Opportunities

It’s been almost two months now. Two months since the lockdown of Norway, the country I am presently staying in, my country. Since then I have tried to stay positive. I have managed—sometimes, and sometimes not so well. As such, it’s far from being a unique experience or reaction. We have all felt the impact of the virus outbreak, some certainly a lot more than I have.

These days, things are slowly starting to open up again, here in Norway and in many other places in the world. It’s with a feeling of relief and hope, that we are now able to venture out a little more, be a little more social, although still complying with the requirements of infection control and social distancing.

However, we all know we still have a long way ahead of us before the world will be back on its regular pace.

The long-term perspective is maybe the hardest part to handle, mentally and probably in many other ways, too. It’s not about the virus itself but about its impact on work, economy, heath, our social life, yes, all aspects of life. We cannot see into the crystal ball and predict how the outcome will be, how this will all end. The only thing certain is that the crisis is far from over. Maybe now is when it really begins.

Thus, more than ever, we need to stay positive. Perhaps then, a quote by John F. Kennedy can be of some inspiration: “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”

Kennedy’s interpretation isn’t quite accurate, but it nevertheless gives us a message to hold on to these days. And something to strive for. In dealing with the crisis, we have options. We can deal with it as a danger or we can try to see the opportunities it provides. Well, the healthiest approach is both, of course. We shan’t overlook the danger of covid-19, but if we fail to hold on to the opportunities the pandemic provides, we do ourselves a disfavour.

In a newsletter by the Canadian photographer David duChemin emailed a month and a half ago, he wrote: “Unlike the dangers in life that come to our door and barge right in, opportunities knock and wait for us to answer. They need us to take hold of them. To act. It’s not just positive thinking, and hoping it all turns out OK. It’s taking responsibility for our mental health, for our time, and doing what is positive and healthy. It’s looking forward, and being hopeful. I think that in tension with the many challenges that we’re all going through right now, we can also choose from among many opportunities.”

To act. That is indeed what we need to do. In my first blog post after my country’s lockdown, I encouraged all of us to stay positive and fill the extra time that the pandemic has imposed on us with positive actions. Learn. Read. Expand our horizon.

Have you been able to make use of whatever opportunities the crisis has cast upon you? I hope so, and I hope you have been able to stay positive, too. Please share whatever you been able to turn to your advantage in these times of difficulties.

I for one, have had much more time at home and in my office—which is in my home, so no big difference between the two, as a matter of fact. The difference, however, is that before I was out meeting people, photographing people and experience the world in all its magnitude and misery (yes, both). Now I talk with people on the phone or online. And I don’t stress around trying to get from one place to another.

The latter has been a positive experience. Less stress—who didn’t dream about that before? Suddenly I have more time. Time that always used to be in constant demand, simply not enough of it. Now I have time for all those tasks and wishes I could only dream about before. I can workout every day. I can run four or five times a week. Last week I made it four times to the top of the mountain overlooking Bergen, my city. It’s not a big mountains, about 640 metres of elevation and a little more than an hour for me to reach walking or hiking from my home—and a little less than an hour to get back. I got to experience one of the most beautiful sunsets from the top one evening last week. How about that?

Generally it’s been a time in which I have been able to focus more on health in general and eat better. When rushed for time, I don’t always manage as much as I know I should.

Now it’s also been time to prioritize my tasks, for instance the time I use on social media. I don’t spend excessive amount on social media in the first place, but I always feel I am behind and need to do more. That I have all let got of. I have been able not to be sucked in, actually spend less time and not even feeling stressed about it. At the same time, I think I use the technology in a much healthier way, staying more in touch with people I care for and with communities I cherish, such as my blogger friends.

The extra time available has provided me with an opportunity to read more books. I always try to read, but now, over the last couple of weeks, I have been able to make a dent in the huge pile of books that always wait to be read. Right now I have started reading John Williams’ Stoner, almost an old classic now, which feels appropriate for these times.

It’s also been an opportunity to not be so overwhelmed and a chance to focus on more intentional things. Originally the pandemic itself, was overwhelming, but now that I have learned to live with it, the fact that the world around me doesn’t come crushing in on me, feels liberating. Less email, less meetings, no social gatherings, no travels. It’s simply a lot quieter now and I start to feel at peace and a calmness taking hold of me—how strange that might sound with the pandemic still hanging over us as a threat.

My biggest concern is for all those who are more impacted than me, who are desperate, who lack the resources to handle the pandemic in a safe way or are sick and struggle to survive. So part of the opportunities that have arisen for us with more resources is showing more generosity and empathy and sharing with those who need it more than ever.

Have you been able to make use of the opportunities that has come out of the present crisis? And how has that been for you? Please share your experiences, as inspiration and encouragement for others.