It’s Okay to not be Okay

Artwork by Lionel Kennaugh

Now, I’ll admit, I am spinning out with a distinct lack of a sense of purpose. Lockdown due to COVID 19 has affected everyone on the planet in some way or another, and we are all in our own ways, spinning out.

I pull my laptop toward me to do writing or work. Only to push it away as no thoughts or words come to mind to even begin to describe, not only how I am feeling, but how so many other people are feeling right now.

How often we’ve wished away our routines in the past, always looking forward to that extra break from work and daily chores and life in general. Never did we think that our lack of routine, could possibly come at such a cost and how much, in fact, we would genuinely miss those once bemoaned routines.

As I sit here typing this, I don’t really know what to do next. There are a dozen things I can and should be doing, and there is no reason for my life to come to such a complete halt. Yet, for the life of me, I’m sitting on my bed staring out the window, in the same spot I’ve been in for the last three weeks. Where I’ll probably find myself spending most of my time in the coming two weeks, and after that, who knows how much of our world has been changed forever?

I keep making plans for the next day, I’m going to do this, then that, and then I’ll finish off this etc. Only to find that my wherewithal to do any of these things have entirely left me. I believe, and I may be wrong about this. Still, as humans, we’re altogether unaccustomed to change on the level that we are all experiencing all at once in a short space of time.

It’s like we are all looking at one another for an answer, children looking to adults for guidance. There is no previous protocol in place for what we are all currently experiencing. I feel like we’re each in our own little boats, trying to row upstream, with one paddle, going in circles.

World leaders are under the most crushing pressure to try not only to contain the virus but to hold their own countries together and lead in such an uncertain time. Having to make decisions on behalf of millions of people, knowing that a decision, either way, has an enormous cost attached to it. Do nothing? Do Something? If so, what?

‘Productivity’ as we’ve known it all our lives, just that word has been altered in actual meaning as COVID 19 hits the world hard. What does it mean to be productive in times like these? Personally, I know making the change from employed to self-employed was a huge adjustment, something at the time I didn’t count on. That change took a considerable toll initially on me and my business. Until I was able to change my mindset to fully absorb what self-employed meant to me.

I hit the wall at that time, at terminal velocity. Still, then I was on my own and had no coping mechanisms whatsoever to be able to cope with that change. Brought on by me when in all enthusiasm and joy, my own lack of preparedness for this change tripped me up.

I believe it was and still is our lack of preparedness to change as humanity that has been the most shocking thing to all of us. Some of us are still feeling the surreal effects of what we are experiencing. For others, the reality has landed and for yet more even, the dawning realisation that our new normal is never going to go back to the way we were before.

Here we are the whole world tripped up by similar circumstances. As I write this, everyone’s employment is at risk, everyone’s health is at risk. The weigh up allowing people to move freely and work, and the temptation to keep everything on hold for as long as possible is taking hold in the minds and souls of the whole world.

For so long all of us have voiced in some way or another “I wish the world would just stop for a moment so that I can catch my breath and catch up with myself” and then it did. We got what we wished for, and it was nothing like we were even remotely prepared for.

Whole communities and families are literally starving. For those living from hand to mouth without a daily income, starvation is inevitable. Even as governments scramble to try and relieve this burden to the poorest of the poor, it’s not enough. However, letting the whole population out at once at large is an even bigger problem to consider as thousands of lives may be at stake from COVID 19.

How under circumstances like these do you find your ‘productivity’? What does it even mean when you are at home, out of your regular routine, and not sure what the next day may bring? What new regulation or fresh hell the virus may unleash, and if not this one, when is the next one on its way.

As pharmaceutical companies race to find a vaccination, the next big one could already be on its way. It’s a race against time where there are no winners, and the race is not one straight line, but more like a spider’s web, reaching millions of people simultaneously.

I consider myself to be in a privileged situation. My life can continue with some semblance of normality for now.

Taking the routes of least resistance is seeming to be a good option for me now. As twee as it sounds, going with the flow of this and not trying to force any outcome seems to me to be the only alternative to this problem. As much as I don’t like the other options that this situation may force, I may have to be forced to accept them as they transition from a temporary arrangement to a reality.

I am hoping and praying for the best possible outcome for this and expecting the worst.

What if your higher purpose is achievable just because for today you got out of bed. For tomorrow you got some work done, not necessarily what you would call ‘productive’ work, but something creative or new to you? What if the next day you put one foot in front of the other and carried on carrying on because that is what we do?

Why do we have to continually be putting pressure on ourselves and one another to achieve some higher goal? Isn’t living and loving and working in any way that serves you well purpose enough for the moment. Not necessarily to the expected ‘productivity goals’ we are used to, but, making your way through life in your own inimitable style goal enough? Most notably, in the times, we are living through right now.

Currently, we are all experiencing a collective discomfort, unease, and uncertainty to extremes that nobody has had to face before COVID 19. We’re all new at this, there isn’t anyone straight answer or only one correct way to handle what we are experiencing.

Personally, I believe we all need to be handling ourselves and each other with a great deal of gentleness and kindness. All of us are going through facing uncertainty and what next, in our own unique ways, with the tools we have at our disposal. I think that perhaps taking things one moment, one minute, one hour, one day or one week at a time is okay for now.

There will come a time again where our need to be ‘productive’ in the sense we all are used to understanding it will have to honoured. We will have to rebuild in some way or another. A family, a business, a country. Be safe out there, do your part as best you can.

Perhaps we need to let go, for the moment of those outcomes-based expectations, as a good friend of mine always points out “we don’t know what we don’t know.” Let’s not put extra pressure on ourselves to even try and outguess a global problem as individuals. Mental health needs to become our priority right now, so we can face the new world with new solutions, but that time is not just yet.

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