By Dorian Martin, I Start Wondering Founder
A client emailed me near the start of the pandemic that “We’re dealing with unprecedented times.” But are we? And what will the “new normal” look like as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes?
There have been pandemics before — the Bubonic plague, and the Spanish flu. (You can read about them in two wonderful novels about resilience — “A Year of Wonders” by Geraldine Brooks and “The Murmur of Bees” by Sofia Segova.) As these books remind us, we do come through these difficult times.
With that said, I believe that we are experiencing a paradigm shift as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This shift feels like the period after 9/11. After that crisis, we came together for a bit before going our separate ways. In the time since we’ve further fractured into competing tribes–Republicans vs. Democrats, conservatives vs. liberals, Fox News vs. MSNBC, the Western World vs. Muslims, nations vs. immigrants, etc. Even though 9/11 happened two decades ago, that crisis has had ripple effects that we see reflected in today’s world.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, I wondered what the emerging paradigm shift would be like? Will we embrace this opportunity to build deeper family bonds, now that we’re sitting together at the table? Will we get back to actually knowing our neighbors, now that they may be our lifeline at some point? Can we develop a new reverence for nature since our choices for entertainment are going to be more limited? How can our creativity begin to grow and blossom? Will we begin to work through our personal libraries of books, movies, and podcasts to make meaning of our current situation as well as find a mental escape? How can we find the wherewithal to break the bad habits that have held us back?
A Cultural Shift
Some of these shifts already are starting to show themselves in our society. We’re re-evaluating values, lifestyles, and perspectives, according to an article by Lindsay Schachinger, a quantitative analyst for C+R Research. Respondents said that once the pandemic is over, they want to spend more quality time with family and friends. Additionally, 20% of Americans are considering a major life change.
I’m seeing these shifts reflected among my circle of friends. Several are planning to retire, change jobs or start their own businesses. Some are ready to leave long-term relationships while others want to seek out new romantic ones. New and creative ways to gather, learn and relax online and celebrate at a distance (car parades!) are emerging. Still more are adding to or refining their bucket lists while others are preparing to relocate to another city, state, or nation. And the donation sites such as Goodwill are overflowing with the stuff that we had collected but no longer need.
All of these shifts come down to a willingness to review the current state of our lives so we can make a choice to go in a different direction. I, for one, am doing my best to shift to a place where I have compassion and respect for others who differ from me. Choosing to display kindness. Finding the will to sit with the immense discomfort that comes up when I’m triggered by a person or situation. Learning to respond instead of reacting in these situations. Embracing the opportunity to lose any excessive ego. Forgoing competitiveness and instead choosing collaboration.
I’m also seeing this current situation as a gift to go inward. This time reminds me to truly tune into my own inner wisdom instead of always listening to external cacophony. A friend recently said the COVID-19 pandemic may have been a gift to help break our tendency toward excessive busyness. Moving forward, she wants to keep that sense of spaciousness in her life so she’s not rushing mindlessly from one thing to the next. That spaciousness, which serves as a source of nourishment for life, is no longer a luxury; it’s now a central part of her life.
What do you want this paradigm shift to be? And what are you learning—and yearning for?