Who are you?
Who are you when the world is no longer what it used to be?
Who are you in a world that is home to streets as lonesome as the men who sleep on them? In a world where stores are shuttered, and people shudder at the thought of proximity with one another? In a world where to love someone is to maintain distance? In a world so upside down, we have lost our sense of direction, our sense of self, our belief in the assumed, our understanding of the afore understood.
The world seemingly ended in the spring of 2020, and we shed our old skins and old identities and metamorphosed into mythological beings that were equal parts employees, homemakers, parents, playmates and in general, very, very nervous human beings. All the places where our various identities lived (work, play, prayer) closed, and all our former selves morphed into one slightly heavier, sweatpants-wearing, Netflix-watching version.
The pandemic has created an overpowering sense of loss – of lives, livelihoods, opportunities, companionship, time, sanity. The structures and systems we took for granted, the corporality and continuity of which we assumed, came crumbling down. There has been perpetual anticipation, a feeling of being rudderless and adrift. We have all felt a profound sense of loss of the “old world order” – a time when you could pack into a movie theatre or a gym, sit elbow-to-elbow with coworkers in a meeting room, or celebrate an occasion surrounded by loved ones.
However, adversity is the best teacher, and the pandemic has been an astute educator. It taught us to be kinder, to recognize the errors of our old ways, to rekindle lost relationships, to savor the moments we do have with loved ones, and to have gratitude in our abundance in a time of scarcity and need.
Where this pandemic brought upheaval, it also brought calm – a weird space where nothing is expected of you but just to stay put – to breath, to unravel, to stop and smell the roses, to pick up the rolling pin, to let down the hair, to dust off old canvases, to wipe off the makeup, to sleep in late, to watch the sunrise, to get moving, to slow the breathing, to do as you please, to be as you please. To. Just. Exist.
So who am I, now that the world is no longer what it used to be? I took my time to process the loss of the “old ways” but at some point, I decided I wanted to choose happiness.
I still had my job, my health, and the health of my friends and family, and so if my biggest annoyance with this situation was boredom or the difficulty of working while parenting, I had to count myself amongst the fortunate few. I decided to set personal goals of improvement, take on new skills and projects, find joy in the smallest things, and make gratitude an everyday goal.
My experience of the pandemic, much like everyone else’s has been challenging in many ways, but for most of the part, I’ve tried to make the most of it. And my inspiration for this attitude has been my daughter.
At 6 years old, she understood the gravity of the situation without knowing the granularities. She rolled with the punches and adapted to ever changing rules as if she’s gone through several cycles of global epidemics. Stuck at home for the first two and a half months of lockdown with zero contact with anyone except her god-awful parents, the kid deserves a medal.
She stood like a tall grass in thrashing rain, showing us resilience, adaptability, and fearlessness in the wake of indelible change. She has been sequestered, but her happy spirit has not been squelched.
After the first wave of the pandemic receded and life eased up a bit, we found joy in a summer of yesteryears. The lasting image of summer 2020 emblazoned in my memory will be that of my daughter and her best friend two doors down from us, screaming at the top of their lungs, pretending to be fierce dragons, while racing up and down the street on their bikes.
No visits to theme parks, libraries, museums or swimming pools, no road trips or expensive vacations, just a bunch of kids burnin’ rubber for hours and eating copious amounts of watermelon under the midsummer sun. Who knew the kids of 2020 could live like the kids of the 1980s.
And when children can live and be happy with so little, why can’t we? So the spouse, spawn and myself have relished the cheap thrills: the discovery of a cute little town nearby, finding new ice cream spots, taking nature walks, enjoying an old tradition in new ways, befriending our neighbors, pouring love into my garden, discovering skills we didn’t know we had.
The fear of death may just have taught us to really live.
Winter is upon us, which in Canada is worthy of the ominous declaration of “Winter is coming” a la Games of Thrones and we are finding ourselves in the second wave of the pandemic. There seems no end in sight to this calamity but this time too shall pass, and all we will have at the end of it is the memory of who we were when we came into it, and the recognition of who we became when we left it.
So decide on who you want to be when all this is over, and work towards it. Look to your children (or borrow others’) to recognize that all we need is resilience and positivity to stand up to the toughest challenges. Make gratitude and humility an everyday goal. Choose happiness.