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The Silver Linings Within the Sadness of a Pandemic

This is a time of great trials and challenges.  People are sick and dying around the world, losing their jobs, and we are even more socially isolated as we quarantine.  There is suffering all around.

As with all challenges, there is much to learn.  The bigger the challenge, the bigger the learning opportunity.  And boy, do we have big learning available to us!  We can either learn and grow from this in a spectacular way, or succumb to despair.

This blog series, and the Foundation for Family and Community Healing itself, sprung from the ashes of loss and grief.  Though we cannot imagine the suffering that the COVID-19 outbreak is causing around the world, we are also no stranger to weathering suffering by finding the silver lining and opportunity buried in tragedy and loss.

I’ve read and heard of some silver linings that have resulted from the quarantine.  Less commuting and more time at home.  Time with family.  Time outdoors.  More time available for what’s important.  Feeling a greater sense of gratitude for what we have.  Being more present in the moment.  Less fossil fuels being burned commuting and for pointless excursions.  Time to reflect on one’s life.

I also wonder if the outbreak has forced us to focus again on what’s most important.  Where have we been spending our time and resources?  Where should we be focusing instead? We forget that life is fragile and temporary, and that the only certainty we have is what’s here, right this very minute.  The future is uncertain.  We have the now to savor, and the chance to create the future we desire, not just the one that evolved for us by accident.

Like many of you, I am finding comfort and pleasure during this time of loss and radical change by being with nature.  Long walks, my new gardening project, sitting on the porch again now that the weather is warmer.  I have the time to listen to the birds, watch the flowers blossom, monitor my seeds as they germinate.  Earth’s eternal presence and beauty feels like something solid and constant in these uncertain times.  I reflect on my life’s purpose, reconnect deeply with my personal mission, and imagine the world I wish to create through my work.

I also hear a sense of guilt from some, that having time for yourself is a guilty pleasure emanating from tragedy.  It is emanating from tragedy, but it’s not a guilty pleasure.  It’s a coping mechanism, a survival skill, a healthy adaptation.  It’s a way to reduce stress.

It’s ironic to me that the pandemic is forcing us to return back to what we want and need on a visceral level, and giving it to ourselves.  We are now able to see some of the things we thought we couldn’t live without.  We are now able to see what we’ve been ignoring what is most important.  Returning our attention to those things is making us feel guilty too.

This is not cause for guilt.  This is causes for gratitude, insight, and wisdom.

Savor the lessons that the pandemic is teaching us:  finding time for what’s important, meaningful, good, and beautiful.  Reconnecting with ourselves and our families, even if it’s by remote means.  Turning to nature for entertainment, inspiration, comfort, and healing.  Treasuring every second of our beautiful, temporary, and complicated lives on our spectacular planet.   Knowing that this too, shall pass, as will our good fortune one day.

The pandemic will also endure long enough that we will actually create new habits.  A power outage fosters camaraderie and gratitude until the lights come back on, and then we go back to our old, cloistered ways.  The weeks and months of quarantine may mean that we might resist returning to our old habits of being busy for the sake of busy, consuming our time and resources like a ravenous animal.

Please, don’t rush to recreate your pre-pandemic life, exactly as you had it.  Keep the blessings and the healthy and regenerating habits you’ve adopted during the quarantine, and maintain them in your new normal.  Take this time to deepen what is healing and good for you.   Harvest your own garden of blessings from the quarantine.  You have the time to create them (when you’re not in the midst of crisis management).  Have the resolve to keep them going after our collective and individual reset.   Weave the silver lining into the fabric of your daily life going forward… what else is more important, valuable, and sensible, right now?