Concerned man standing against a blackboard with strength depicted behind him.

Moving Beyond Fear

General

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Frank Herbert, Dune

We are more than COVID-19. We cannot let it become all that we read about, all that we talk about, all that we think about. If we arrive at that place, life ceases to be, and there is only fear.

Caution and forethought are crucial during times like this, there’s no doubt about it. But surely there must be a point at which we set aside the topic of coronavirus and start looking forward again to existence in all its diversity and variety. Yes, we must stay vigilant. Yes, we must stay alert. But that doesn’t mean we must shelve our optimism, joy, and hope.

I make the mistake of reading the newspaper every day, and every day I immediately regret it. Yes, there are occasional pearls of wisdom that can be put into practice; useful suggestions that can make a difference in how we cope, and how we stay safe. But more often than not it’s an endless stream of fear-invoking articles about how many people are sick in the world, how many are dying, and how all the things we turn to for solace are failing us.

It is absolutely heartbreaking, and yet passively dwelling on the statistics, the uncertainty, and the chaos contributes nothing to the world, and nothing to our mental health.

Some people may need to see information like this; perhaps those who continue to live in denial about the severity of this pandemic and think it’s a perfect time to gather in droves on the beaches and in the pubs. But for those of us who have taken it seriously for some time now and are already doing our best to social distance, self-isolate, cough into our elbows, not hoard toilet paper, and be considerate of others – to us, these news articles do more harm than good.

Fear is a state of powerlessness, and living in powerlessness is neither enjoyable nor helpful. This is not to suggest we refuse to recognise the people, places and things we cannot control, but to make a conscious decision to accept them as they are and instead focus our attention on what we can control.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Serenity Prayer

Being kind, helpful, and supportive; assisting the sick, the marginalised, or the scared; being present for our children, our brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents; offering a friendly ear to those that need it. These are all things that we can do, here and now. And they can make a real difference in people’s lives. They can help us come together as a community and inspire hope and happiness. But we need to be willing to move beyond fear and search for hope as a matter of daily practice.

It’s the active search for hope and unity, rather than the resigned miring in isolation and fear, that will start to pull us forward and bring us together. We will get through this. The question for each of us is: What do you want life to look and feel like for you while you are getting through this?

Man staring out the window, looking depressed.

Life in Lockdown

General

I’ve been sick for 5 days and am getting really tired of it. After a day or two of nervousness, and the thought “what if it’s COVID-19?!” ever present on my mind, I eventually read that the coronavirus doesn’t do sneezing, and was able to relax into the sniffling, snotty misery instead. But after stubbornly working (remotely) with a sore throat last week – doing voice work to boot – and then losing my whole weekend to bed and sneezing, waking up on Monday with the twin terrors of sniffles and headache still rudely hanging around has been a real kick to the spleen.

Today, my wife’s audible sighs in response to my excessively dramatic whining is a sure sign that I’ve entered the last and most treacherous part of any illness: the man-flu. So I’m trying to look on the bright side and stop taking myself so seriously.

Taking stock, we indeed have a great deal to be grateful for. Through a series of lucky breaks and coincidence, we’ve largely managed to stay in the eye of the hurricane, beginning with the impulse buy I made of a single massive pack of 36 rolls of toilet paper not two days before the panic buying started in my community.

I managed to shift my superannuation investments to a conservative/safe profile just prior to the market crash too, but strangely it’s the toilet paper purchase that stands out as my major contribution in the last 2 weeks. I don’t know what that says about the state of the world right now.

To be fair, we were running low already, and the shelves were stacked full then. There was still plenty to go around. Then the dark times came. The Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020 had begun.

But really, in spite of self-isolation our lives haven’t changed all that much. With my kids homeschooled and my wife and I working virtually entirely remotely already, the shift to being completely at-home was not difficult for us at all. The fact we’re all introverts was icing on the cake. Time at home is something we all enjoy.

My professional life is certainly stressful right now, but so far – thanks to amazing management at the two universities I work for – it’s been manageable. The last 2 years have been a whirlwind in that regard. I went from losing my job of 16 years as an educational technologist in 2018 as part of a restructuring to a total surge in demand for online learning experts in 2020 in the wake of COVID-19.

Universities are typically cautious beasts, highly suspicious of change. For the huge chunks of the sector to move their courses, units and programs online in one fell swoop in response to the likely shutdown of campuses across the country has been a marvel to witness – albeit a slightly terrifying one given I was (and am) on the front lines of making it happen.

This does represent a bit of a schism at home, since nearly everyone else has seized the opportunity to indulge in long-forgotten projects, new ideas, and napping while I run around like a headless (virtual) chicken from one work crisis to the next, but by now my family is more or less used to me acting like that. I’m still waiting for my Superman cape to arrive, but clearly it’s gotten lost in the mail.

Stay safe and healthy, everyone!