Scientifically speaking, rainbows are the result of the right amounts of moisture and light interacting in the right way. But this one I woke up to, represented much more. It spoke to my soul as it broke the storm clouds – as hallmark as that sounds. It was a needed reminder that good wasn’t completely gone. That despite everything going on in the world, the world is still here – asking not to be forgotten.
At least that’s how I felt taking it all in from my balcony. I’m sure some of the people below driving to work were hardly phased. I don’t blame them. The last 18 months have sucked us dry. Life has become so grey; we’ve become too used to groundhog day, it’s only expected one might feel apathetic towards this picturesque scene with two splashes of colour in the sky.
As the pandemic has gone on, I’ve noticed a shift in concern – from catching COVID to the effects of the lockdowns themselves. I believe this is why even the most abiding people have started to bend the rules: 5km rounds up to 8, and only 2hrs outside becomes “it’s the first sunny day in weeks, and I live in an apartment so I’m just going to do 20,000 steps today around the area.” No judgement here; people are going to respond to their most immediate source of stress. And for most, that’s being stuck inside.
While my summary is: this shit sucks, OnBeing have put out a very informative podcast episode about how the pandemic is affecting our nervous systems. I highly recommend it. Listening prompted me to cut down my news intake and get off social media. It was the unfolding events in Afghanistan that pushed me to finally do so. Apart from making a donation and signing a petition, I had to accept that’s where my part ends; and not feel guilty about stepping aside. I applaud anyone who has the energy to stand up for others and against the atrocities in the world. I’m not built for it. The news was making me feel like the world is rolling downhill on fire and I’m forced to watch. Not a good position to be in. And from my bouts with depression, I know once my stomach starts to churn from the familiar concoction of powerlessness mixed with hopelessness, I have to do something.
Taking back control
My change was regarding where I spend my energy. The news was burning me out more than it was keeping me informed. Even though we are wired to find the news addictive (it’s a survival thing), I’m better off focusing on things within my locus of control and that offer some sort of return. (And the truth is, anything that is important would find its way to me. Legit, finding a conversation that doesn’t mention COVID is like striking gold.) So I turned to a trusted friend. A friend who has taken a back seat in the later years of my life, but has always been ready on-call. That friend is the iron. (I could say weights, but this sounds cooler).
My relationship with my body and bodybuilding is complicated. And I’ve tried to steer away from over-exercisings out of fear of waking up that calorie counting, mirror looking, worth-with-looks-associating person I was. But again: I needed to do something. And this isn’t the first time exercise has come to my rescue in a rut. In fact, this isn’t medical advice, but exercise has honestly helped me much more than my recent trial of antidepressant medication. This was my second use after first using them to get through last year’s lockdown.
After complaining over the last 18 months that I “need the gym” to do things properly, I finally admitted I was making excuses. Okay, sure. There are always going to be better and best choices, but this never takes away from the merit of what we can do. It’s funny how our apparent perfectionism can just be old excuses trying out new disguises. It’s not what I want, but I was done waiting on the world and falling in and out of my routine due to the lockdowns. So I committed myself to make the most of my home gym setup and working towards a level of fitness I haven’t seen since lockdown started and UberEats became the chosen coping mechanism of the collective.
To be clear, this isn’t about necessarily being strong or having a six-pack; it’s about having something. Something to take me away from the world; something I can control, maintain a routine with, enjoy and makes me feel better – on an ongoing basis, not just in the moment. I’ve been quick to share my findings when people check-in. They’re genuinely surprised to see me feeling the best I’ve ever been during a lockdown. To which I respond: redirect your time and energy from the news and scrolling into something else: walks, musical instruments, reading books, a business idea, making meaningful content (shoutout to my YouTube channel) and see how you feel.
Not taking sides.
The other challenge about the pandemic has been the divide. Many people have commented on this. And as a ‘spiritual person’, it’s left me wondering what even means – looking at where that places me, and seriously questioning if it’s where I want to be…
The information has been extremely difficult to navigate. We’re now living in a world where people don’t just argue over having all the facts, they also just make them up in order to further their agenda. Given people’s existing bias, this content is then shared like wildfire without objective analysis, which is extremely problematic.
Personally speaking, I’ve identified there are stories I want to believe (that good health, exercise and sunshine is all we need etc.) which influence how I absorb information. I can also admit that my knowledge is completely lacking in so many relevant areas. And, in response, I gravitate towards simple explanations and navigating via my emotions. The podcast, Conspirituality helped me to recognise this and shed some light on why people are approaching the pandemic with so many opposing views.
There are other reasons, too. Such as previous and current experience. While ‘anti-vaxers’ and protestors are viciously attacked in the media, I’ve been trying to be more compassionate and understanding in my response (probably because I’m a counsellor). A person’s experience of this pandemic will ultimately shape their response. Last year was a struggle, while this year I’ve been lucky to have ongoing and secure work. Others aren’t so lucky. I’m not saying it’s okay, but it’s understandable that when someone has nothing left, they will feel left with no other choice but to take to the streets in protest. Is the problem here their anger or the lack of support services? If people are fearful of the vaccine, doesn’t this indicate there is a problem with what’s being communicated?
This isn’t a political blog, so I’ll stop here and bring it back to me… My main learning out of all this has been to not pick teams; but rather commit to aligning myself with the truth – regardless of where that will take me. I was feeling at a bit of a loss, but I now see an opportunity to better define myself, reconfirm my values and shape my identity. I’m lucky to have a partner with who I see eye to eye. She equally appreciates what both spirituality and science have to offer. And what they offer; no one owns. As she recently said: “I hate that spirituality has an aesthetic or has to be a certain way. To me, sitting on the grass is spiritual”. I feel the same about sitting under a sky full of stars.
(I’d love to know how you define spirituality? Anna’s Analysis has a great video on this topic)
Thinking about the future
Following my vaccine and a short recovery period, I took a stroll to test my strength. I wasn’t just back to normal. I felt different: purposeful. And not just that; hopeful, too. It’s a word I’ve been reserved about using. Especially given all the expectations we had for this year. But things are different now. I genuinely feel good about the future. There’s no more sliding back to square one. Case numbers can fluctuate, but vaccines can’t fall out. The progress we’re making is permanent, and this is something to celebrate even if we’re not completely into the woods yet.
We’ll get there. Life won’t be going ‘back to normal’; we’re heading towards something different. A world that’s rearranged, but still has space for all the important things that make life worth living. As I’ve written about previously, I’d like to believe the pandemic has brought what really matters to the forefront of our attention. You only know what you’ve got when it’s gone for 18 months, hey? I’d also like to believe we’ve been given the chance to learn some fundamental truths: that change is inevitable and our survival is tied to our willingness and ability to adapt. When needed, we can be incredibly resourceful. When tested, we can truly transcend.
In another 18 months when we’re looking back, I’m going to be proud of myself. I maintained a relationship, finished my placement and my counselling studies, found a temporary job then secured a permanent position; and soon to add, broke some barriers in my fitness journey. Of course, there was a lot of time spent scrolling social media and money on UberEats. But hey, I’m human. I’m not here to judge; rather to say that deep down we all know whether our coping habits are healthy or not. And when we can no longer justify our behaviour under the guise that it’s keeping us afloat. Eventually, we have to choose between starting to swim or sinking with whatever we’re holding on to.
If online shopping isn’t providing the same satisfaction, then please let me suggest something that’s helped me the most: focusing on what I can do for others. My street poetry has touched many people during the pandemic – getting me a feature in the news. It’s simple stuff compared to what those scientists are doing with their vaccine research. But as I wrote earlier, we shouldn’t negate the little things. Just like how one person sneaking across the border can spread the virus, I believe small positive actions can have a ripple effect for the better. As I wrote in my book, Living in Cream: “I’m not asking you to change the world. Start with someone’s day, because perhaps they can…”
Someone I did recently impact is Ned. He tagged me in a poetry piece one morning which started an online conversation. This ended up with us meeting for lunch that same day. We enjoyed ourselves and have kept it a weekly thing. It’s been great – not only to make a new friend, but one I can interact with in-person locally under current lockdown restrictions. Just today, he was telling me about his commitment to his locus of control: which includes starting his mornings with meditation in the park. He mentioned a father and daughter who show up each morning, without fail, to play wall tennis. I smiled as he described how it made him feel, and I thought to myself “Ah. Another rainbow.” They’re everywhere in a world that’s still beautiful and still here. And I hope you’re able to find one to start your morning with.