Right now, the world is gripped with fear like we haven’t known in any time I can remember. Everywhere I look, the TV, Internet, and headlines scream that more people are sick and dying, more schools and businesses are closing, and just going out of my house could lead to being sick.
What do I do? Do I listen to the panic? Do I run to the store for toilet paper and hand sanitizer? Oh wait—it’s already gone.
What if I don’t want to live like that because that isn’t living for me? What if I want something different? Something better? Does that exist? I believe it can and does.
Death seems much closer right now, but the truth is, death is all around me every day, coronavirus or not.
I ride a bike to work every day in sun, rain, snow, and ice. I dodge traffic, jump curbs, and fall down in front of vehicles. The truth is, I could die just as easily riding to work.
Every day, I must reconcile the reality that I don’t know what will happen when I walk out the door, whether it be with my bike or to ride in an Uber. I could get hit by someone who is driving to the store in a panic.
The fact that sickness and death seem more real right now doesn’t make it any less real the rest of the time. It’s scary to face the fact of my mortality or the possibility of losing someone I love. I don’t want that any more than anyone else. But if I can come to grips with the fact that death is always there, then I can look for what is truly important.
What have I found? What I treasure most is not a place or an event or a thing. It’s living — it’s the people and relationships in my life. It’s being able to enjoy the moment I’m in despite the panic around me. I can’t control the future and don’t know what is to come. But if I can enjoy this moment, laugh with family, or watch a good Netflix movie, I’m living and content.
It’s painful to have the comforts and perceived security of life ripped out from under me. I have experienced this personally, and I can say that the pain and discomfort has given me something invaluable — knowing what’s most important to me and also an understanding of the unpredictability of life.
So what’s left when life throws something bigger than I can handle or control? Relax and ride it out. It seems counterintuitive, but it gets me to where I want to be.
A good illustration of this is a lesson I learned in martial arts: how to take a full-force throat punch.
How do I take a blow to the throat without being killed or, at bare minimum, severely injured? I relax my mind and body and don’t try to fight or escape. I accept that the blow is coming and trust that being relaxed is what prepares and protects me.
And it does every time.
This is a lesson I learned as a teen and carry with me to this day. It’s a simple concept, but not an easy one because it goes against every natural impulse of self-preservation and logic.
But it is possible, and I believe that as we change our perspective on reality and what we can achieve, we can see magic and miracles in the small moments of our daily lives.
Maybe that’s the good thing about the coronavirus — it slows us down from the busyness that we are used to. Maybe this gives us a chance to take stock of what’s really important and to enjoy a moment of stillness, time for ourselves.
Is this the answer for everyone? I don’t know, but it’s the answer for me and the key to living in the midst of a crisis without being in crisis.
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