Amid the lifting of restrictions and the gradual reopening of businesses, a friend called recently and the conversation went something like this: “What if I don't want my life to return to normal?”
Though the question surprised me initially, it also made me think about how all the focus on mental health during this period of social isolation has been on those who prefer “normal” while there is no discussion around the anxiety that some people may be feeling at the idea of having to go back to what their life was like before the pandemic.
While it is true that many of us have been struggling with the challenges that come with social isolation and the closure of offices and other non-essential services during the pandemic, there are people for whom physical distancing is the preferred way of living.
Is my friend the only one experiencing the unexpected benefits of social isolation that COVID-19 has brought into our lives? Apparently not. “The day they announced the shutting down of workplaces, it felt like receiving official permission to do what I have always wanted to do: just go home, close my door and be by myself,” admitted one of my former colleagues.
While many of us are struggling to cope with the absence of physical contact with our families, friends and coworkers, there are some people who feel like they are finally living the life they have been craving for a long time now - "no tiring commute to work, no pressure to meet friends, customers or coworkers, and at last having the time to read, relax and exercise".
"What if I don't want to open my door ever again?"
So, what will happen to those who are distressed at the very thought of going back to "normal" once all this is over? Is there something they can do to make the prospect of opening their doors once again feel less like a chore and more like something that they genuinely look forward to?
I think it is time we asked ourselves what exactly makes the human connection feel so stimulating to some people and not that much to others?
Also, sometimes it is easy to forget that none of us actually need permission (from the government, or anybody else in our lives for that matter) to do the things that we really want to do – we can go home if and when we want; we can close or open our door anytime we want; we don't have to work with or meet the people we find tiresome - we do have a bit of control over some of the things in our lives even though at times it may feel like we don't.
If this pandemic has taught me anything, it is this: life is too short and unpredictable to live with regrets. So, let us live our best life - doing the things that matter to us - even if it does not align with other people’s idea of “normal”.