If there is One Take from 2020, Let it be This.
Updated: Oct 30
It feels like yesterday, I was celebrating New Year’s Eve with a friend over our annual date to the movies and some hearty, delicious pizza. 2019 was an eventful year so we were both happy to finally bid it farewell.
The clock struck 12 AM, announcing yet another year of potential dreams, endless hopes and new heartbreaks, for this is what life simultaneously offers.
“Happy New Year,” we both announced, with love flickering in our hearts, and a smile as bright as the sky on a clear summer night. We hugged, cried, laughed over our tears, and cried a bit more, while sharing precious little moments of raw openness, vulnerability and friendship.
Fast-forward to 2020, and we’re already nearing the end of October. I ponder over the same freakin’ question that every person on this planet probably has. Where did the year go, and how do we make sense of it all? It is no secret that it has been one hell of a year, from the breakout of an unexpected pandemic, to being locked in our homes, to sharing spaces with people we haven’t connected with for over a decade, to finding flexibility in the way we work, interact and meet, to re-assessing our relationships, values and life’s goal and purpose.
As we near the end of the year and the lurking shadow of the 2nd pandemic wave approaches, we’re all still navigating our way living the reality of this new normal. We dream about what a post COVID-19 world would look like, while remembering the truth of existence: that life is transient, moving and is in an instant state of flow.
And as we’re all part of existence, sometimes, the best service we can do for ourselves when life is crumbling is to flow in life’s direction, while trusting its timeless wisdom.
We live in an ever-turbulent world that moves in a pace that long surpassed our own physical and neurological evolution. We’re both blessed and cursed to have an enormous flux of information at our fingertips through a small screen. But more research shows that the screen with which we view our world today has created more divisions, loneliness, isolation, xenophobia, fear and existential crisis than it has united us.
And this hole of separation only gets deeper the longer we mindlessly linger in that space.
Needless to say we live in an age of perpetual stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, lethargy and increasing thoughts of suicide that are often contemplated in secrecy, while simultaneously feeling the obligation to wear false masks in order to live up to societal expectations of power, money and happiness over the expense of our own health and life’s meaning.
This is not a way to live; rather, it is a slow, deep slope into extinguishing our fire.
COVID-19 was horrific for all of us. But we each had our unique stories of how it changed the way we exist in order to accommodate to this new normal. Wearing a mask has become second nature in most countries; in the same way we wear clothes and lock our doors before we leave the house.
But is a physical fabric that shields us from the threat of disease and potential death worse than the mask we learned to put on everyday to separate ourselves from one another? Or is the decay to an incurable virus equal to the slow deterioration we feel, recognize and know when our barriers prevent us from living our own creativity, joy and life’s unique and true meaning?
Regardless of where we exist in the world, perhaps COVID-19, and for the first time in human history, has brought with it a unified and familiar sense of acceptance to how short and fragile life is, a concept which existed for centuries in many Eastern Philosophies. The reality that life is transient, momentary, fading and that time is the only commodity that may never be replaced.
Whether or not we’ve been directly hit by the consequences of a forced lock-down, we’ve probably heard the stories of those who lost a loved one or two, watched their businesses dwindle, struggle to make ends meet, were suddenly forced to share their space with an abusive family member, or were stuck in an unfulfilling relationship for years without their usual means of distraction or spaces for retreat.
From my personal experience and many conversations with people within my social circle, being in lockdown has also forced many of us to re-asses our state of constant ‘business’ and tendency to pack our schedule with tasks, regardless of their meaning, contribution and fulfillment to our lives.
All of a sudden, we found ourselves unable to go to the gym, drive our cars or revert to retail therapy as coping mechanisms to the underlying issues that desperately need to be addressed.
We found ourselves forced to be creative in the way we approach life again, whether in how we work, meet, socialize or exist. In the midst of chaos, we were compelled to explore our own version of “new normal” through a routine that made sense to us. To some, it meant innovating new food recipes and kneading bread, regardless of whether the attempts were fruitful or not. To others, it meant tuning better into our bodies through moderate diet, meditation and exercise.
Some of us created art, others read the stack of books that’s been sitting on our shelves for years. Many cried, danced, grieved, meditated, got in touch with our boredom, created content on social media, or simply binge-watched our favourite shows on Netflix.
Regardless of what we chose to do with our time, the essence was the same.
While no one was watching, we were able to get in touch with our own creativity and explored more of what we loved to do. With the space and time that were generously offered by being in lockdown, we met our shadows, albeit halfway. We realized how much clutter we’ve accumulated over the years, whether in meaningless relationships, jobs, endless numbing or material possessions.
We were finally able to embody being present, mindful and aware of our state of being without the perpetual distractions of modern life.
If there is one take from 2020, let it be this.
That we may never forget how fragile we all once felt by the creeping shadow of life’s fragility.
That we may continue to do more of what naturally brings us joy, creativity and meaning, the way life should be felt.
That we may live with more intention and presence, and less distraction and business.
And that we may all love harder and never hold back, even for a moment, having deeply felt how momentary, short, and fleeing life truly is.