Tranquility in Crisis

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

“Tranquility is nothing else than good ordering of the mind”. — Marcus Aurelius

When is this lock-down going to end?

How am I going to afford food for the next months?

What am I supposed to do with all this free time in my hands?

For months now, we’ve been circling around many thoughts and questions about the future, questioning whether we will be able to come out of this or not and how are we going to do it. We have had hours and days to think and rethink about all the existing topics in our minds and it is exhausting.

If you are a mother or father, the economical pillar of your home, you are right now thinking about how to maintain your lifestyle and the comfort of your family even if you are still working or not. On the other hand, if you are a college student (such as myself), you are handling your assignments’ deadlines, dealing with an online method with a functionality and effectiveness you are unsure of, thinking about if it is worth the time and money to “learn” through a laptop screen.

Meanwhile, there is a huge, invisible threat that causes all this angst: the Coronavirus, a threat we all have to take care from.

Consequently, we are all in this big whirlpool that throw us in a place where we all are rushing to stay afloat but we are slowly drowning, I call it the “Anxious Sea.” All this uncertainty, the inability to picture a solid tomorrow is killing us today, we are filled with anxiety, worries and perturbations.

Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

The reports of rising cases in your city, the collapsed medical system, the empty shelves on the supermarkets, that insightful article on the future of the economy, each one of those do nothing but add more unsteadiness to your mind. From social media posts, to memes, to Whatsapp messages, all this information bouncing back and forth from all directions is more a curse than a blessing during this times of pandemic, it is dreadful.

Dealing with Perturbations

I have identified the two main ingredients for this whirlpool of madness: the external events (the news, reports, articles) and our reactions (opinion and response). For the first, the stoics said that we should not worry about them for they are outside of our control and thus, should not concern us. For the later, it is entirely in our power how we react towards any situation or action, our opinion comes from within.

For example: if it is going to rain today, we cannot decide whether it will rain or not. By seeing the gray clouds, we can choose to go out or not, if we need to go outside, we can dress accordingly to a raining day and take an umbrella with us.

The fact is that it will rain.

You may have been already outside when the precipitation began and be completely unprepared for it, you can whine and complain as much as you want about how your shoes got wet, how your hair is all ruined, how you are unable to reach the place you needed to go, it won’t change the fact that it is raining.

“Take away your opinion, and then there is taken away the complaint, ‘I have been harmed.’ Take away the complaint, ‘I have been harmed,’ and the harm is taken away.” — Marcus Aurelius

Yes, it is a shame that your favorite pair of shoes got muddy and wet, it is a shame that you spent 30 minutes getting your hair done and it is all messed up now, it is a shame that you are late for work. Regardless of all of this, the act of complaining will do nothing about it, it won’t get you a new pair of shoes, it won’t fix your hair and it won’t definitely make you travel faster in time and space. Think about it for a second: of what use is complaining, when it won’t change nor solve your problem?

Be mindful, be aware of what you need right now, your emotions are rooted in your thoughts and by changing the course of your thoughts, you can change the course of your emotions as well. I know it sounds easier than it is yet — it is possible.

Taking Action

However, we are facing a bigger thing than rain, it is a big deep sea. For instance, I found myself debating about whether the conditions for online classes were acceptable and convenient for me, money was not an issue, I would have to deal with the lack of Wi-Fi or a good Internet access (I live in Venezuela, so I don’t really need to explain it further.) In second place, I would have to face a methodology that would not reward me with the amount of knowledge I wanted, would I be giving away in my time and sanity knowing how awful the system is? Every penny counts, my time and sanity can be used in better ways, I can learn more and better by myself and that is why I decided to skip this trimester, not an easy choice but it is the solution that suit me.

You may not see it, but we all have options, I believe that. Depending of your current situation, you may have a wider or thinner variety of options, but there are some.

Before deciding what to do, you have to recognize and address those things in your mind. Observe and analyze every single thought that speaks about COVID-19, budget, job, college, family… Identify each of them, think about how each thought makes you feel, what you think about this or that.

Once you truly change your perception, once you see everything through different lenses, then you will begin to feel better. When all those perturbations fade away, when every opinion flips around, the disturbance, the worries, the anxiety will calm down, the Anxious Sea will transform into the Tranquil Sea.

Shut down your TV, turn off all those news notifications, take time for yourself and start to look more inwards instead of looking for comfort in the outside world because you’ll find any. Find comfort within yourself.

It is true that there is a lot of uncertainty in the air right now, a vaccine is still far away, the Coronavirus is reshaping the world and it is surely going to be different right when we come outside, that is the inevitable result of the seed the virus has planted.

The complaints and the preoccupations will sow nothing for you other than angst. You need to question yourself about that which you truly want to harvest tomorrow. But first, you have to plant a seed today for those results to come afterwards.

The first step my friend, is to look into yourself, change your perceptions in order to decide in which sea you are going to swim.

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