Finding things to appreciate during COVID-19
“We very often take for granted the very things that deserve our gratitude” (Cynthia Ozick)
The year 2020 is one year many people may prefer to forget. Regardless of whether people choose to deny or believe the threat of COVID-19, we all feel the effects of being confined to our homes, wearing masks, not seeing family and the constant fear of a silent, invisible killer. Surrounded by darkness, stress, tears and anxiety, the pandemic has thrown the world into chaos and uncertainty.
Given the constant flow of negativity, many of us have lost sight of things in life we do still have. This is not about selfishness. We’ve been told repeatedly, we’re in unprecedented times, and there is no right or wrong. But, if we take the time to stop, breathe and reflect, we may regain sight of the many things we do still have and can feel grateful for. If you’re struggling, just as I am, here are a few sources of gratitude to think about:
- Family- For being with you, no matter what
- Friends- The treasured ones who you know will have your back when times get sticky
- Home- A place of your own, a place to feel comfortable and safe
- Every single body part- For giving you the ability to do whatever it is you do every day
- Nature- for providing a world full of beautiful places to see
- Challenging times throughout life- that give us the experience and strength to move on and grow as individuals
Despite COVID-19’s effects encompassing our lives, I am trying to make a concerted effort not to fall victim to the persuasive voice of negativity. I’m first to admit, some days life feels like one ginormous effort to pull myself through a thick pool of quicksand. It’s excruciating and exhausting. On the other days, rare as they may be, life doesn’t seem so daunting, and that extra effort required to pull me through the thick quicksand feels more doable. On occasion, I find myself wondering why I bother? What’s left to look forward to? Each day is like Groundhog Day and a case of hit and miss. But on the other end of the spectrum, I’ve experienced moments embodied by my sense of imagination and internal wonder. Have I learnt or gained anything from the year 2020? Have I grown in any way? Have I developed a greater appreciation for anything or anyone? It’s an interesting thought to ponder.
Despite the hardship of 2020, deep within I know I have taken positive steps forward, perhaps not the steps I had anticipated, but steps forward, nonetheless. I try to acknowledge and see life in a different light. For instance, I love the window in my bedroom. It provides a considerable view of the world. I’ve come to appreciate this sizable window. It overlooks our court and often I’ll sit by this window, gazing out, watching the sun go down in the horizon and people as they walk by. It’s also the perfect spot to sit and watch as the raindrops patter down against the window. This window has been a source of much inspiration and many beautiful photos. It is a small but significant positive example.
Finding things to feel grateful is not an easy task; it required me to dig deep, but some points became obvious.
- Living in freedom. Having the fundamental rights that enable me to leave my home and travel to wherever I choose.
Until this point, in Australia, we’ve been fortunate to live privileged lives. We’ve been blessed with freedom of choice with no constraints or hindrance, so long as we behave by the law. We can enjoy the freedom to think, believe what we choose, speak our views, worship (or not) whichever religion we want, travel to almost anywhere in the world, choose our acquaintances, and generally how we go about our everyday life. Better still, we can change our mind as many times as we please without consequence. There are no limits, except for those we place on ourselves. We are free to speak our truths, live our truths and be upfront and honest because that is our right.
Under the shadow of COVID-19, many of these freedoms have temporarily been taken away. We are required to stay at home, told for how long we can exercise, who can do our household shopping and we must always wear a mask in public. Choosing to defy such instructions results in financial consequences that many can’t afford. But there’s no questioning. It’s for our health and well-being, and regardless of how it might feel, this time of hardship will ease, and life will resume with some normality.
Considering this, I choose to have a newfound appreciation for my freedom. Not every country is fortunate to have such liberties. In the future, we’ll have this comparatively difficult time to refer to when we feel like we’re hard done by or treated unfairly.
- Significant people in our lives.
Some of us have loved ones being isolated from us. Others point out the positives of our newly developed relationship with Zoom and Facetime. These online tools enable us to keep in touch, regardless of time and distance. Some creative people are hosting Zoom dinner parties and game nights. While these technologies are helping to keep the world ticking along, they cannot take the place of human interaction. Never can we compare our real-time, face-to-face relationships to that of a Zoom conversation.
Today I received news that I’m unable to see someone dear to me for three weeks. In the bigger picture, three weeks probably seems like nothing. Right now, this feels like forever, and a sense of loss saddens me. I’m frustrated that COVID-19 is messing with people’s lives by taking away those who mean the most.
So, where’s the positive spin on this? It’s simple really, never take people in your life for granted, particularly those who matter the most. As we’re witnessing, they may be here for you now, but you never know when this might change.
Ironically, when my ED was at its most destructive, my message here would have been very different. Then, solitude was a welcome relief. Social interaction, conversation, and crowds were enough to trigger anxiety and the feeling of being out of my comfort zone. I’m still impartial to large crowds but am discovering the importance of having even a few special friendships. They’re worth more than any amount of money. And so, I know I need to embrace these friendships, help them flourish and reciprocate the support. I also look forward to when I can visit my friends in their homes and invite them to visit me.
“Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud” (Maya Angelou)
Yes, rainbows! Rainbows depict positivity and something to be in awe of. Thinking about rainbow takes me back to that classic movie, a favorite when I was a child, The Wizard of Oz. The film reminds me of that famous song sang by Dorothy during a time when she felt sad and helpless. The song was about the magic of rainbows and the optimism they infer:
“If happy little bluebirds fly then why, oh why, can’t I?”
(Harold Arlen, Edgar Yipsel Harburg)
Look closer at the lyrics of ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’. Go ahead and sing the song if you need to (probably best to do so in your head if people surround you!) and think of the secure messages coming through. For me, the song is full of optimism, getting through an imagined storm and emerging on the other side to a world full of optimism and everything to look forward to. For myself, this is the message that comes through loud and strong. Maybe you sense a different message coming through?
Sadly, I’ve often ignored these amazing, giant, multi-colored, arches called rainbows. Since becoming engrossed in photography, however, rainbows have become a source of great inspiration, and I stop and look in awe at them. Capturing the beauty of a rainbow is satisfying, even though their fleeting nature can make them hard to catch. My daughters have inherited my newfound love of rainbows. Just the other day, following a rainstorm, I was alerted to a sizable double rainbow by my younger daughter. As she hurried around to find her camera, I grabbed mine and together we spent an hour on our upstairs deck, first capturing the rainbow, then moving on and observing other aspects of nature and the feel-good sense of pleasure they provide.
COVID has given me a deeper appreciation for the rights of our children. Just as adults have many rights, children do, too. They have the right to quality education, opportunities to explore, friendships and an environment that encourages them to flourish. During COVID, much of this has been taken from them. Yet, they get out of bed each morning and soldier on in the same old environment, day after day. They want to show their affection to their closest friends with an innocent hug, and I’m challenged to help them understand why they are no longer free to do engage in such beautiful expressions of love. As difficult as it is to have them stuck at home 24/7, I have a newfound appreciation for my children’s resilience and gratitude for the smallest things. Children are our little heroes during this challenging time and deserve the goodness those beautiful rainbows bring once the storm has passed.
- Gratitude of strangers
It’s interesting when passing people on the street. Some glare as if I have the plague. Others acknowledge me with a smile (behind their masks) and say good morning, afternoon, how are you? No doubt, everyone is feeling a deep sense of anxiety surrounding COVID-19, and its possible health implications. I’ve come to realize that those who seem rude are merely scared. Those who greet passersby are doing a great service to our society. When I walk past someone with a friendly demeanour, I get a little bit of a lift and a sense of warmth inside. I try to act with politeness and respect for others. We’re all experiencing similar struggles, living with the same fears.
Respect and gratitude are especially important in relation to people who work in service-orientated roles despite the dangers of doing so. Supermarket attendants, pharmacy workers, doctors, nurses, police, I’m sure there are many more. They are doing us a great service. Without the supermarket attendants, where would we buy our food and other essentials? Without doctors and nurses, who would we turn to in times of illness and anxiety? Think about it next time you go shopping, pass a police officer on the road, or seek help from a doctor. The least we can do is treat essential workers in a way we would want to be treated.
Take home message
These are just five aspects in my life which I’ve identified as deserving gratitude. Dig deeper within yourself, and you’ll find everyday things, people, anything, worthy of your recognition. You will find something that adds value to your life, gives a sense of happiness and enable you to have what you want and need. Now is the time to draw out our deep sense of gratitude. It might be the most mundane thing that pulls you through the hardest of days.