It must only be a matter of time before the cinema timetables highlight “2020” – written by Stephen King, directed by Quentin Tarantino and catalogued under non-fiction, drama and sci-fi blockbuster. A must-watch movie that tells the story of the rise and fall of an honest working-class family whose pre-pandemic stocks rose through decades of hard work, sacrifice and tears only to be wiped out with the viral infection of a once burgeoning travel industry. At the risk of being a spoiler, theatre-goers will endure a bitter-sweet conclusion after the plot traverses the agony of business failure, relational breakdown and suicide but an eventual recovery by mid-2021. It’s a script a Hollywood screenwriter would have been told was “too out there” in 2019, but now to all of us, stings with the sardonic reality of sunburn.
The cataclysmic events of the past year have inflicted disruption and discomfort on just about every human on the planet. For some, the worst has been the loss of their until-now unappreciated liberty. There was some home schooling; and some working from home. But for others, the consequence of this pandemic has included the tragedy of financial ruin and even the loss of a loved one. Sadly, coronavirus seems to have also been responsible for a surge in suicide rates. I was talking to a friend recently who works for a funeral home in North Queensland – shockingly, she had attended a suicide every day in the previous week. One wonders if Covid-19 has indirectly caused more deaths through suicide than in the intensive care wards themselves?
But for all the dark clouds and frustration we’ve had to endure, there have been some silver linings. Sure, I for one, would have rather enjoyed the last twelve months without a global pandemic but on the upside, I had more time to taste good wine. I played more cricket in the backyard with my over-active son, and on average, spent more time being mindful each week than I have for the last 10 years put together. I saw more of my work colleagues (albeit on a computer screen), I sailed through the winter sniffle season without so much as a throat tickle. And I watched more of those “I want to watch that one day!” great sporting replays with my son on YouTube than I would have ever thought possible. Some people studied a new skill or language, others taught themselves how to cook, sew, garden, ride a bike, be grateful, listen to their bodies, or they downsized, moved house, saved money, got around to those jobs they actually never thought they would get around to doing. So, now that we seem to have come most of the way out the other side, can I ask was it so bad?
It was Charles Darwin who famously said that it’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change. I reckon the founding father of natural selection himself would have been proud as punch of our survival mode in 2020: surely we’ve proven how adaptable and resilient we are as a species. From shopping online, to zoom catchups, virtual drinks and e-meetings we’ve found a way to make it work. But to me, the most important lesson that I learned from this annus horribilis is gratitude and the importance of my family, colleagues, work mates and friends.
Once the offices were abandoned, social gatherings cancelled and even informal interactions at the gym or on a bike ride lost, I found myself in an eerie and unfamiliar place. Accustomed to handshakes, hugs and vociferous exchanges the cyberworld of zoom, Teams, webex and google hangouts was comparatively uninspiring – as sterile as the cases of hand sanitiser and disinfectant that now position themselves around the house as a stark reminder of our new normal. And in my Covid induced fog of disenchantment I came to a realisation – I actually love being with my workmates, I enjoy interaction with professional colleagues and members of the community and quiet time to myself isn’t actually all that I imagined it would be!
The prospect of a vaccine means that a break in the weather may be on the horizon and our Australian spirit of optimism and positivity will undoubtedly rebound; but I won’t forget the importance of relationships, the power of communication and the tonic of connectivity for emotional wellbeing. I’m sorry friends, if I ever took you for granted. I value your support and the comfort that our interactions bring. Thanks for being there.
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