In this first part, I’m focusing on the things we have learned from the quarantine, on a personal level. This will be follow up by at least one other part, which I will link to here, when ready.
As mentioned previously, a lot of articles have been published with the promise that the pandemic we have faced and still facing, has taught us some valuable lessons. Yet, most articles seemed to come short of answers on what such lessons are.
Here I will try to list some of the things we have learned or should have learned maybe. Things people have not put in so many words but appears somehow in conversations, in pictures shared, in some new behaviors.
This isn’t a complete list, so feel free to add in the comment…
Forward important notes
This is written from the perspective of a white privileged woman who has, not just a roof over her head, but an actual comfortable home, food in her fridge, a caring partner and no real financial struggle.
This is written from the perspective of healthy person, a person who does not depend on someone else to survive, a person who has no real hardship in live.
Indeed, I am privileged in many ways. Some of those privileges comes from being born white in a safe country, some come from the environment I was brought up in, a few probably come from hard work and others, maybe, from choices I was fortunate enough to be able to make.
In many ways, I feel disconnected from reality. I could not even begin to fantom how hard the quarantine could have been for people who are homeless, people with children who are starving, people with disabilities, people who do not have access to clean water, who are refugees…
Other things I can not understand and actually do not accept are: the behavior of Karen who went to the street to complain about not being able to get her roots done at the hairdresser ; Karen who went to get her nails done anyway ; Bob, Kevin, Todd (what’s the male equivalent for Karen?) who refuses to wear a mask because of their freedom… The list goes on and on and on. And yes, the point here is that I can be judgmental. Indeed I judge you harshly for throwing your mask in the street.
If you are reading this, you are probably privileged, at least in some ways, as well. Do think about it before saying no, no, no… High speed internet and fancy computer or mobile in hand…
OK, now that this is out of the way, let’s get to it.
Taking life for granted
We take the fact of being alive for granted. Especially if we are healthy and capable. Every single day is a gift we take for granted. Well it seems so at least, especially when people are dying and we are able to stay safe in the comfort of our homes.
Yet, life is a gift, and everyday is a gift. Hopefully we have learned such valuable lesson, by now. Hopefully we won’t take so many things for granted anymore.
If being in quarantine should have thought us something, it may be about self-care. I’m not talking about putting night cream on, or plucking our own eyebrows. It goes far beyond skincare routine or common advise on physical activities.
Self-care is about all our basic physiological needs. It can be about cooking well balanced meals. Meditating while focusing on our breath, as the simple act of breathing isn’t something we actually master. It can be about managing our stress & worries, to regain, at least, much needed restorative sleep.
Self-care is also about getting to know ourselves, listening to our body, our needs. It is also about accepting ourselves, with our flaws, loving ourselves while still working on areas we want to improve, let it be physical or mental.
Self-care has clearly been center stage during quarantine, and we’ve all done what we thought was best to, at least, stay healthy.
Becoming comfortable with ourselves
Before the quarantine, it seemed very few people were actually comfortable with themselves. Being alone was often considered synonym with being lonely, when it shouldn’t have been. For many people, being alone, was close to impossible, at least for long period of times.
But the quarantine got us learning to become comfortable with ourselves. It is a valuable skill anytime, but probably even more when in quarantine!
There is no secret recipe on how to achieve this. It takes time and practice. It is probably best done little by little, to let you face your own demons, one by one rather than all at once. But the quarantine didn’t let us do that and has thrown us into the big pool, instead. We had to learn how to swim fast and most did.
Taking care of our own mental health
Let me first take you back to my forward notes. I know, I know, I’m privileged and healthy. It doesn’t mean I have live a careless free life, in fact I have my own issues and I have been to pretty dark places, time and time again.
It is my own experience that leads me to say that we have a responsibility to take care of our own mental health. Not all of us, I agree. And you are of course allowed to disagree with this part (and the rest actually).
A lot of us do have a choice, to take care of our own mental health. Like we take care of our bodies, or not. We make choices that affect us, we let things get to us. We let emotions overcome us. We choose to accept social situations that affect us, way too much.
The quarantine has, in a way, stopped some of those behaviors which is good. It has however exacerbated some others. The fear and anxiety caused by the pandemic has been overwhelming to some.
Despite all this, mental self-care should be high on our priority list now. Resilience for the future is key.
It’s ok to feel vulnerable
Taking care of our mental health doesn’t mean being strong all the time. On the contrary, feeling vulnerable, and showing it, is now ok. And it feels good to be accepted with all our emotions, not just the pretty ones, now just when we are all happy and well.
This seems to have evolved a lot during our quarantine. At least, the perception of others vulnerability seems to have evolved. Some of us are not ready to show our own vulnerability, just yet. But we are on the right track.
We often have the wrong priorities
Money, success, more money… more followers, shoes, clothes, booze, stuff… This pandemic may have shown that a lot of the things we focus on are really not that important.
We had expectations of what our lives should be, things we think we should do, things our mother think we should do, the world thinks we should do… It got shattered in an instant and got us to rethink such expectations and maybe even set out new priorities.
The simple things matter the most
An incredible amount of people have shared how they have slowed down and how much they enjoyed it.
How they have stopped to listen to birds chirping. (I have!) How they suddenly have seen things that they had never paid attention to before.
Suddenly, we all lived in the moment and started enjoying the little things. And it mattered. And it was beautiful.
We were all apart and yet we were all connected, in these moments.
Let it be a revelation that last.
Doing things by ourselves
A lot of us realized we had to handle a lot of things by ourselves. As there was no way to call someone for help, for tasks we would have usually paid someone else to do. So we did and realized there was joy and a sense of fulfillment in doing such tasks, handling such things.
Maybe it was some gardening, maybe some plumbing or other house repairs & renovation required. Maybe it was cutting our own hair (I know, I know!!) Maybe it was just recycling candles, repairing some clothes or baking.
The fact we had no other choice than to do it ourselves, made us do it. And it got us to the next point.
Learning new skills
We wanted to come out of quarantine, better version of ourselves.
Some focused on exercising, others on reading books. Some realized they liked to create, drawn, paint, carve wood or else. Overall a lot of us realized we wanted to learn new skills. This was lead by the above or a need to create, to occupy ourselves, do something we always wanted to do, prepare for the future to come, or just because we wanted to.
Some better educated people & better equipped people came out of quarantine.
Discipline & commitment
We all realized it was really hard to stick to a schedule when we don’t have to, when it is so easy to say ‘tomorrow’ because there is no deadline, no boss, no obligation. But some learned. Some found the strength, to be disciplined, to tackle the days. Softly, slowly but in a new sustainable way, a more balanced way. We dedicated mornings to such tasks and afternoon and evening to others.
Such discipline and commitment to diversifying and yet making small progresses everyday, gave us a sense of purpose and achievement we really enjoyed.
The after quarantine
We promised ourselves to be better humans. Better at taking care of ourselves, at balance and to still devote time to our new found passions and to our loved ones.
Yet, we are social animals and sometimes weak. So when we were allowed to go out again, even with restrictions in place, we quickly reverted to our old selves, our old routines including to spending time with other people, even if we didn’t like them that much. Because we craved human contacts, any contact.
And we started to forget about our new goals, our new selves, our commitments…
Despite this, the quarantine effect will leave its imprint on us. The knowledge that things can be different, that we can live differently and still enjoy it.
We will remember that it wasn’t all so bad, that we actually liked part of it. That it was a time of introspection and dedication to our loved ones. A time of creativity and peace.
And a lot of us, with this in mind, are craving a new future. It was implied, we were told things will be different “after”. We have yet to build such a different world.
Continue reading if you wish, before part 2 comes out: Meaningful ways to be a better human