, and keep our families and friends safe too.
It was a cold, winter day with north winds howling through the window. The cold crept indoors, no matter how tightly shut the airways were.
He was moaning about how freezing it was even inside.
She had her mind elsewhere to pay too much attention. It was just the start of winter; more cold would surely follow.
Each person has random things hovering inside their mind. Things that grasp their attention at times when they should be focused on something or someone else. But we don’t know about them unless they are shared with us. Unless that someone else lets us into their mind, and on condition that we are empathetic enough to understand how and why whatever the problem is, is causing so much concern to the person next to us.
We are all different. It is inevitably so. And as such, we don’t all view the world in the same way. Problems we see as “end of the world”-type disasters, to someone else may be negligible mishaps. It is difficult to find people who share our point of view, our perspective, let alone our values. The meaning of “important” is not the same for everyone. That is why it is often challenging to explain what it is that is draining our energy and our mental health.
And that is why people often choose to bury themselves in a shell, rather than speak out. Because it is easier to shy away than try to make others understand.
He left, once again, as he always did when he couldn’t – or didn’t want to – understand her.
Just an hour later, the central heating in the building was turned on, presenting a strong ally against the cold.
It was a scorching hot summer day, but Jake was of the
perception that you should grasp every opportunity offered to you to enjoy life
to the fullest. The renowned waterfalls were very close to his holiday stay so
he decided to go on the expedition early in the morning.
His car wouldn’t go that far though. It refused to budge
further than the asphalt-paved road. So Jake had to get out, put his hat on,
grab a bottle of water and take the trail on foot. Trekking was always one of
his passions. He thought it would be an easy task.
But along the way, the road became steep downhill and
slippery. Then small, sharp steps were added to the challenge, along with
pointy branches that hit you abruptly. The temperature became humid and hotter
as it took much longer than expected to arrive to the sought destination.
After an hour of trail – given that Jake took a wrong turn
and had to go back to find the right road-sign for where he was going – he finally
reached a rainforest-like path and could hear the sound of running water.
There was a crowd leading up to it.
Too many people meant he wouldn’t be able to enjoy it as
much as he would like. Tourists often did not appreciate the cultural
significance of what they were looking at.
Jake finally reached the foot of the waterfall.
You could hear the stream running from the top of the hill
into a 3metre-deep pool. But that was pretty much it. There was not much to see
and Jake was unimpressed.
Expectations often lead to disappointment. That was his
thought at the sight.
And then he had to take the opposite route to return. And it
was all uphill now.
We all hide a whirlwind of emotions inside, just waiting to
be expressed. Often women more than men go through a series of alternating
sentiments even during one single day. Perhaps we pay too much attention to the
little things, overthink excessively and try to find connotations in every
The problem though lies with tolerating too much. With
burying emotions inside in the hope of forgetting about them, of extinguishing
their force and of somehow making things better. We all nurture that illusion
that things will change without action from our part. As if magically the world
will improve in the way we want it to.
There comes a time, however, when our feelings take over our
reactions. Either because we are tired, hungry or simply exasperated by
everything, there comes an emotional explosion that is sometimes out of
character. We can’t always control what we feel. Like Elizabeth Gilbert said, “your emotions are the slaves to your
thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions”.
It is during those explosions that we need people close, no
matter how far we push them away. We need to feel loved even in our toughest of
times, when we are being difficult, obstinate and insecure. It is at our worst
that we need the affection. To believe that it is just a phase and will pass,
that we will come out stronger, and that, in the end, everything will be better
“Sometimes the worst
place you can be is in your own head”.
There was a poor person in the metro the other day playing a
famous song on his guitar. He was dressed decently. Wasn’t begging really. His
voice was imbued with feeling. He sounded almost professional. He sang from the
heart and that was evident. It made you want
to give him something. Some change to show your appreciation for the way he was
striving to make a living.
Perhaps he could have searched for a ‘regular’ job. But
everyone knows these are hard to find in a country where ‘crisis’ has become an
At least he was giving melody to a train ride. And you could
see the passengers actually stop looking at their phones for a minute and
letting their mind wander at his tune.
You were almost mesmerised to give him spare change. Coins
whose possession to you may not have made a difference. Perhaps it was the cost
of your daily cup of coffee. But to him it was a measure of appreciation. Of the
fact that there were people out there who liked what he offered and who were
willing to grant a helping hand.
There are many people
who leave aside their dignity and in their despair decided to ask strangers
for help. There are the ones who feel outcast from society. Whom we look at demeaningly
and most often choose simply to ignore. There are the ones who cause
controversial discussions of whether they are worth our pity or our ignorance,
of whether they are choosing the easy road of begging instead of searching for
a ‘real job’.
Everyone we meet carries their own story, their own burdens,
their own heavy loads. But it is people like these that make you realise all
that you have and how little you appreciate how lucky you in fact are. Because what
you perceive as obvious and ‘normal’ is not so for many others.
As the sound of fireworks begins to fade and the cheering
begin to silence, you find yourself unconsciously crossing your fingers and
hoping that the lights will never dim, the laughter will never stop, and that
smile that has illuminated your face will not diminish.
In the New Year, we all wish for one thing: that we have 365
days of health, happiness, love and prosperity ahead of us. That they are
filled with new opportunities, new chances, new prospects and new experiences.
We have a blank slate to do things we’ve never done before. But
we want to be with our loved ones, with people who constantly have us on their
mind and in their hearts. We want to maintain the happiness and euphoria of the
season and wish for its duration to persist through time and challenges.
In these first days, we hope that we can pass through the
New Year with as few difficulties as possible, determined to make the most out
of the time and moments that lie ahead.
May this be the year when our expectations are met, when our dreams are fulfilled, when our ideas become reality, and when we resolve that all we want is exactly the life we have.
There is a ‘dare’ going around online, prompting you to consider if you could live in an isolated cabin without internet or TV for something like six months. The prize would be one million dollars (or euros or whatever your currency is). To some this seems like torture. It is an unthinkable feat not designed for the modern age. Because nowadays our mobile phone runs out of battery and we run around in panic like headless chicken searching desperately for a charger, something that will keep us connected to the (virtual) outer world.
The problem is that a few decades ago, people did survive without internet and TV. In fact, they probably had a better quality of life too. We don’t appreciate that, let alone acknowledge it.
We feel the urge to be everywhere at once, to do everything even when it is beyond our capacities. We want to show that we are around, doing things, being places. But in the process, we are everywhere and nowhere. We do things simply to cross them off our lists, or to post them online, or simply for the sake of doing them. We don’t enjoy them, though. We don’t revel in what we’re doing. We drive and think of the other things we need to do in the day. We go on a trip and consider what we need to do when we get back. We dream of holidays but don’t experience life.
It is a shame. Because in the age where anything is possible, where we have the infrastructure, resources and technology to do so many things to help us move ahead, we choose to remain backward. Both in mind and in society as a whole.