LIFE AFTER LOCKDOWN – *Avoid the comparison trap*.

*Avoid the comparison trap*.

Remember ‘JOMO’? The phrase (the ‘Joy Of Missing Out’) coined to counter FOMO (‘Fear Of Missing Out’)?

Well, you might need to keep it handy so that you can bring it to mind in the days and weeks to come. While lockdown was somewhat of a leveller in that we all were made to stay indoors, it also brought to the fore some disparities between people’s experiences with a varying spectrum of health, wealth, work, care, family, social, ideological, and other issues. It’s been nice to see people finding a level of common ground despite varying experiences, and for communities to try to bridge the gaps to some extent. However, the differences in our experiences of life in lockdown may also have brought about divergences in friendships and relationships when for example people no longer have the same common ground that they once did socially to connect with each other. It’s worth reminding ourselves that everyone has been trying to make it through as best as they can through their own unique experiences, and remembering this will help us to manage our expectations and avoid disappointment. Lockdown may have strengthened and deepened some of our relationships and friendships, while others might have come under strain, broken down, stagnated or drifted away.

And here we all are gradually leaving that part of our experience behind. This is where the phrase ‘JOMO’ might come in handy, at least as a temporary measure to help you, and for you to help others, to navigate this transition. Why? Because people will be emerging from the past four months of lockdown with potentially very different stories to tell. Some may have flourished, others may have held on, and there are those who have broken down. You might have enjoyed more time with your family or more time to yourself, or you may be struggling financially, grieving, feeling neglected or lonely, facing job loss or uncertainty with the end of furlough, or be wrestling with mental health issues and broken relationships or exhaustion, or whatever your experience may be. You might have been able to use all of your mixed experiences as opportunities to grow or you may not have overcome the challenges quite yet. At times like this other people’s stories, media, social media, news, magazines and the internet in general, can potentially become a stumbling block or a difficult place to navigate, so just remember that you’re never seeing the full story of other people’s lives.

I personally find a wonderful perspective in this: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn”.

Try to remember that, as well as bringing to mind the joy of missing out, and deepen any other life lessons you’ve had the opportunity to learn in lockdown when you begin to see and hear of people’s experiences of life after lockdown.

If you’re doing great, well or getting through, then I rejoice with you, and am glad for you. If you are struggling and can barely make it through the day, try to prepare yourself to avoid the comparison trap when you begin to see, hear or read of some of the joyful post-lockdown stories in the days and weeks to come. It’s good that people are doing well, and even if you’re in tough spot you can choose to dig deep and learn and grow through it until your brighter days come along.

Don’t forget those simple day-to-day things that you found life in when you were focused on life at home. Try to avoid the temptation to compare, and if you are emerging from this and are doing well, then reach out to others who might not be. ‘JOMO’ – it sounds ridiculous, but it may just have some very useful lessons for us, as sometimes humility with gratitude is the road to ‘happiness’. 😀 

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Life After Lockdown – *What would you do with a second chance?*

*What would you do with a second chance?*

The idea of second chances appeals to us as human beings on a deep level. Fictional narratives, films, and biographies often embrace and appeal to this deep longing for ‘new beginnings’ as they resound with a core part of who we are. Many of us are inspired by people who ‘turned their lives around’ in some significant way, or by people who have changed some aspect of their life, and some of us have experienced similar changes in our own lives. At Christmas time we often turn to narratives such as “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “A Christmas Carol” for reminders of the ‘meaning of life’ or the fact that individual choices and life stories make a difference far beyond the reach of their own experience and can significantly impact others.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the idea of second chances up front and centre for some who have faced the illness and made it through alive. Whereas the idea of second chances previously might have been more conceptual, theoretical or cliched on a society-wide scale, we are faced every day with the reality that many people throughout our health care sectors are working and fighting tirelessly to give other people that ‘second chance at life’.

In a way, we’ve all been given another chance at life. While tens of thousands of people have lost their lives to Covid-19, we might have merely lost our perspective of how valuable it is that we can take our next breath. We have a chance, and we have a choice. What have you learned during this time that will impact how you live out the rest of your days on earth? You might not have the same strength or mental wellbeing or physical abilities as you may have hoped, but you do have this day and a new breath to take, and that is a gift. Sometimes depression and anxiety can make those of us who battle against them lose sight of that. Emotions and thoughts can get the better of us and we can sometimes sink down into them. That’s why we need a bigger vision, a grand perspective, that our small lives are actually very significant and impact other things and people around us. Will we simply go back to our old ways when we have new days ahead to live?

New life is at the heart of Christianity in a way that the world cannot offer. It embraces the reality that at the heart of humanity there is a need for a fundamental change, a doing away of the old, and bringing in something entirely new from the inside out. The world offers the chance to temporally and temporarily ‘patch things up’ from the outside in, and although we can change aspects of our character to some extent, and we can change our outlook on life, we can’t by ourselves change the very nature of what is inside of us by ourselves. Only by accepting that our starting point is fundamentally flawed can we begin to see our need to ask for a new life that goes far deeper than a change of habits. When faced with death, will our changes on a temporal level be enough? At the heart of Christianity we see the offering of a new life, given in True sacrificial love in the Person of Christ, nailing our old lives to the Cross, so that we can be transformed by His Life in us, not by anything we try to do for ourselves.

You might not see your need in this way just now, but wherever you are at you have the opportunity to change the way you think about the days you have left to live on earth. It isn’t too late, and it’s definitely a good time at the very least for each of us to be more intentional in appreciating the gift we have to live another day having made it through while many others sadly have not.

What does a second chance mean to you? Do you think of second chances in a different way to me, and how would you express this? Has the experience of life in a temporary lockdown through a pandemic changed the way you look at things, and has it prompted you to make any changes in your life, or to think about life differently, and if so how? 

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Life After Lockdown – *Things Haven’t Changed for Everyone*.

*Things haven’t changed for everyone*

Looking for the rainbows through the coronavirus storms, I was encouraged by how many people initially reached out to others who were in need at the start of lockdown. Many of you have been faithfully doing what you can to use your abilities to help and serve other people.

It can be easy to lose sight of that as things change. Many of us have had time to reflect upon the ways in which we don’t want things to go ‘back to normal’. While we are compelled to walk into a ‘new normal’ we also have the opportunity to forge out a better way of living life as a society.

The risk is that as we go back into society, we lose sight of the lessons we have collectively learned about humility, giving, self sacrifice (especially those front line workers who gave up time with their family, even gave their own lives to help others), kindness, compassion and taking time to think and advocate for others.

I’m hoping that we will see a shift in heart attitudes and behaviour. I’m wondering whether we might see some of those positive changes reflected in how we shop and our behaviour collectively at Christmas this year for example. I hope we’ve collectively had a ‘change of heart’, but then we do still contend with the tendencies to hoard (toilet paper?!) and look out mainly for ourselves.

As restrictions ease and many of us will enjoy greater freedoms, it’s good to bear in mind that there are still people for whom things haven’t changed much. People who have been shielding for instance and who don’t feel confident enough to risk their own health by going out, people who may have had more contact online but don’t have connections in real life and who may become forgotten about once people start ‘getting back to normal’. We’ve learned lessons about prejudice, about vulnerability, about mental health, homelessness and hardships in our society, and had more time than our previous busy lives would have allowed to take it all in. Many of us have cared deeply and tried to do something to help.

Now, however, it can become all too easy to forget. To become self-focused as we get excited perhaps about the things we can do once more. Not everyone will be in that position. While we can’t save the world, we can bring kindness to it. We can be intentional in thinking about those in our friendship groups who won’t have families to connect with, or may have to continue to stay indoors for various reasons. Some may be grieving the loss of loved ones from the coronavirus. We can take time to remember the causes for social justice that we were touched by and patiently, humbly continue to do what is right.

So, to sum it all up, let’s allow the deeper lessons we have learned to stay with us, to take the opportunity to make the ‘new normal’ into a ‘better normal’, and to keep remembering to think of others for whom life will still be hard, and to be kind to ourselves and each other in the process. 

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