Go Train schedules, traffic jams, changing seasons, pressing deadlines, and take-out dinners. This is the day to day life in Toronto and much of the Greater Toronto Area (the suburbs outside the city). The COVID-19 pandemic caught us off guard. Usually when world-wide events happen, in this part of the world we tend to grieve briefly (if at all) about the unfortunate events affecting other less fortunate countries, and then we go back to the daily grind. Not our problem. Life here calls for fast-paced movements, quick decisions and steadfast responses to high demands, either professional, personal or social.
However, this unfortunate health pandemic has changed the way of life for the majority of us, with the exception of front-line workers. In their case the daily grind has now become a never- ending nightmare in many ways. For the rest of us, our panic has now been shifted to ensuring that we obtain the daily needs of food, medicine, and notoriously now, toilet paper! Never would I have imagined that I would be living in a time when the fear of a scarce supply of toilet paper would preoccupy our thoughts. At the same time, many of us have had to face some dire situations, of losing employment, not being able to make rent, caring for a loved one who has contracted the virus, living in anxiety that a loved one would contract the virus, and simply bearing the burden of the emotional and mental ambiguity of feeling like we no longer have a purpose to fill our day to day.
Many might wonder about the purpose behind this COVID-19 pandemic. I too have pondered on why in an already problematic world, another life altering event arose. We may not have the answers behind the why, but I choose to focus on how we can use this time to reflect on what we’ve learned so far from the time that we’ve had to socially distance ourselves from our family and friends. As challenging as it can be to not see our loved ones, we are comfortable with the fact that keeping our distance is protecting them. We tend to worry about the unknown, but when we find comfort in a decision, we’re more inclined to focus on the positive side of a situation. In light of people realizing the brevity of life, many of us have allowed ourselves to embrace the life that we do have. It’s astonishing how far we can soar when we just allow ourselves to take a step back, breathe, and ask ourselves what we should do with all this time. Or rather who we should become.
We’ve received the gift of time. Time is a luxury in today’s age. I’ve been cognizant of how my time can be used wisely, to feed my personal and spiritual growth. Speaking to friends and family, many of them have taken advantage of this self-isolation period to explore their creative side, rest more, catch up on tv shows, explore new recipes, spend more time catching up with family and friends via virtual calls. Many of them find this time to be a refreshing breather from the everyday hustle and bustle of North American life. I’ve also enjoyed discovering my hidden talents and revisiting activities that I enjoyed in my child hood like playing the piano, and drawing.
Taking it a step further, I’ve recently asked myself how can I use this time to learn and process the things that might one day benefit others. If there’s one positive thing that stands out during this time, globally, there is a sense of solidarity. Suddenly, the things that divided us matter less. Only one thing becomes important – protect yourself so you can protect those around you. It’s fascinating how humanity gives us a wakeup call. Living a usual life of individualism has now become a matter of ensuring that we work together as a community to protect one another by doing our part. Essentially, when we focus on the important things about ourselves, we not only benefit ourselves but we ensure the well-being of others, and I do not mean materialistic things. I mean the bigger questions about the significance of life and each person’s purpose in this world.
Personally, as someone who is spiritual, I have grown closer to God during this time. Social distancing has allowed me to revisit past wounds, enabling me to process and grieve the things that I did not fully reconcile. This has led me to analyze the good and the bad in our current circumstance. If in our most dire times, we as a collective human race can open our eyes to appreciating the service of our front line workers, something that we never gave attention to in the past , then we truly can in our most prosperous times, put others’ needs above our own and appreciate one another, and the various roles we play in society.
Finally, and I believe most importantly, this time has presented an existential question – why are we here? Given the fragility of human life, what does one more day mean to us? Let’s wake up and ask the big questions. This monumental event in our time is begging us to question our purpose. As for me, I believe that we were created for relationship. Our hearts yearn for connection, intimacy and love. This social distancing period proves it. Isolation goes against our most inherent need. For me, this means relationship with God and each other. Nothing else matters.
Especially not toilet paper which will wither away with just one use! I hope we can all come out of this time in history with a renewed perspective on our purpose in life.