Overnight our cultural values of busyness, activity and looking forward to the weekend became obsolete. Now every day feels like a weekend, we are restricted from activity, and it’s impossible to feel busy. Sweatpants are the uniform and online social capital is measured in terms of funny rather than pretty.
Life. Is. Different.
But isn’t it nice to no longer be rushing everywhere? Isn’t it nice to literally gain two hours back into your day because the commute to your office is just steps from your kitchen? Isn’t it nice to be released from the expectation to perform and produce?
A lot of identities are being shaken. Work. Finances. Athletics. Involvement. Those big banners we used to let define us have either become EI or illegal.
We can’t hustle our way out of this one. We’ll just have to rest our way out.
This is disorienting. An identity crisis of individuals and collectives. Every external indicator of our personhood has to be replaced with internal strength.
Without negating the immanence of death, that dissolution of norms and identity is why it feels scary.
As we are all self-isolating to prevent a worse-case-scenario, I’ve come up with some guidelines to get us from chaos to calm in this fear-ridden season.
1. Follow Best Practices
This goes without saying. Listen to the authorities who have put social restriction on you at this time. Take your family out to nature for the afternoon rather than Walmart. Even if you don’t agree with their policies, do it. They are trying to guide entire populations to health, not just individuals.
2. Practice Thinking of Others
My goodness. What a season. Mostly everybody we know is in need of something at some point. Even us. Every time your family designate goes out for groceries, buy a little extra. Leave a bag of meat, vegetables and chocolate on your neighbour’s doorstep. Cook extra pork loin and drop it off at a friend’s. Make cards just because.
Remember to look at people in the grocery stores; we can’t catch this thing by meeting somebody’s eye – spread the hope a smile brings instead.
Whatever it is that you are good at, invite people into it. Share your music lessons online. Invite another family over FaceTime into storytime. Have a Lego showdown over Zoom.
Even when we are so isolated physically we can still connect in meaningful ways. It just takes a little more effort because our normal lives no longer converge at the usual places.
3. Let Yourself Slow Down
For the most part, we are not driven by a clock anymore. We might have a meeting or two each day over technology, but we don’t automatically have 10 hours each day consumed by work and the commute. Monday to Friday. This need to be perform and be productive will drive you (and everyone else in your house) crazy.
Change expectation for a season. Maybe it needs to evolve from what you can produce in a day to how you can connect.
Wear slippers. Change into your daytime pyjamas. Watch a movie in the afternoon. Read a book for pleasure. Live slow. Make your daily indicator of success if you’ve laughed with friends or family, or if you’ve noticed the weather changing from winter to spring.
4. Family, Family, Family
My guess is that your family role has changed. You may be working full time from home as you oversee your children’s school. You may have already spent more time with your spouse than you did for the total of last year.
It’s effectively like we have all moved from our mansions into Tiny Houses. Social Tiny Houses. We are all together. All. The. Time.
We are being forced to reconnect with our families (and maybe fighting with each other until we remember how to talk and play together again). Learn how to function well together. Remember how to have fun together.
For marriages this is important. For small children this is important. For teenagers this is important. It is a forced re-attachment to our most fundamental human self.
Family is the smallest microcosm of society. If you can function well at the tiniest scope, you will thrive when your social boundaries broaden. Reclaim the strength society’s smallest unit contains. Enjoy your tribe. Then when restrictions lift, you won’t spend your day trying to get away from them. You won’t forget this innate source of joy.
5. Allow Your Identity to Change
All these things outside the house or in your office that you used to be proud of actually can’t be you in this season. That in itself is so disorienting. That huge change requires the process of grief. Allow yourself to go there. And by following those emotions through to the end, you will open yourself up to possibilities.
You will see how your strengths can be used in this new environment, this new worldly landscape. You will gain perspective on how you can thrive in a new way. This is so necessary to allow your identity to transform for this season.
Otherwise each and every day until the world returns to your normal will feel like you are hanging on to treadmill handlebars for dear life as the belt goes too fast for your legs to keep up.
5b. Allow Yourself to Grieve
This is so important it begs saying again. Roles, jobs, identities, routines, security, safety have all been disrupted. This is major. Don’t ignore that. Grieve. All of these things by themselves would require a grief process. Together… that could be a massive grief wave manifesting itself as fear. Once you allow yourself to process the monumental changes, a little of the mental chaos will begin to dissipate.
6. Don’t Count the Days Down to Normal
When we all emerge from quarantine, blinking in the summer sun, there will be no normal.
This illness is a major disruption, with the potential scope of damage similar to a World War. After this is over, it will be like the 50’s again. New ways of prosperity. New social norms. New, unpredictable booms (like women selling Tupperware).
Allow your values to be shaken out now, and keep only the ones that are worth dying for. Assume society will be completely different when this is over.
Learn how to prosper now, at home. Because once you are fulfilled and stable there, you will kill it at anything you do when you are allowed to go out again.
Again, assume normal will not exist when this is all over. Accept that. Then you can embrace your role in molding the future for better, rather than being daily crushed by disappointment and longing for the ‘good old days.’
7. Remember God
There is literally nothing safe and secure right now. Except Him. There is no comfort available to quell the fear of pandemic and all its repercussions. Except Him.
If our lives are going to be so stripped down that hockey isn’t even allowed in Canada, maybe it’s time to fill the silence with Peace. With Love. With Hope. To sing a new song, even as we remember the old. Because as much as God did not cause this, it was not a surprise at all to Him. He sees the end of this, and there is comfort in even that.
Learn how to thrive now. My guess is that by slowing down and spending time with our families, learning how to play card games, consuming a meal around the same table without rushing off somewhere, and look forward to walks outside, we all will be brought to a beautiful, grounded place.
Nature is resetting. Families are resetting. Selves are resetting.
What a beautiful opportunity we have collectively to rediscover and practice the values and lifestyle that will make our families and the world thrive when this is over.
Let’s allow grief. Let’s allow the simple life. Let’s allow new pillars of identity.
It will be transformative.