I recently came across my High School Yearbook from a year I spent (a few years ago!) as an exchange student at Springfield High School in Vermont, USA. My senior photo appears along with a quote by French philosopher Albert Camus: ‘In the midst of winter I found there was, within me, an invincible summer’.
I then went to find the rest of the quote, which goes on: ‘…And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger, something better, pushing right back.’
It was impossible not to see the relevance of these words to our current situation. We’re now six months into the Covid-19 pandemic, and while some are starting to discover the new world on the other side, others – including those of us in Victoria – are still in various forms of lockdown.
For many, patience is wearing thin. Back in March and April, when nearly the whole world was sharing the lockdown experience, there was a sense of ‘being in it together’ and working on what we needed to do to move forward. Now it all feels a bit disjointed and I’m sure I’m not the only one witnessing a narrowing of focus on the ‘inconvenience’ of it all.
A colleague and friend of mine, a senior executive in the tertiary sector, is a distance runner. She recently described the point we are at right now as being like the 30-kilometre mark of a (42-kilometre) marathon.
This, she told me, is that point where things get really hard, where you start asking yourself ‘what do I do now’? It’s the point where (in her words) you need to call on your ‘inner hero’, look forward, and remind yourself that you aren’t running a 42-kilometre event – you’re running one kilometre, 42 times. Now is the time to focus on the next kilometre, then the one after that…
It’s a process. You don’t get to just start a marathon and then finish it. You need to work your way through it, one kilometre after another, in order to achieve the outcome.
(My colleague also noted that Victoria’s first lockdown lasted 42 days – six weeks – as is the current stage 4 lockdown. Victorians are all marathon runners now!)
This is the time when we need to keep to our routines, with small changes where we can to keep things at least a little interesting. We need to look for opportunities to build back social connection, even if that has to happen over yet another Zoom meeting. We need to prompt positive thinking by asking each other questions like, ‘What made you smile today?’ or ‘What brought you joy this week?’
At the same time, it is helpful to look forward with a ‘both…and’ perspective. It’s not a case of either defeating the virus or living fulfilling lives. What we can do is work on both maintaining physical distance and rebuilding our social connections. As events and holidays get cancelled, we can turn our attention to planning and looking forward to their future replacements.
Now’s the time we all need to be concentrating on thinking forward. If we follow the process, we will finish this race. Things won’t be the same as they were before, but they won’t be like they are now either. We will find our invincible summer.