We are now one week since the Quebec government suspended classes in schools and universities, and encouraged people to avoid crowded places such as bars, museums, and cinemas because of the coronavirus. These have since been shuttered. Though restaurants remain open, they are encouraged to follow the strategy of social distancing and operate at reduced capacity.
For many people this is a period of worries, worries about the health of themselves, friends, and family; about jobs and income; about the continued availability of essentials such as food and medicines. These are understandable. No one wants to be ill; if you’re not working, pay is a concern, especially if your employer has no customers; fewer people working also means fewer deliveries of food to supermarkets.
If we’re able to set these concerns aside by thinking that governments are actively putting in place measures to protect businesses and workers from the worst economic consequences, noting that the supermarkets remain stocked with food, following the practices of social distancing, and asking what more can we do, then this period of enforced seclusion can be viewed as an opportunity to evaluate our individual lives and reconnect with ourselves as individuals.
Some might find that all they had in their lives was a job from which they are now cut off, perhaps temporarily, perhaps permanently. They have a chance to ask “what else do I want in my life?”. Others might enjoy their job but find that it alone does not provide the challenge they look for in their lives. Now is a chance to think about what challenges they want and can the world of work provide it. Others may have developed habits that they wish to change but found this difficult in the routine of their lives. Here is an ideal opportunity to change those habits.
Interestingly, this sort of seclusion is part of the Japanese Morita Therapy. Even now not everyone who wants to can take to their beds for a week, those with kids for example, but it does seem that many can now prescribe themselves what is usually a very expensive and time-consuming therapy.
I cannot pretend that this time is easy any more than I can pretend that we will return to what was normal a couple of weeks ago. As a society we will be poorer. Jobs will disappear or change. As a teacher in a language school, we are looking to continue teaching online, but as online teaching becomes more common and more familiar, it would seem inevitable that when all the restrictions are lifted, there will be fewer overseas students in my classroom. Add a poorer world concerned about travel, and the fact of the classroom itself is questionable.
Obviously these provoke anxiety, but given the degree of change we are experiencing along with distance we are encouraged to maintain, it would be a shame to waste the uncertainty of the moment by clinging to a normality that is unlikely to return. Better to see the chance to ask “What kind of life do I want? Is this it?”