Here YA regular contributor Kirsty muses on some of the unexpected positive outcomes from lockdown and this dumpster fire of a year. What if we saw this as an opportunity to do and be better?
I think we can all agree that 2020 has been pretty nuts.
January was blissful, minus the fact that Australia was on fire. February wasn’t too bad – remember those days? I can so clearly see myself scrolling past a single headline of a virus in Wuhan on my way to work. We had blissful ignorance of what was about to come. In March, April and May, I thought we had peaked in the okay-this-is-real-bad stage. Even then, it felt like just a quick phase we’d be out of soon. Now we’re in August (round two of lockdown here in New Zealand). I can’t help but wonder if 2021 will be peppered with the same kind of stop-starts we’ve endured in 2020.
But for all we’ve been hit with in the past half-year, it’s started to feel a little bit… normal.
And I mean, not the chaos of trying to keep up with a worldwide killer virus, but the chill-out-and-do-less part. What do you think?
I’m going to be super honest here, from my perspective. Lockdown, in some ways, feels invigorating! Like we trimmed the fat and cut the crap out. Now it’s time to reflect on what we want in our lives and then go forward with that. What are some of the positive outcomes from lockdown that you’ve seen?
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m almost entirely zen right now. In theory, I shouldn’t be because the world as I knew it has imploded, just in the same way it has for so many others.
I’m stuck on the opposite side of the planet to my apartment. I don’t know when I’ll see my boyfriend again. The freelancing work doesn’t feel as sexy as full-time employment anymore. And why are there so many grown-up decisions needing to be made that I don’t want to? I have every reason to be freaking out.
But I’ve got this newfound peace that comes with living every day in the present and not dwelling too much on the maybes, or the thousand potential futures. I think I’ve had it a while. I’m guessing it comes with the patience I learned while traveling and being a nomad. But now it’s like an evolved version. Sure, there are loads of things that are uncertain (and our lives have changed for the foreseeable future; Covid-19 wasn’t just a blip. It is the new normal). But also, not everything needs to be certain.
It’s all good.
One thing you have to master to reach this level of zen is the ability to zoom in and out quickly when considering positive outcomes from lockdown.
Not like, when you’re trying to catch the best flaming ball of a sunset pic and a seagull flies towards the edge of your shot, and you magically adjust the lens, but more like from the nitty-gritty, teeny-eeny detail, all the way out to the universe as a whole. That way, you can’t get bogged down in both. If you put your laundry on with no powder, it sucks, but quick, zoom out! The universe is still okay. If you start to get a bit worried about Coronavirus and the future of humankind, well, live in the moment, and at least you have a nice cup of tea.
See? It works every time.
Let’s zoom out to the bigger picture together for a moment and imagine that we are all trees in a forest. Okay, some of us aren’t trees, we’re shrubs, or grasses, or even little seedlings, but the point is, we’re all in the same ecosystem. The seasons roll around, and we all do our bit, with the help of the birds and the bees (because let’s be honest, there’s no future without those).
Twenty four hours a day, there is activity. Each branch and flower, each molecule of moist, nutritious earth, each ray of sunshine and little creature contributes in some way to the maintenance of “the system.”
Suddenly, a wildfire starts and spreads like – well, wildfire. Let’s pretend it’s the infamous 1988 fire in Yellowstone National Park, and eight hundred thousand acres are burning due to perfect conditions: it’s warm, dry, and flammable fuel is everywhere. Now, at the time, this appears to be a colossal disaster. Some of us are going to get burned. All of us are going to be affected.
It’s impossible to know exactly how anything will play out, often despite forecasts.
We don’t know that actually, that big Lodgepole pine up there? It covers 80% of the park and has a cone that only releases seeds when the resin around them melts, possible only at enormously high temperatures. Equally, because of the fire, less dominant grasslands won’t be taken over, the soil will be given a nutrient boost as the decay process is regenerated, and great nesting spots will be found.
Many animals, such as grizzly bears, will carry on as usual, unaffected.
It slowly dawns on us that – wait – the fire is part of the ecosystem, and it’s doing its bit, just like us. What we would learn much, later on, is that forest fires were dangerously repressed in the decades before this 1988 wildfire, despite being a fundamental part of forest life, which led to this necessary outbreak.
The ecosystem was, as it were, fighting back.
Today, more educated than ever, we allow natural forest fires to flare and burn in Yellowstone National Park every year, and we humans keep an eye on them.
The evolution of an ecosystem, whether forest fires or human beings, should be a source of inspiration, a time for new shoots, new beginnings, and new growth.
Now, I’m not in any way, suggesting that we should have controlled outbreaks of COVID-19 and enforced lockdowns every couple of years. Nor should we be rejoicing in the wake of so many worldwide deaths and suffering. Neither of those would be respectful or helpful to the continuation of humankind.
But maybe there’s a lesson here about picking up the pieces and rebuilding our forest. After that 1988 fire, the sun no doubt rose again in the morning, and the forest life carried on, albeit a little different. After the coronavirus dust settles – fingers crossed, this will happen one day – so can we.
The difference between us and the forest (although I do love to think we sing as beautifully as birds even though realistically we sound like traffic), is that we have brains. We know things. And we are innovative.
This means instead of thousands of biological factors dictating how we blossom from this. We can use our conscious minds and choose. There are positive outcomes from lockdown if we can see them.
Living in lockdown has shaken all of us. But it hasn’t all been bad. There are aspects that we have liked, individually, and as a community. For example, I’ve written a book. Furthermore, I’ve started learning German.
Okay, you’ve had to rearrange your house to include a make-shift desk: ugh. But you didn’t sit in your car for 30 minutes twice a day: a bonus. You weren’t able to go out for beersies after work, but instead, you’ve discovered the square of the carpet the sun hits at 4 pm, which is perfect for rising sourdough.
What does it mean if we choose to consume less, or differently? How does it look if we decide to work less, worry less, and put make-up on less? What will happen if we choose to create more, move more, love more, and don’t feel bad when we’re not burning ourselves out?
Maybe as humans, we aren’t supposed to work as hard as we have come to, in this all-consuming, wheels-turning world. Perhaps we can use this quiet period in time to reflect just what we have made of our lives – individually – and assess what we want to do with them next.
A Lodgepole pine lives a full, nutritious, nurturing, and successful life by doing little more than existing. Winner.
There’s enormous potential for the design to change. Working from home. Being more present. Making fewer decisions. Less Netflix. More languages. More moments in the sun, breathing fresh air. Less clutter in our houses. Less angst in our hearts. More smiles on the street.
It’s time to turn over a new (Lodgepole pine) leaf.
Think about what you have liked best about the lockdown and manifest it into your future.
If it all gets a bit too much, zoom out again and come back later. It’s all about perspective. Happiness is a choice.
What do you see as some positive outcomes from lockdown? Is this a chance to have a better way of living in the future? What habits and practices would you keep from lockdown in place long after it’s over?