I have been homebound for over two months now. Even though I had followed the Coronavirus news from the time it unfolded in China, like most of you, I didn’t see it coming at us so fast and so aggressively.
The uncertainty and unpredictability it has brought with it are jarring.
Both at a personal and professional level, I am confronted by a hundred or more unanswered questions of how this will impact me, my family, my work, my everyday life, and more.
Thankfully, not everything has been grim during this time. With my once supersonic lifestyle – travelling in the German airlines, Lufthansa and ICE trains slowing down, I have gotten the chance to reflect on a lot of things that I could never make time for before. And the realizations that I chanced upon in these moments of silent, deep contemplation have changed my outlook towards life, work, and experiences in a meaningful way.
1. Am I being grateful enough?
When all is good, it is a natural human tendency to take things for granted. Often, it takes losing these very same things to realize how much it meant to us.
Normal life is just that for all of us right now.
If you give it a thought, you’ll realize that we aren’t craving the extraordinary moments in life as much as we want the real, ordinary ones back.
The time when we could catch the sunrise, stroll along the pathways, meet friends over the weekend, or dine out at our favorite restaurant. The pandemic has really made me appreciate the small things in my life.
I feel deep gratitude for having my husband by my side, friends who check in on me, a roof over my head, the financial strength to tide through these tough times, and good health. Counting my blessings fills me with hope and love, and the kind of faith I need to get through this pandemic.
And I want to continue to be grateful for every small and big thing that comes my way.
2. Is the uber-competitive, rat race of life even worth it?
Our lives are defined by goals these days. To earn a degree from a prestigious college, land a job in a top firm, grow steadily up the corporate ladder, own a house, a car, and much more.
Don’t get me wrong here.
Being ambitious is great. But if you look at the way an average person leads his/her life, it won’t be wrong to say that he/she is too busy navigating life from one goal to the next.
The rat race can be all-consuming and never-ending.
The pandemic has made me pause and wonder how detrimental this pace of life has been, for humans and for the environment around us. As a species, we have compromised our health, our relationships, and more pursuing an ultimate destination that may not even exist. And we have severely impaired nature. I wonder if we ever will correct our wrongs or if we will even get a chance to.
3. Do I need to be productive all the time?
As a society, we tend to think in terms of doing.
We have come to associate our self-worth to how productive we are.
Naturally, anything that seems non-productive feels like a waste of time, to an extent that rest has been subconsciously categorized as non-productive too.
Most of us feel that we need to earn rest by pushing ourselves to the point of exhaustion. This need to be productive all the time can be damaging to our mental and physical health. The lockdown period has given me the chance to redefine what productivity means to me. I have realized 24 hours can be a lot of time and can be used for doing and being things that may not necessarily be productive by definition.
And one quote that particularly stands out for me in this regards is by Thich Nhat Hanh,
“We have a tendency to think in terms of doing and not in terms of being. We think that when we’re not doing anything, we’re wasting our time. But that’s not true. Our time is first of all for us to be. To be what? To be alive, to be peaceful, to be joyful, to be loving. And this is what the world needs the most.”
4. Can I bring in more empathy in business?
Empathy can have a place in business and a very big one at that. This pandemic has had many companies demonstrate how empathy blends right into purpose. By offering free services to nurses and doctors, special consideration for senior citizens, flexibility in subscription models, etc., several brands are enabling people to cope better with the crisis. And this is a lesson that must be carried forward even post COVID-19. Sales-oriented messaging may be on its way out. More authentic and empathetic messaging on its way in.
5. Are healthcare workers, scientists, and researchers getting due credit for their work?
The pandemic has shown how important the frontline workers are to our community. This is not just limited to doctors, nurses, scientists, researchers, government workers, and policemen but also hospital staff and those who clean the roads, collect garbage, deliver mails, and more. They are all people who are continuing to honor their duties for our sake and putting their lives at risk to keep the world running. And no amount of words seems enough to show our respect and gratitude to them. Salute to all of you all.
6. Can anything ever replace the value of genuine connections?
Our professional lives can keep us busy. So blindingly busy sometimes.
In all these years, I haven’t probably enjoyed a good lunch during the week with my husband except on weekends. Our work has constantly kept us in different countries and now when we leave together in the beautiful Germany, we work in different cities. Now, with this mandatory social distancing, we are having so much time together. And it makes me realize how important it is to spend time nurturing and growing our relationships.
That feeling of genuine connection is pure bliss.
But often we lose out on these beautiful moments to fit in a professional commitment. I can remember several such moments when I have let a call from my mother pass while at work, unless, of course, it was an emergency. Today, I check in on my mother every single day.
Even as everything else around me falls apart, the one thing that is steady and continues to ground me is my relationships.
There must not be one person in this whole wide world who hasn’t been impacted by the virus in some way. While the degree of impact can vary, we are drifting through these turbulent times in the same boat.
The storm is at its mightiest right now. There is no going back and we are unable to see the future due to all the fogginess. What is best for all of us, at the moment, is to take one step at a time, live one day at a time.
We will together wait it out for the fog to clear, for the future to appear on the horizon and then restart life in a more normal fashion.