Life After The Lockdowns

What a ride 2020 has been! Across many countries, we are slowly transitioning to some levels of normality with the hopes that the peaks of COVID-19 contagion are behind us. First days into the suddenly changed reality, it felt like COVID-19 was calling us to press the reset button. A few months into it, it feels as if we are awakening to a new spring of life from a forced human hibernation to preserve lives.

Like with any spring, we are treading carefully, warily of a few more winter storms to come before a full swing to warm weather.

What has the COVID-19 hibernation taught us or revealed to us to date?

A deeper sense of appreciation. The crisis has taught many of us not to take the big and little things in life for granted: family, friends, outings, caretakers, teachers, health providers, jobs, industries, life itself… At risk or in lack, the value of what was once part of our normal has suddenly become so evident for sustaining our existence. Or stated in another way, as novelist Thornton Wilder said,  “we can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures”.

An inner wisdom to be intentional. The crisis has forced us to be intentional in our actions and communications, in order to stay afloat, and help others do the same, as we have all been facing entering uncharted territories, with uncertainty, fear and loss on the horizon. Or stated in another way, common sense is not common practice and this crisis has taught us the difference.

A life skill to continually adjust and persevere. The crisis has taught little kids to use Zoom as part of virtual school programs, and business partners to negotiate deals on backdrops of  little humans’ laughter or cries. It has taught many of us to be a little bit braver while getting more comfortable to sharing a little more of our private spaces and lives. While governments around the world are pumping money into economies to help individuals, companies or industries adjust or re-invent themselves.

A better appreciation of time. Forced to rethink and adjust priorities and schedules, even if ultimately many of us have not been fully in control of time (e.g. working parents) the crisis has taught us to relinquish control and in that process appreciate the sacredness of time better. In musician and songwriter George Harrison’s words: “it’s being here now that’s important”.

A see-through of weaknesses. The crisis has revealed a number of weaknesses of ourselves as individuals (e.g. where did all the ice-cream pints and toilet paper go), but also vulnerabilities and flaws in our societies,  family structures, healthcare, governments and socio-economic systems. For instance, The Economist has run a piece on how working moms have been more impacted than working fathers by the pandemic, as more of the care and household chores have fallen on moms during the lockdown. Or in many parts of the world, ethnic minorities or historically marginalized groups have been the most impacted by the pandemic, due to underlying healthcare and socio-econimic inequities.

Life after the lockdowns is therefore not about finding our normal again, but about redefining it, based on what lessons and learnings have become apparent in this crisis. And with it, a renewed sense of appreciation, intentionality and meaning takes hold of us for key acts of life – being, doing, loving, leading and caring.

As to the identified weaknesses, where there is weakness, there is also potential for growth. Darkness is exposed by light. Becoming self aware is the first step for individuals, institutions and societies to take ownership of problems and flaws, and responsibly create change. As Brené Brown notes in her book titled The Gift of Imperfections, “only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light”.

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