Sentenced to self-isolation for an indefinite amount of time, the world has been forced to take a timeout.
“Stay in your room,” we seem to have been told, “and don’t come out until your behaviour changes!” What behaviour, precisely?
As I reflect upon the past several decades, I realize that the world has grown to heights that we could never have imagined. Heights reached, in part, due to health and wellness funding, research, technological advances, improved engineering, and ever-expanding academia.
In addition, liberal rights, including gender equality, as well as advances in the science of the brain and human behaviour have impacted the world exponentially!
But one cannot have light without darkness.
And the darkness seems to be deepening…
Moving along the treadmill of life, we overwork ourselves; we run on a never-ending hamster wheel as we exhaust ourselves and the planet that we call home. It was inevitable that we would eventually lose our balance, self-compassion, kindness, inner peace, and self-restraint.
We have become disoriented, lost in multi-layered expectations from our families, peers, educators, media, and society.
And as we’ve worked harder and harder to keep up the pace on that treadmill, we haven’t been able to find a way to pause, catch our breath, reflect, and reset. I believe that this is the reason we have been ‘sent to our rooms’.
Thus, the question becomes, “What must we do to learn from our mistakes and re-emerge into a healthy, well-balanced society?”
As a child of the Sixties, I remember playing with my friends: hopscotch, jacks, Barbie Dolls, and hide-and-go-seek. I recall not being able to sleep at night as I eagerly awaited the release of the next David Cassidy album, fantasizing about the day he would propose to me — a fantasy that, like so many other childhood reveries, remained a schoolgirl daydream.
I remember watching The Wizard of Oz, which aired only once per year, and always felt like an event — an experience!
I had a paper route and we had curfews; I was told to be home before dark, and every evening on Eyewitness News my parents were reminded, “It’s 11 o’clock… do you know where your children are?”
Meanwhile, technology marched on
Early dating days meant being on the phone for hours, sometimes into the morning. Telephones had something called a “busy signal”, which was triggered when the person we were trying to reach was busy speaking with someone else. So when answering machines were invented and, later, cell phones, we felt a new sense of freedom.
But as technology grew, so did consumerism. And as consumerism expanded, a critical aspect of what makes us human began to diminish: true connection — connection to our planet, connection to our families, connection to ourselves.
Along with these technology advances, we’ve seen:
- increased materialism and economic division
- out-of-control prices in real estate, thus making home ownership unattainable for most
- socioeconomically biased and grades-based higher education
- less social connection due to computers and handheld devices
- loss of true, slow-building romance and intimacy
- inflation that does not match minimum wages and salaries
- politically divided countries
- increased entitlement amongst younger generations
- less ability to emotionally self-regulate and connect to resiliency
- increase in eating disorders and obesity
- increase in anxiety disorders, depression, insomnia, and suicides
- increased violence and bullying
- climate change and a planet that is suffocating, killing its wildlife.
To this extent, we have been misbehaving
Despite the devastation caused by COVID-19, there is a silver lining: the virus has sent us into isolation. We are having a timeout. Physical distancing and months of isolation have gifted us with a ‘reset’ button.
Remaining in self-isolation over the past months has reminded me about the importance of so many gifts, including breath practice, daily movement, meditation, and maintaining balance.
In addition to ensuring that my family and I are eating healthily, I’m so grateful for the increase in online face-to-face communication with family, friends, neighbours, and my community. Thanks to platforms like Zoom, FaceTime and Messenger, I continue to feel so connected and supported through the power of groups.
Staying home has also impacted our monthly expenses; we’re not spending money on travel, entertainment, eating out, etc, so we’re spending money only on things we need (versus want).
And as I continue to practice presence, I am grounded by the attitudinal foundations of mindfulness, including patience, acceptance, non-judgment, self-compassion and compassion for others… and, most importantly, paying attention and nurturing my physical, emotional, and mental health.
Who knows what’s coming next?
One of my favourite movie quotes is from Tom Hanks’ character in Castaway. At the end of the movie, he says, “I know what I have to do now: I’ve got to keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?”
As we go through this pandemic with so many unknowns, what we do know for sure is that we always have hope, because tomorrow brings new beginnings, new opportunities, and another day closer to the end of our need to maintain physical distance.
Hope is powerful. Hope brings simplicity, offers forgiveness, holds the future of our lives, and connects us to the world in which we live. As we move through these days at home, when so much is unknown and unpredictable, we can make choices about how we respond to daily uncertainty.
While many of us are living with helplessness, depression, fear, anxiety and/or anger, when we shift to thinking positively, and practice hope, self-compassion, and gratitude, we can feel more at ease.
As Abraham Lincoln once said, “The power of hope upon human exertion and happiness, is wonderful.”
So what does all of this mean?
As we are guided by hope, as we practice patience and self-compassion, as we offer kindness to others, and move through these days moment to moment, breath by breath, we will come to the other side of this pandemic, and start anew.
Our timeout will come to an end.
And it is my hope that the world will move forward with new routines and healthier practices, improved social connections, and a deeper respect for our home — planet Earth.
We will be able to come out of our rooms soon. Just remember to continue to press that reset button!
We’re in this together. Stay healthy. Stay safe. Stay strong.