It is often said that the eyes are the window to the soul. Sadly, looking into each other’s eyes has become a bit of a rare occurrence in the covid-19 pandemic, due to social distancing. We are having to make do with phone calls, Zoom/video calls and keeping two metres apart when we meet outdoors. Even patients have missed being able to see a doctor, because it is mostly phone consultations happening these days. We are now having to learn to “use our words”, as we often say to toddlers. We can no longer hope that people can see our sadness, joy or worry if we stay quiet, so we have to say how we feel if we want to be heard over the phone or on the internet.
Thankfully, we can see some light at the end of the tunnel with some easing of lock down in England and the progress of covid-19 vaccination programmes. Changes we thought were only going to last for a few weeks in 2020 have lasted over a year! Some people are actually quite anxious now about going “back to normal”. In fact, it seems that “normal” will never be the same again. We have changed our ways of working and interaction, and even found some more efficient ways of doing things. These will surely have their pros and cons, with varying impact on our mood and relationships. When we are finally able to sit next to each other again and hug whenever we want, will the windows to our souls be dimmer or clearer?
So many of us went into survival mode to be able to cope with all the stresses and changes brought on by the pandemic restrictions - will we be able to revert to our usual selves after so long? Do we want to revert or have we discovered something better after spending more time alone or with family, for example? Some of us have now become comfortable with working from home, watching movies indoors all day and seeing friends only on screens. Will it be easy to get back into having our former social life and work patterns? Man is a social being, and many have argued that we will easily go back to what is natural for us. After months of online shopping and Amazon deliveries, it only took a few days for high street shops to be full of customers again after lock down was eased. Some of us went out for the sales (discounted items), while some went out for fresh air, but many have remained indoors with anxiety after being told to “stay at home” for so long.
Much more important than the eyes being the window to the soul, they are also the means by which we see the world. We can choose to see change as an opportunity for growth or despair, as a challenge or disaster, as an open window or a closed door. This is not about whether you are an optimist or pessimist, it is about choosing our reaction to the things we cannot always control. A person whose heart is good sees good in everything. A person with evil intentions often sees only evil in others. You know what a man’s heart is like by the words that come out of his mouth. It is true that people often get what they expect. Instead of focusing on what we have lost in the past year, we can choose to think about what we have learned and how that can help us to create a better future where people are really seen, heard and appreciated. We can choose to really see people when we see them, and hear even more than is being said. We will find happiness when we look beyond ourselves, seek to understand rather than to be understood, and let there be light in our windows and souls.
Dr Afiniki Akanet is the author of Life Without Coffee (Choosing Happiness Over Stress) and 2020 Year of Plenty. Afiniki.co.uk