If You Can’t Go Outside, Go Inside
I believe that the world around us is more than we can perceive consciously. That there is a net of connections, energy and invisible symbolism that surrounds us and guides us. It’s not necessarily a higher power as we might think about God or anything that is bigger than us — like the universe or destiny. It is a mightier logic of the world — a secret system of rules, regulations that come from something more than our conscious understanding.
It starts with our bodies. I believe that pain is a sign that we are doing something wrong and we need to change. That anxiety is a sign that we need to shift our focus. That depression is a sign that we need to deal with our inner demons. Tiredness and burnout is a sign that we need to give ourselves a rest. Our organism signals us whenever we deter from what is good for us.
The same thing happens on a larger scale — our communities, societies and the whole world work like an organism, with their specific signs that talk to us, if we are willing to listen and understand.
I’m not talking about rules and laws. I’m talking about interpreting the events around us to adapt our lives to it and to make us grow and become better.
It calls for personal interpretation and understanding — some will reach for painkillers when in pain, some will dig down to understand the root cause and solve it.
Some take failure as a reason to get depressed, others will use it as a springboard to grow further.
Not everything happens for a reason and I don’t think that whatever happens to us is our own individual making, as we are parts of a larger functioning system with lots of external influencing factors. We don’t exist in a vacuum and not every consequence is the result of our own actions.
We are part of a bigger scheme and this is the price we pay for being part of a community, a society or a global world.
As the events unfold it is easy to get caught up in the news, looking for a reason, meaning and explanations — only to find none of it.
Being connected to each other means that a virus can become a pandemic easily, with all the travelling possibilities and means. Being always online means that we access information all around the globe about the situation everywhere in real-time. What is a blessing is also a curse.
Travelling is great, but it also brings the opportunity of a fish-market in Wuhan disrupting our lives to a point that we don’t even recognise our daily routines. Accessing the news is great to inform ourselves, but it can be overwhelming and distracting.
I have spent the past 10 days in self-quarantine. We are locked in the flat with my kids, I work, they study and play and we are adapting to the new world. The situation outside seems menacing and after the initial shock, we have been trying to figure out how to live together in a world that might never be the same as it used to be.
I am trying to make sense of it all — not on a global scale, but on a selfish individual scale. I am thinking about how to make the best of a situation that I can’t change. I am thinking about how to change my perspective about events that no one knows how to deal with and we are all learning as we go.
My life hasn’t really changed. I am working from home — most of the time anyway. I don’t go out shopping because it bores me anyway. I have kids so meeting friends is quite a rare occasion. I travel when I can, but I travel a lot less than I would like to.
But nevertheless, my life changed completely — on a mental level.
I took my freedom for granted. I took my health granted. I took our lifestyles for granted. And I am facing changes everywhere I look.
Two weeks ago, I was happy staying at home. I could work, I could write, I could exercise. I did everything I wanted to do.
Today, after ten days of having to stay at home, I feel that my freedom has been taken away, my opportunities are lost, my choice is not mine anymore.
I can’t go outside.
Everything that happens to us happens in our minds as well. Anything external has an imprint on everything internal.
And to understand what affects us from the outside all we can do is to seek answers on the inside.
I can’t go outside, so I am going inside.
We never have the time to slow down. We keep busy and we hustle. We run around and we seek new heights to conquer — all the time. If you stop, you are lazy. If you don’t do something — you are useless. If you don’t want to grow — you are a failure. Messages of productivity are raining down on us from every corner. All we hear is how to get better, faster, more. Because there is always more to achieve, more to chase, more to obtain.
We are appreciated for our busyness and our relentless pursuit of the next accomplishment.
And it’s tiring to always run. It’s exhausting to always chase more. It’s overwhelming never to stop.
Now is the time to slow down. To let go of deadlines. To allow yourself to be lazy. To give yourself enough time to spend with yourself — to get to know yourself without the distractions of the world.
It’s time to look around on the inside — as you can’t look around outside really. It’s time to marvel what’s inside you, to realise your true self, to be willing to meet it and embrace it — with the imperfections and flaws.
It’s time to slow down — we have more time on our hands than we are used to. Instead of it being a source of frustration, it should give a sense of calmness. Now we have time to go slowly, paying attention to the movements, to the emotions, to our reactions. We have time to listen to what our body wants to tell us — to get rest if we are tired, to move when we need some energy, to eat when we are hungry and drink when we are thirsty. We have the time to notice our own signs.
It’s time to be kind to ourselves and to others. Kindness starts with being responsible and staying at home — we are in it together and our joint responsibility is to flatten the curve and buy some time.
Even if you are young and healthy and you have no symptoms, the kindest thing that you can do is not to spread the virus if you are already carrying it, and not to catch it to spread it further. Staying away from people that you don’t share your home with is the kindness that we all need.
Being kind also means to be attentive, tolerant and empathetic. Your biggest contribution to the world is being a decent person, who washes hands, coughs into their elbows, and stay at home whenever it is possible.
If you look at it as an act of kindness, it loses the negative edge that is so debilitating. It is not about not being allowed to leave the flat — it is a conscious choice of protecting yourself, others and the whole world.
You are your own responsibility first and foremost. And this means that you need to stay safe and do everything in your power to stay away from risky situations.
Funny how selfishness works now. By taking care of yourself you are actually taking care of others. By focusing on yourself, you are doing the best for everyone else. By being selfish, you learn to prioritise and you learn how to stop pleasing others.
This is the time to learn and appreciate your own value and understand how precious you are. By internally validating your own actions when you are left to your own devices you get better at navigating social interactions too — for you don’t need them for external validation that much as before.
Being selfish doesn’t mean hoarding or being neglectful — it simply means that you trust yourself more and you are willing to take responsibility. Imagine if everyone else does the same — that would be a huge shift in the world, everyone minding their own business and getting together with others to mutually benefit from it.
I was talking to my grandma — she is 89. She is vulnerable and she is in a very high-risk age group. She is staying at home, not wandering out on the streets, not letting anyone even close to her flat. Life just became more precious for her.
She never really calls me, because she expects me to call — and I have to admit that in busy times I keep forgetting about her. Now she reaches out. Now she calls. Now she puts aside her pride and picks up the phone.
She has something that we need — the wisdom and experience of the old age. She lived through World War II, she knows what it means to face a crisis, to endure hard times.
It boils down to one single thing: rearranging priorities.
Life is precious. Your loved ones are the most important. Your health is paramount. Optimism and hope are crucial. You need to keep these in focus because the rest can wait.
This is not the end of the world. Most of us won’t die. We won’t starve. We won’t run out of toilet paper — and if we do, well, I’m sure we’ll manage somehow. We won’t lose our jobs forever. We will survive this — because we have survived other crises as well.
Old dreams can wait. Old goals need to be reconsidered. It’s time to shift the priorities and rearrange life around them. It’s useless to fight the tide, it’s better to ride it out.
If you look long enough inside, you will find something that is missing from the outside world now: peace.
The world outside is rearranging itself to something different and we don’t yet know how it will affect our days and weeks and months. We see some signs already, but we don’t see the extent of it yet.
We can’t control the world that surrounds us. Not just now, but now it’s more obvious than ever. This is a sign to control what we can and find peace where we can — within ourselves.
This is a time to put up with our flaws and imperfections. This is a time to enjoy the little things that bring joy into our life. This is a time to notice what kind of person you really are and get better, love yourself more, find your inner balance and peace.
You might want to meditate or write or journal during these times. But you might just want to sit with your own feelings and accepting them, making peace with them, allowing anger, fear, frustration pass through you.
There is something liberating in knowing that you have done everything and you don’t need to do more — this is peace. Make sure that you fill your days with activities and feelings that give you the sense of accomplishment that is closer to peace than to busyness.
And remember, it’s a beautiful day…