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Finding perspective during COVID-19.

Author: Joylene Medom
5 Minutes

Finding perspective during COVID-19.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

I haven’t stepped out of my place since March 19, 2020. I assume it’s roughly the same for many of us here in India. That’s 49 days and counting. Initially, my days were a sandwich of checking the news first thing in the morning and right before I slept, with a long stress-binge on both food and shows in between. Not the healthiest of coping strategies, but I’m pretty sure I was sharing that boat with a sizeable part of the world. Once the headaches from eye strain and tighter clothes started to become harder to ignore (about 2-3 weeks in), I decided it was high-time I accepted this new normal and stop running away from the fear of the unknown. And what an unknown this is.

Absolutely everything in our lives is under a new level of scrutiny. I don’t know about others but at least in my home – since I’m living with my parents and they’re both at risk – we’re washing/disinfecting everything that comes from outside. From snacks and soft drinks to medicine, and even newly bought mosquito racquets, any change we get, we keep in a small box near the door, so we avoid it touching anything else. All the Amazon boxes that arrive and aren’t immediately needed, we leave in the living room for three days (yes research says it’s up to 24 hours on cardboard and 2-3 days on plastic/stainless steel surfaces but paranoia has made itself a cosy home in my consciousness right now and I’d simply rather be overly safe than sorry).

Apart from that, though – is the more serious human plight around the world. Doctors, nurses, sanitation workers, police officers, delivery guys, funeral home workers – they’re all on the frontline putting themselves at risk every day. And then there are the daily wage workers, those in the gig economy – many who don’t have savings to fall back on. And the most mind-blowing part of it all is that this isn’t happening in just a few scattered places. It’s affecting 212 countries and territories in the world, and that’s out of 251 that is recognized by the UN. That’s roughly 84% of the world. The. World.

It’s insane to think that what has debilitated and crippled the lives of hundreds of thousands around the world requires the simplest of actions to ease its destructiveness – staying home. An ordinary, seemingly effortless act, yet increasingly maddening the longer it gets. For those of us, whose most pressing problem is restlessness, boredom, or going stir-crazy with the blending of days into one very long day- perspective and gratitude play an even more crucial role in maintaining our sanity than they ever did before.

It’s insane to think that what has debilitated and crippled the lives of hundreds of thousands around the world requires the simplest of actions to ease its destructiveness – staying home. An ordinary, seemingly effortless act, yet increasingly maddening the longer it gets.

Perspective’s first nudge started with a caterpillar on our calamansi tree. I suspect my surprising affection for it was simply because it was the first new living creature I’d seen up-close, other than my parents and dogs, in a long time. (Funny what isolation can do to you, eh?) It wasn’t scurrying or flying away like the birds and squirrels. It just rested, content on its tiny leaf. And as I watched it, perspective, then gratitude, spoke, as I’m sure it has to many others in brief, unguarded, and uncluttered moments: how blessed I am. That I get to just be present, now, without any truly dire worry or need pressing on me. The pain and suffering that millions are facing all around the world – I am spared. I don’t know for how long. Death and suffering are guaranteed visitors, whether it’s through COVID or something else. But all we ever always really have is now, and my now is a picture compared to so many others caught in the devastating effects of this crisis, even just here in India.

I’ve been better with my time since then. I’ve started to revisit old hobbies – watercolour, hand-lettering, bullet-journaling; form new ones – workouts and dance routines; and brush up on language skills through Duolingo and Hellotalk. This isn’t to say that I have pushed what’s happening in the world to the background. There are long-lasting, serious effects of this crisis that many of us will discover only later. On top of the traumatic deaths and dire livelihood situations many are facing, the extended isolation and distancing has also forced friends and families apart. The precious language of hugs and kisses, a comforting hand on the shoulder, a congratulatory pat on the back, a fond tousle of the hair, an affectionate pinch of the cheeks, a reassuring squeeze of the hand – we’ve lost the freedom of it all. Once the world starts to venture out and attempt some normalcy of daily life, until a vaccine is found, these simple yet significant actions that crossed language and cultural barriers will only bring suspicion, fear, and rejection.

The precious language of hugs and kisses, a comforting hand on the shoulder, a congratulatory pat on the back, a fond tousle of the hair, an affectionate pinch of the cheeks, a reassuring squeeze of the hand – we’ve lost the freedom of it all. Once the world starts to venture out and attempt some normalcy of daily life, until a vaccine is found, these simple yet significant actions that crossed language and cultural barriers will only bring suspicion, fear, and rejection.

Yet as much as COVID-19 has forced us apart, it’s uniting us in other ways. And perhaps by the end of it, we’ll be more vocal about our feelings with our loved ones, more respectful towards those the world, in general, didn’t think were ‘essential’ before this crisis, more compassionate towards the plight of others, more conscientious of how we treat the environment, and more discerning of how we spend our time and resources. We, humans, are a confounding lot. We can be both stubborn and lazy and revert to old, destructive habits and ways of thinking even after a significant life-changing event; or we can spectacularly shape-up and improve and achieve transformative growth in all areas of our lives.

This is our life-changing event., happening to the world at the same time, in the same way. Moving forward, there’s a quote I recently read which sums up my hope for all our futures – ‘May we grow back not to what was, but instead towards what we can become’.

Yet as much as COVID-19 has forced us apart, it’s uniting us in other ways. And perhaps by the end of it, we’ll be more vocal about our feelings with our loved ones, more respectful towards those the world, in general, didn’t think were ‘essential’ before this crisis, more compassionate towards the plight of others, more conscientious of how we treat the environment, and more discerning of how we spend our time and resources.

Stay home, stay safe, and if and when the vaccine comes and the world is safer to go back into, carry this experience with you. May we all wisely learn the timeless lesson of never taking anything for granted and may we all come out of this with kindness, resilience, and compassion.

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