As I write this, it’s coming up to a month of living under a range of restrictions that would have seemed the stuff of dystopian fiction or the most fevered of conspiracy theories even a few months ago. Even those would have found the idea of an Australia where the pubs had been closed and the sporting stadiums were empty a bit of a stretch!
Not so brave new world
But even if we are fortunate enough to still have a job or have not been directly impacted by the virus—whether our own health or that of our loved ones—we have had to come to terms with a world that has changed completely. We can no longer do many of things we simply took for granted, and our day-to-day lives are now so different as to be unrecognisable.
I know that some people are finding it harder to come to terms with the limits on social interaction than others. It might be that they aren’t in a position to find other ways to keep connected due to finances or other circumstances. Or they might be in a situation where they no longer have the option of finding space to be safe. It might even be that they are on their own or cut off from the support networks they depend on.
Reverse herd immunity
Even those of us who are content spending time on our own, or have been able to find other ways of getting our social fix, are not immune. Whether we would have actually been doing any the things that are now forbidden or not doesn’t matter. Knowing the option was there and be able to choose what we did with it is a far different feeling than having it taken out of your hands.
Our individual struggles aside, the one thing that we all are likely finding the hardest to cope with is the feeling of having no control over our lives. We can’t avoid the risk of infection, or choose to ignore the laws that have been put in place, or go about our old routines. Worst of all, we have no say in when things will go back to normal—or even if they ever will.
Asserting our agency
When we feel like we have no control over our own lives it becomes hard to see any point in looking to the future. After all, if it’s out of our hands why make an effort when we can just coast along? If no matter what we do it makes no difference, why do anything at all? There are few things worse than feeling like you are at the mercy of someone or something else.
What I have found is that when you can’t control the big things there is no point expending all your energy and capacity on trying. Instead, you can invest it in the smaller things that you can control, and actually have something to show for it. Rather than feeling like a failure because you were unable to do the impossible, you can celebrate your successes.
I don't believe God causes suffering as some sort of lesson, but can bring good out of the worst of circumstances. The current pandemic will never be anything other than a tragedy of epic proportions, but if we must endure it then we should at leasy try and make the best of a bad situation.
Instead of thinking about all the things we can no longer do, we should ask ourselves what we can do with all the time their absence leaves—especially those things we never seemed to get around to doing because we were always too busy.
Bucket lists for a new world
That list will be different for everyone, but it could be as simple as reading the books you had always wanted to or going for a walk or run every day. It might be making a list of people who you haven’t spoken to for way too long and calling them to say hello. It might be finally cleaning out the garden shed, or even writing a book. I’ve lost count of how many people who have told me they have an idea for a bestseller but they just don't have time to write it right now....well, here’s their chance!
Whatever that list looks for you it not really important. What matters is that instead of putting life on hold and having nothing to show for however long this goes for, you do the things that in your power to make the most of it. The old saying about how when life gives you lemons make lemonade rings true when you replace life with a pandemic, lemons with more time on your hands you know what to do with, and lemonade with things that give you a sense of achievement.
Not worth it ≠ not worth anything
No positives that do end out coming out of this epidemic will ever be worth the cost to individuals and societies. But, we can at least make sure that we don’t go through all this for nothing and come out the other side with nothing to show for it but missed opportunities. Just like our society can be something better than the old normal, so can we.
David Goodwin is the former Editor of The Salvation Army’s magazine,War Cry. He is also a cricket tragic, and an unapologetic geek.
David Goodwin archive of articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/david-goodwin.html