There is a curse. The say: “May you live in interesting times.”Interesting Times, Terry Pratchett
The title may be a bit melodramatic but, lately, it really has felt like it might be true. It’s not, of course. This is not the end of the world. A more accurate title may be ‘Thoughts on the end of the world as we know it‘. Because that, I think, is true.
I’m writing this with a shadow of uncertainty hovering very close by. It’s a shadow many of us are living under. As individuals and families. As businesses and governments. Whether the uncertainty is around health, financial matters or just how to keep life going, whether for ourselves, the people we love or the people we’re responsible for, it’s all a little scary. I’ve definitely had moments over the last few days when all I’ve wanted is to curl up under a duvet and not come out again until it’s all over. I’ve had a little cry. I’ve spent some time staring blankly into space. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling out of control. And, difficult though it is to do in practice, I have come to recognise the old cliche as true: sometimes the only thing we can control is how we respond to the situation.
Even though it was hard to do, when I started doing something, I started to feel better. I did little things like pick up groceries for people who are self isolating, give my mobile number to a vulnerable neighbour in case they need anything, made my book free on kindle and reduced the price of the paperback as much as Amazon would let me. I started making contingency plans for finances, work arrangements etc, so I would have next steps ready to go if things got less stable. I tried to make a point of checking in with friends, making sure everyone was as ok as they could be and sharing videos of happy penguins to lighten the mood. None of it stopped the shitty things from being shitty but it made me feel like I had a purpose and, hopefully, made a few moments of the day a little brighter for the people I love.
I also tried to pay attention to the good news stories. To the people who are offering care and help to those who are vulnerable and in need. To the businesses, big and small, who are finding work arounds so they can still serve customers, introducing additional services, offering discounts, or providing special hours for vulnerable individuals and frontline workers to make things safe and more accessible. To the significant reduction in air pollution and the return of dolphins to the clearing waters in and around Venice. To the primary school children singing songs in the playground to lift the spirits of the residents of their neighbouring care home.
Ironically, the enforced isolation many of us are experiencing is also bringing out the very best in our communities.
Yesterday morning, I walked my dog in the sunshine, meeting members of my local community along the way who were stopping and taking the time to check how each other are doing. In the afternoon, I picked up an order from a bookshop and chatted with the book seller about the changes this will wreak on the world. And there will be changes. When we come out of the other side of this chaos – which we will, even if it takes a little time – the world is going to be a very different place. And I hope it will have changed for the better.
I hope individuals and governments will have a much greater appreciation for our doctors, nurses, teachers, refuse workers, shop assistants – all the people who are putting themselves at greater risk to keep the essentials of our society working. I hope these people, these essential areas, will receive not only more recognition but more investment. I hope that businesses who had inflexible working policies will recognise they can offer more flexibility, in hours or working arrangements, and allow that flexibility to continue for staff. I hope that people and governments around the world will wake up to the realities of the impact that human activity has on our environment – and will also recognise that we can do something about it. I hope our planet will have made some steps in recovery and that we will do everything in our power to allow it to continue. I also hope that the newly discovered sense of community, both local and global, will remain and grow. I hope we take better care of each other.
Over the next few days, weeks and months, I’m going to do what I can to remain hopeful and happy, and to share that hope and happiness wherever I can. I’ve been writing a blog and social series for work with tips, advice and useful resources for dealing with these bizarre circumstances and I’m planning on doing something similar here. If there’s anything that would be useful, get in touch: drop me a comment, reach out on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org – after all, we’re #BetterTogether.