For some of us, our “normality” no longer exists, we don't know if it has only been paused or if this is a watershed that marks a before and after in the way we were used to interacting. Our routines were shaken and thrown out the window from one day to the next, without previous notice. For many of us, we have lost our exterior coping mechanisms; there are days when we feel like the house comes down on us, the news overwhelm us, or simply we don’t feel like we have the tools we need to cope with this new "routine". For those of us who didn't like being on our own for so long, we suddenly have no other choice. All of a sudden we realize how much we miss a hug, how much we need to feel that connection with others.
This pandemic has made us value maybe for the first time what we did not know we had, all those freedoms that we took for granted and therefore minimized. Today, we find ourselves missing the simple things such as going out to eat at our favorite place, meeting our friends at some bar, or hugging the people we love without worrying about putting them at risk. The pandemic has taken these freedoms from us for an indefinite time.
Of course, the experience of this pandemic is personal. There are those whose situation is giving them more time with their family and therefore, it has given them the opportunity to enjoy moments that they usually wouldn’t have. There are those who have taken advantage of it to learn a new skill, develop an idea that before, due to lack of time, they hadn't had the opportunity to learn, others are simply taking advantage of this time to focus on themselves and their well-being. And shout out to those of us learning how to bake lemon Carlota or any other dessert from scratch or painting and renovating our house every other weekend. There will be many important lessons worth sharing after this pandemic since the only way to reconnect is by converting our personal experiences to the collective plane. In one way or another, we’re all in the same boat, being traveling companions even if our personal circumstances are different.
The title of this blog post is from one of my favorite movie quotes from "The Way of the Peaceful Warrior" and refers to how, during a crisis that can be frightening, we need to pay attention to what is truly important. Change our focus to what's happening inward. I truly believe that as part of this experience it is necessary to dissect it, understand it, accept it and thus, be able to transcend it as a new person, new members of our society, more empathetic, more compassionate, more conscious. Of course, it's important to pay attention to what is happening outside, in our society, our economy, our world. But even more important is paying attention to what is happening in our inner world.
Much of my upbringing, and I owe and thank my mom for this, has been based on the idea that we’re not victims of life's circumstances. We are owners of our destinies. How? Always focusing on finding solutions to life's challenges. Look for the opportunities behind the “problem”, the possibility of growth behind a “crisis”. As one of my favorite quotes said by Rahm Emanuel, a former Obama advisor during the 2008 financial crisis, “Never allow a good crisis go to waste”.
However, I do believe that as human beings, and especially as members of this Western culture, we are used to avoiding at all costs what we consider uncomfortable, unpleasant or that generates some sort of discomfort, whether physical or emotional. We forget that negative feelings are also part of life and we seek to distract ourselves in any way that we can: going out until late at night, shopping at the mall for things we don't really need, traveling, drinking, smoking. We are constantly seeking simple solutions for complex issues. A quick fix to issues that require our full awareness and mindfulness. We look outside for what we have to find inside. So, what happens when all these shock absorbers that we used suddenly are no longer as accessible as before? We can't go outside, we can't spend the whole day at the gym to distract ourselves, we simply can't do it. The answer is: GO INWARD AND PAY ATTENTION! Sit down with our anxiety, our sadness, the uncertainty, everything we shy away from so diligently. Let them in to listen and understand what they came to tell us, what they came to teach us. But also, in the same way, pay attention to the joy, to the happiness of the small and simple moments of everyday life that we never had the opportunity to appreciate before because we always lived it outside, always in a hurry. The joy of having your coffee with your favorite breakfast at home, without haste. The peace of being able to grab a book at the end of the day without spending hours in city traffic. The happiness of being able to spend more time at home with your family, your pets, more time with yourself. We need to understand that these emotions, the ones we label as good or bad, are just visitors who come to teach us something about ourselves, about our way of seeing life, about our priorities and approaches. We might feel overwhelmed by them probably because they’re too many, too intense... but take into account that they are taking advantage of the fact that they have us available now after a long time during this confinement. They are taking advantage of the fact that we have so much "free" time, that today we have no other option but to open the door, let them in, sit down and talk with them ... understand what they are trying to teach us to be able to transcend this experience enriched, more conscious, less distracted, able to PAY ATTENTION to what is happening inside.
By this time, we are already considering how the return to normality will look like, the so-called "new normal". What will happen the day after the Coronavirus? What will the streets, restaurants, offices, cinemas look like? What will it be like to keep a healthy distance from others? Are we still shaking hands or is that canceled forever? Carry hand sanitizer everywhere? Will I be able to touch my face again anymore?
But, if we really want to transcend this experience we have to think beyond the obvious modifications that there will be in social interaction, in the economic and social repercussions that this pandemic brings. We need to think beyond the "logistics" of the return. I truly believe that the central axis of this transformation should be what kind of human beings we want to be returning to the new normal. Where will we carry our empathy, compassion, our consideration for everyone as members and companions of this same life journey? Will we finally understand that our inner experience is not so different from that of our next-door neighbor? That, despite our differences, we are all sharing the same feelings to a greater or lesser extent.
Will we come out of this more humane? Or will we just pass by, distracted from everything that we can learn and grow as a result of this crisis? It's up to us. This can go in three ways: unnoticed, as one of the worst periods of our lives or, as I choose to see it, the greatest life lesson for our evolution and individual and collective growth. You just have to be willing to PAY ATTENTION!
There are those who say that the world will immediately forget this pandemic, that we will continue being the same as always. Although I think it's still too early to know what will happen in terms of society, it is important that we make the internal journey and ask ourselves what we have learned during the days of quarantine and what lessons the Coronavirus crisis has left us on a personal and collective level.
All in all, I truly believe that those of us who have learned this lesson will be different, and from now on we will not be left either to owe hugs to our loved ones, nor will we miss that meeting with our friends out of laziness, or leave important things for later. I’d like to think that we will be the ones who learn how to decline our procrastination and who set out to pursue our dreams. I choose to believe that we will be the generation of empathy, compassion, and personal growth for the benefit of our families, our workplace, our community, our society, our planet.
So, what will happen the day after the Coronavirus?... It will all depend on how much attention we were willing to pay.