By Joanna Colocassides
Greetings, fellow inmates, fellow (non) travellers, fellow isolated people, fellow partners-in-isolation. Take your pick!
There’s definitely something to be said about this profoundly different experience, which is that we-are-all-going-through-the-same-thing-at-the-same-time. What’s different, of course is firstly our circumstances. My heart goes out to parents in apartments who have to educate/placate/entertain/tolerate – again, take your pick – children, especially small ones; as well as to people forced inside with people they’re afraid of or have been abused by. The time may have come for some tough decisions here, to the degree that is in any way possible, and secondly the way we each choose to respond to this isolation. But more of that later.
This is such a challenging time we are living in, who would have thought we’d get to experience this ever in our lives? Even though I’m sure many of us have actually secretly wished for this pause. Problem is, we didn’t imagine it would be like this, with everything else from schools to shops closed as well from schools, where life in general would be at a standstill, not just our own.
So, what do we do now?
The big questions to ask right now are the same ones that are important to ponder whenever we are going through a crisis or a difficult time of any kind: ‘What is it that I can gain from this experience? What does this challenge have to teach me? What could I/we take away from it?’
It has become a cliché of sorts, (and I can hear readers going “Huh this BS again”, and rolling their eyes), but it’s actually true. Every experience is an opportunity for us to develop ourselves in some fashion. In order to find out what that is for each of us, we need to look at this whole thing with a calm and collected state of mind. It might be an opportunity to finally spend time with our children, or re-organise our space by doing things in the house we’ve been postponing forever, or doing the exercise or self-care we never had time to do before.
Perhaps it’s a chance to spend some time with ourselves and have a dialogue with our inner voice, to reacquaint ourselves and reconnect with our loved ones, read that book we always meant to read, or write that book we always wanted to write. This could be the time to learn a new skill (I myself am learning to crochet! Thanks, YouTube!) This is our opportunity to do all the things we never had the time to do. In other words, the coronavirus and the universe is calling our bluff.
I understand the worry over our health and that of our loved ones; but fretting and losing sleep over it does not help keep you in a positive frame of mind, which is the goal. We do our best to protect ourselves (masks, gloves and the like) and we learn to breathe: in with the positive, out with the negative as the meditation experts tell us.
Of course we’re worried about the financial cost, but there’s nothing much we can do about that now, so we might as well enjoy this and make the best of it. When will this ever happen again, us having the one thing that’s more important in our life than even money or work or maybe even family, and that is the gift of time? I know this only applies to those at home, as some of us are working harder than ever in supermarkets and in hospitals tending to the basic needs of the rest of us. But those with the gift of time should be grateful and learn to use it wisely, for the benefit of ourselves, our families and so on.
So, will we rise to the occasion or rather the challenge? It’s all about taking our pick, because we do have the privilege of choosing how to respond to this situation, as to any other.
Joanna Colocassides is a psychologist and systemic psychotherapist