In my trip out for daily exercise yesterday, I took myself to a water meadow, over a bridge and through a small wood. There I found a low bench, and I sat down. I probably shouldn’t have sat down, given that I was supposed to be exercising, but there wasn’t another soul in sight, and I needed this. A small stream happily burbled along beside me. Lambs bleated from a nearby field. The electric blue sky pulled my attention upwards, through the treetops, to a single cloud floating by.
I closed my eyes and felt cocooned from all the stuff of the past few days. It felt so far away just then, I could have made it all up. Everything was okay in that moment. Who knows about the next moment? We never know about the next moment. But very often, in a moment tuned into nature, everything is okay.
We are living through unprecedented circumstances. This global pandemic is disrupting life as we know it, in ways we could never have imagined. To remain distant is to be kind. To go to work is often to stay home. Legendary businesses are struggling. Obscure businesses are flourishing. People whose jobs seemed aspirational have seen their work branded ‘nonessential’, and watched income streams vanish overnight. Many people on minimum wage are helping to keep the rest of us alive. We are more interested in buying flour than catching up on celebrity gossip. Travel bloggers are going nowhere, and veggie growers are suddenly cool.
It is very, very easy to let it overwhelm you. But if you can find ways to step back and look at the bigger picture of what is happening, and what good can come from our entire world slowing down, this is a real opportunity too.
What if this is happening for you, not to you? Consider that for a moment. Consider the notion that all of this is in your highest interest in the long term. Not the loss you have experienced, but what that loss taught you about what matters most. Not the cancellations, but the spaces they opened up. Not the money worries, but what they made you realise about what you really need. Not the sorrow, but how you were comforted. Not the hardship, but what it taught you about your resilience. Not the pain, but what it taught you about love.
It is an opportunity to notice what really matters to you, when many of the things you take for granted have been stripped away. It’s an opportunity to practice resilience, and positivity, and actively seek new possibilities in this shifting world. And it’s an opportunity to remind ourselves that we never really know what is coming next, so we may as well get used to uncertainty.
What has this time taught you about the way you want to live? What has it shown you about the way we have all been living? What do you want to carry forward from this time, and what do you want to cast aside, knowing that you no longer need it in your life? And what do you want to prioritise beyond this? Now is a good time to ask yourself questions like this, yet not rush to find answers.
If you find yourself struggling to cope with the news of all that is going on in the big wide world, zoom in on a detail – in nature, in the day-to-day moments of your life as it is right now, or your own breath. If the everyday pressures of money, relationship tensions and so on have come under the microscope and are stressing you out, zoom out to the bigger picture of opportunity. What is possible because this has happened? Keep shifting between the detail and the big picture, and you will start to see new ways of doing, being and thinking.
We are standing at a threshold. What we do with this time, and how we think about it and use it and move beyond it, will change the course of each of our lives. Let’s take this moment, and use it well. It can be a gateway to a more meaningful life, if you choose to see it that way.
Beth Kempton is the author of We Are in This Together: Finding hope and opportunity in the depths of adversity (Piatkus), a practical and inspiring compass for navigating these turbulent times, and moving from resistance to resilience, to take care of yourself and your family in the chaos. It will help you stay calm, figure out what to prioritise, simplify your life and lay the groundwork for renewal