It’s become a well-worn phrase, but we are living in unprecedented times – certainly, unprecedented in my lifetime. But should we have seen it coming?
Paradox though it may seem – and paradoxes are always dangerous things – it is none the less true that Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life. ~ Oscar Wilde (The Decay of Lying, 1889)
I’m taking Wilde’s quote completely out of context here. But if George Orwell’s chilling 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four forewarned us of a time in which advancements in technology would facilitate state control of society by security, surveillance, and propaganda, then perhaps we should have learnt something from prescient movies like Contagion and others of a similar ilk. And been more prepared. 🤔
Only a month ago, I was explaining to friends that Ty* and I were still hopeful of proceeding with our planned overseas travel in May/June. We felt confident that even if we contracted the virus, we wouldn’t fall seriously ill and we’d recover quickly to continue our holiday. Because we were young (enough) and healthy and determined. Any reservations we had revolved around the closure of tourist attractions which might compromise our enjoyment of the trip. Now, I’m embarrassed by our hubris and complete ignorance about the real dangers of COVID-19 and the drastic measures required to stop the spread. 🤦♀️
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the apocalyptic scenario that plays out 24/7 on our screens – a day-to-day existence characterised by loss. Loss of life; loss of employment and financial security; loss of freedoms and privileges. An economy in crisis. Governments under pressure. A health system braced for an onslaught. And on it goes …
But the news is not all bad. And if you take a moment to look, you can find an upside – things to love in this socially distant, isolating time. And research suggests that adopting an optimistic mindset – choosing to look on the bright side – may not only help us deal more effectively with the present challenges, it might also be good for our physical health.
Things I LOVE right now …
❤️ our community uniting in solidarity to ‘flatten the curve’ and overpower the common enemy that is COVID-19 – by staying at home and washing our hands as much as possible. Our circumstances may all be different, but this virus has shown us that our differences are not so important. In this fight, we are all the same. One community, with one goal – to save lives.✌️
❤️ our parliamentarians of all persuasions, state and federal, setting aside party politics and philosophical differences to work together and act decisively – to protect and support our most vulnerable citizens now, while propping up the economy to benefit us all post-pandemic.👏
❤️ the steadfast leadership and measured assurances of our state premiers and Prime Minister in these times of widespread fear and uncertainty ⭐️ He’s no Jacinda Ardern, but I think Scott Morrison deserves particular credit for learning from his gaffes and errors of judgment during the recent bushfire crisis and rising to this latest challenge. When I hear the irresponsible and unsubstantiated ramblings of ‘The Donald’ 🤥, I’m so glad I call Australia home. 🇦🇺
❤️ the long-overdue and much-deserved recognition, gratitude and respect shown to medical and hospital support staff, teachers and child-care workers and emergency services personnel (police, paramedics and firefighters) who show up on the frontline day after day, caring for us despite the increased risk to their health and wellbeing.🥇🙏
❤️ the incredible initiative and innovation displayed by institutions, businesses and individuals under pressure – to re-purpose, like the gin distilleries now making hand sanitiser; to pivot, like the training institution using its catering facilities to prepare free meals for vulnerable international students and the restaurants now preparing and delivering heat-and-eat meals to our door; or to expand, like ABC TV Education extending its content and broadcasts to support parents tackling home-schooling for the first time. So many examples, proving that Plato was on to something when he suggested necessity is the mother of invention. ⭐️
❤️ the online access to art 🎨 dance 💃 theatre 🎭 music 🎶 and books 📚 as well as opportunities for creativity at home, made possible by our vibrant arts community – galleries and museums conducting virtual tours of their exhibitions; performances by the Australian Ballet and the National Theatre Live beamed right into our living room; artists, bands and comedians streaming content around the globe; institutions like the Wheeler Centre and book retailers (Readings, Dymocks) streaming conversations with authors; writers offering online classes; artists and museums providing art activity packs for kids stuck at home. These are lifelines to a time before we hit the pause button and went into lockdown.
❤️ the way our world has shrunk and focussed our attention closer to home – on ourselves, our family and friends, our neighbours and the local community. The early madness – hoarding, supermarket dustups, people generally behaving badly – has subsided. We’ve settled into this new way of living with grudging acceptance, yet a resurgence of goodwill towards others. It’s evident in our greetings, with half-smiles and knowing looks from a distance of 1.5 metres, that seem to say ‘I know. This sucks, but I hope you’re doing ok.’
❤️ the use of technology, particularly social media, to stay connected while isolating at home. ‘What’s new about that?’ I hear you ask. Well, I think what’s new is the age of new adopters and the intention behind our use. Our elderly citizens (hello to my parents 👋) are now embracing technology to order groceries and medications online and have video calls with family and friends. Parents are relaxing rules around screen time to facilitate home-schooling and engagement for their kids. Others are sharing videos or memes to make us laugh or activity ideas to keep us entertained or simply just reaching out with offers of assistance. The dominant purpose now seems to be connection – maintaining some semblance of normality, looking out for each other, lifting spirits, keeping loneliness at bay – rather than narcissism and the accumulation of ‘likes’.
❤️ the determination to keep doing the things we enjoy, albeit in a new way – camping in the backyard instead of holidaying away from home ⛺️, participating in virtual exercise and dance classes or choirs. The list goes on …
❤️ the way time has slowed, and the days seem luxuriously long. Of course, if you’re juggling work from home and kids with cabin fever, your days probably seem … well … just long … and exhausting 😩 My kids are adults (although I do use the term loosely 🙄), who do their own thing. So in the absence of external commitments and obligations, or even the perception of them, I find myself being more productive, doing more of the things I enjoy and noticing more while I’m doing them. Which is the essence of mindfulness – a practice that researchers suggest slows our brain’s perception of time and helps to enhance our mood. 😊
❤️ the opportunity to reflect on the pros and cons of life before and during the lockdown. What do I miss? What am I happy to let go of? What difference has it made to my health and well-being, my relationships, my financial security? Are the changes welcome? And it also presents an opportunity to contemplate a different world or an alternative way of living on the other side of this crisis. How do I want our world/our life to look in the future? What positive, sustainable changes will make it so? 🤔
COVID-19 has triggered a metaphorical reboot; given us a chance to start anew.
So, when the dust settles and we do eventually emerge from this period of isolation, I hope we remember how little we really need, how much we actually have, and the true value of human connection.
Love may not make the world go ‘round, but […] it makes the ride worthwhile. ~ Sean Connery
What are you loving right now?
* names have been changed