The Pandemic: An Opportunity for the Soul

Updated: Apr 22

It has been about a month since Switzerland declared the condition in the country as an "extraordinary situation" (ausserordentliche Lage/état de situation extraordinaire). It has also been over two weeks since my birth country Vietnam - where my parents reside - followed suite. The situation seems to be even more dire in the States with the number of confirmed cases shooting through the roof. My younger sister is living and working there as a post-partum nurse at a regional hospital.

We all feel the panic, the anxiety and the fear in one way or another.

We feel it when we go on necessary grocery shopping trips and feel the chill in our spines seeing how many people there were in the supermarket after Easter.

We feel it through our loved ones who are in the risk group.

We feel it through the mental and physical exhaustion of our acquaintances who are essential workers.

We feel it through overwhelmed parents who are forced to juggle home office and home schooling.

We feel it through those whose mental well-being has started going downhill, who cannot cope with and accept this special situation that we're all in.

We all feel it.

We also feel something else too.

We feel love.

We feel kindness.

We feel sympathy.

We feel courage.

We feel hope.

We feel it through a mini Easter street concert in the neighbourhood.

We feel it through a street bingo where the host read out the numbers in three languages using a megaphone as players stay 2 meters apart from each other.

We feel it through A4 announcements taped to our doors by a local volunteer group who's helping those of the risk group with their grocery shopping.

We feel it through initiatives that aim at lending local businesses a helping hand.

We feel it through the different virtual events we organize with our loved ones, from yoga afternoon to apéro with colleagues.

Where there's darkness, there's light. Where there's desperation, there's hope.

I was streaming a mass organized by the Catholic Church in Saigon (Vietnam) on the eve of Easter last Saturday on YouTube. I'm not such a dedicated church goer, I did it mainly to feel connected to my dearest Mom who's a devoted Christian. I feel as if I was sitting right next to her on the bench, and that's what mattered the most to me.

Then something the priest preached got my attention.

Maybe this pandemic is an opportunity.

An opportunity to heal our souls.

An opportunity to refresh our minds.

Our religious belief does not matter. The fact that this pandemic has given many of us such an opportunity is true. I can only speak for myself: In my pre-pandemic life, my calendars always looked like a screenshot from Tetris with the multiple multicolour blocks of events and reminders piled on top of each other for months on end. My life looks like a never-ending marathon where I have to keep running to the next checkpoint(s).

I was often exhausted.

I stopped reading for leisure.

I stopped taking my camera out with me on a walk for some spontaneous shots.

I started rolling my eyes every time my husband talked about his days at work as I couldn't bear listening to anyone else's busy life besides my own.

I always believe in enjoying the ride rather than focusing on the destinations. And yet, at some point I could only think of the destinations. And I wanted to just get there. At once.

my calendars always looked like a screenshot from Tetris with the multiple multicolour blocks of events and reminders piled on top of each other for months on end.

Then suddenly, everything came to a halt.

It was quite a struggle at first as we had to postpone our wedding celebration which was scheduled for the beginning of May this year. We make it a priority, however, to remind ourselves that as long as we and our kin are well and healthy, everything is going to be OK. We are also very fortunate that we can still assume our professional activities at home because home office is not radically new at our firms. Once the logistics for the new wedding date was taken care of, suddenly everything was quiet.

I start listening to the chubby sparrows outside my window.

I start stopping occasionally on our walks to appreciate the daffodils and snowdrops and magnolias.

I start reading again. Since the start of the national lock-down I've finished The Binding and am about to finish The Tipping Point. La tress, Ich komme mit, Normal people and Becoming are next on my list.

I start to be more mindful about myself and my relationship with my husband. We've been having great conversations, in which we uncovered many things that we failed to uncover before the pandemic because life has been too fast and exhausting for both of us.

I continue to learn how to bike. Yes I'm 30 and haven't really learned how to bike properly before. Yet last week I was riding from Bern Oldtown to Eichholz with my husband. The breeze on my face. The sunlight glittering through the leaves. This newfound freedom is amazing!

I start to be more mindful about myself and my relationship with my husband.

So how is all this relevant to upcycling?

As we've defined, upcycling is to increase the value of an old object. The "up" in "upcycling" means to improve, to increase, to add more value.

I am so fortunate that this pandemic has given me the opportunity to upcycle my soul.

Yes, I am aware that many people have gotten hurt, have gotten ill, or have even departed from this life because of this nasty virus. Their families and friends have also suffered. I do not deny that this is a dire time for many. In the back of my mind, there's still constant concern about the well-being of my family and friends, and also of our economy and what will happen from now on.

Yet we cannot forever live in fear and hopelessness. For those of you who are just as fortunate as I am, I'd like to invite you to see this as an opportunity to upcycle your soul. This is the time to heal your own wounds, to look on the inside, to rediscover yourself.

Your heart is your main material and your mind is your tool. That's all you need to renew your spirit, to rekindle your passion, to reevaluate the meanings of the different aspects of your life such as relationships, career, and other decisions.

A vaccine will be found. The pandemic will be over. Business activities will resume and we all will be able to enjoy the outdoors again.

But this time, life will be different.

You and I, we will be different. For our souls will be upcycled.

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