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Pandemic: One Size Never Fits All

As our communities, classes and communication have moved primarily online due to COVID-19 it can be more tempting than ever to compare others’ highlight reels to our inescapable realities – don’t. Most of us are spending more time online and therefore encountering uplifting quotes that might feel accusatory or snippets that show perfect poise, fashionable spaces, talented and resilient people and flawless finishes. This should not in any way threaten our concept of self or encourage us to judge our current realities. If nothing else, this pandemic has surely proven what matters and alternatively what really does not matter. Even if the grass is greener on the other side of the screen, so what? Let us lean in to  our own realities and into the “so what’s” and finally give ourselves a much needed break from the comparison trap.

So what if someone else is doing more? So what if we are all of a sudden doing less? So what if the internet is insinuating that this time should be a pivotal time to prove that we can be focused, successful, flawless, devoid of body fat, filled with positivity or bouncing with new ideas and novel concepts that could set us apart for future fame? If that is not our reality then that is simply not our current reality.

It is fine to admire without emulating. It is fine to appreciate without replicating. It is fine to also aspire to things in our own times, in our own ways. It is fine to unfollow things and people we previously appreciated that now have us experiencing negative thoughts and emotions. It is fine to react to novel situations in the way that works best for our inner peace and mental health. This is a novel situation and you are allowed to respond in ANY WAY. There is no one way to act. It is not necessarily now or never – after all deadlines have passed, projects have been put on hold, long term employment contracts have been terminated and even more serious circumstances are facing all of us in unique ways.

The iron is not piping hot now and failure to strike now will not lead you into a life of distress. Don’t let the fame and possible ingenuity of the few overwhelming your social media timelines or within your friendship/family/professional groups make you feel lazy, inadequate or uncertain of yourself. Just simply unfollow and follow the path that truly resonates without the external opinions/judgments.

We can also adjust our expectations of self and learn to give ourselves what we need given our current unique realities. For example you might have discovered you are not as tidy as you thought you would be time permitting. You might realise that it was not lack of opportunity that stopped you from your becoming your own body goals, reading The Art of War or finishing writing that best selling novel. You might be aware that it was not the funds that stood between you and the certification you desired because now it’s being offered for free and you’ve only logged into the online course once. The biggest discovery that should trump all other discoveries is that certain goals and standards may not even be your own and you never did certain things simply because did not want to – and more importantly this is okay. Decide what you really want to do and when you will be ready to execute.

People thrive in different soils. People grow and blossom in different circumstances. Some plants abhor sun and blossom in the wintertime and vice versa. Therefore all the easily coined and widely shared quotes about “if you don’t come out of this pandemic with x, y, z” need to be appropriately filed – in the bin. Timelines are unique and arbitrary – this is a proven pandemic associated revelation that holds true – look around you.

We are all experiencing the same thing in different ways. We are all also experiencing different things at the same time. So do you. The only thing you owe it to yourself to do is to listen to yourself, understand yourself and love yourself wholly without the barber/hair salon appointments, pretty nails, regular coffee runs – or whatever you considered an extension of your identity. That heart beating in your chest is priceless and that body, mind and soul of yours is what exists when all else is stripped away. So listen, learn and love.

That learning does not have to even take active forms. Blog if you want to. Journal if you want to.  Paint or pine if you want to. Be who you really want to be. Whine or wine if you want to – both and neither are also fine. Life has never been clearer. So as a lot of things are cleared out and cleared away it’s an opportunity for you to decide what stays. A lot of the essentials have been rendered unattainable (for now) therefore they were never essential to begin with.

These are novel times and now more than ever there is a deep need to not berate yourself, compare yourself or tear yourself down – not your body, achievements, aspirations or any other thing. You may be among those who have lost loved ones, who are fighting for your health, who are at the front lines helping to fight this pandemic – whether through health care, essential services, etc. You might be someone who lives alone and is deeply missing physical touch, friendships, coffee runs, etc. You might be surrounded by loved ones and feeling guilty for not having to face any of the bigger challenges yet feeling unproductive and unmotivated nevertheless.

STOP! Let’s all take a beat.

Nothing is expected of you. Release yourself from your own expectations. Take a deep breath. Recognise our collective mortality, connect with who and what is important to you when all else is stripped away, and decide to do something, anything or nothing without the burdens of comparison, guilt or self loathing.

Enjoy the gift, art and blessing of living in whatever way works for you in the here and now. Tomorrow you can adjust, adapt or simply repeat. It’s okay.

What have you learned, discovered, experienced during this time?

Zeni St. John

  • Iphie

    Beautifully written as always Zeni. And I do agree that there are different strokes for different people and at varying levels too. I have been in my village since the lockdown, it was intentional to move down here and I am really having a blast soaking up the beautiful morning sun, good food, taking long walks, keeping journals of the village vibes and shenanigans. Sometimes I feel really bored too… with very poor internet service I feel unconnected with my ‘former world’ – the corporate environment and all that goes with it. I have wondered a few times if I’d be able to fit in after a while away. The poor connection in itself is not so bad. I have literally had to remind my self that having an extended ‘me time’ does not make one less corporate in thinking or ability. However, let’s face it, the lockdown has been one break too long lol. Thanks for a cheery piece.

    May 12, 2020 at 10:40 pm Reply
  • Ruth

    The very first lesson l learned in these times is that “blood is thicker than water” is not as cliche as I thought it was. The second lesson learned is that some of my friendships are not as deep as I thought they were. It is really interesting to see what life is like when everyone has to look out for themselves.

    I am not sure how i feel about this discovery, but I discovered that I do not need physical fellowship with people as much as I thought I did. I do not need the usual hang outs as much as I thought I did. I thought I was the people person, but it almost feels like I do not really want people around as much as I thought I did. I discovered I want a small, loyal circle. I want what feels like family….the trusted, the ones I can be vulnerable with, the ones who will listen to me and I will listen to. Maybe I am only discovering that I know how to live without “noise”; maybe it does not necessarily mean I did not like those other things. Like i said, i do not know how i feel about the discover or what it means.

    One thing is certain….there are very few things that I matter to me: Faith, Family/Friends like family, Helping people, Comfort

    May 13, 2020 at 10:47 am Reply
  • Sola

    Thank you for this beautifully written piece, Zeni.

    2019 for me felt too emotionally draining given it was an election year. In addition, lived through the last quarter full of anxiety. The holidays, even though spent visiting family members around the globe felt like a chore and exhausting- I was responding to all the guilt trips of ignoring several calls for bonding. Then Q1 2020…so much speed. I was so craving for me me me time! And to think I thrive most by this- silence and solitude, not having a breather felt like falling apart.

    So when the pandemic forced a lockdown, how glad I was. I kept saying oh my goodness, the world has stopped for me! How sweet! I have never experienced this kind of rest and happy in a very lonnng time! Well, this lasted only a month:). May came and I’ve been trying to get back into ‘normal’. But it’s been hard. I’m returning to my journal, reading through and seeing what my soul need going forward- FREEDOM. Free from chaos I thought I didn’t have a choice from, free to continue to ‘work hustle’ or not; free to wake up and have no expectations; free from the social media frenzy to do/join IG live sessions. I’m seeing huge growth around letting go of expectations; not needing to explain myself. It’s such a relief!

    The most lesson I’m taking into my new normal is to give attention to my creative side having worked around data, for years. Bonded with my furs- 3 pups a bunny, started a veg garden, did some homemade oils, trying out food plating, more patient with following skincare routines; and my hair has grown too! I’ve learned I can actually live without long nails! :)) painful-ish

    I’m here for it all.

    May 14, 2020 at 6:59 am Reply
  • Odochi

    Great piece Zeni! This is so timely and I can relate. For instance, during this time, I have found that I actually do mind the extra pounds that I’ve put on even though I have been going on and on about how my ultimate body goal is to be slim-thick. It is not. I was wrong.

    The irony and another interesting thing that I have discovered is that going out and looking forward to attending social events are the things that actually motivate me to exercise and not more me time like I thought. Imagine that!

    …But on a more positive note, my skin is glowing and my hair is growing and that’s good enough for me right now.

    In the end, this experience has allowed certain underlying expectations that I’ve had of myself to surface and I have had to face and weigh them. I feel lighter because I am only focused on what I can handle right now.
    I can confidently say that I am thriving and doing me!

    May 14, 2020 at 8:59 pm Reply

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