How will Covid change us?
It's 5 am, and the stars are still flickering in the sky. The moon is a sliver, the shadow of its former itself resting on a thin bow of silver light. It is that delicious time of the morning when it is just early enough that you might believe yourself to be the only person in the world awake. It has been said that this is the best time of day for creativity and productivity, and I have often crept out of bed to keep on top of a busy workload, but that’s not the case today. The lockdown has made my work evaporate into thin air, leaving a strange vacuum in its wake for now. So now, 5 am exists for me for another reason: I can have one hour to myself when I am not someone’s Wife, Mother, Daughter, Friend. It’s a moment for space. Not time, because lockdown has given us a lot of that. Space is something altogether different. What happens when we have been given the gift of unstructured time without the space to stretch into it?
This global lockdown has already shown us how the earth herself is enjoying this moment to breathe. The waters in the Venice Canals are the clearest they have been in sixty years, air pollution has dropped, and lions sunbathe unhindered on roads in Africa. Everything has slowed. We are returning to the skills taught to us by our Grandmothers: gardening, baking, frugality. If you are not on the front lines of this crisis, then you have been forced into rest. But, it seems, even though we are getting more downtime than ever before, many of us are suffering from ‘isolation exhaustion’, and all those plans we had to learn this or achieve that have fallen away. We are tired. The crisis has taken away the distractions of glorified busyness and unnecessary consumerism and left us with alcohol and social media and a terrifying amount of downtime many of us are too exhausted to utilise. Psychologists have assured us that this tiredness is a reaction by our bodies to the stress and uncertainty in our world right now, and there is no doubt that it is a significant part of it. This pandemic is catastrophic, and the aftermath has the potential to be devastating. Of course, it will take its toll emotionally. What if it's more than that, though? What if our tiredness is a reaction to the cold reality that, however briefly, we cannot run away from our truths, our fears and our niggling lack of purpose or meaning? What if, as the earth has been telling us for decades that she needed rest, so have our bodies? Our souls are telling us not to fill this gap in time with more distraction, not to hide from this beautiful opportunity for change at the bottom of a wine bottle, an endless always-wanted-to-do list or social media scrolling. Instead, let's rest and be brave enough to listen to our bodies and hearts. Use this time to find our own space. In-between all the chaos inside us and around us, and the paradox of stillness we are forced into because of all of that, is an opportunity to re-invent normal for ourselves as individuals and the earth herself. There is a peeling off of superficial layers: who are we when we can’t be perpetually busy when we can’t spend or shop to fill whatever void we don’t want to face. We work instead on the internal gritty stuff and sit in this stillness even when we are restless, anxious and uncomfortable. This experience will whittle away everything superfluous until what is left is all that is important: the people we love, how we move in the world, how we care for each other and the grace and intention with which we do so.
Photo by Biel Morro on Unsplash