Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Let’s launch a year of living intentionally

  • May 6, 2022

As society emerges from the spectre of the pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to construct a positive “new normal” in which we live out Gospel values personally and collectively.

Or we can continue being trapped in the negative mindsets we created to cope with an unprecedented global plague.

To press the “reset button” of the past two years, firstly, we must shift from operating in “emergency mode” to living intentionally.

During COVID-19’s early days, and at points during the pandemic, we made huge, rapid-fire adjustments to the ways we worked, raised our children, socialized and interacted in public spaces, generating many fears and anxietiess.

When faced with such strong emotions, we’re vulnerable to developing bad habits. We order take-out, cancel plans at the last minute, stay in our pajamas all day: anything to create a comfort zone.

Vaccines have greatly reduced the number of hospital and ICU admissions. The virus appears to be weakening in strength. We know much more about the disease and what we need to do to protect ourselves,.

But many of us still consciously or subconsciously use COVID to justify cancelling plans at the last minute, evading certain work or family tasks, not exercising or cooking, generally avoiding situations we find difficult. Indulging in these “fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants” behaviours in the long term erodes the discipline and commitment needed to live lives of intention, purpose and meaning.

Secondly, we must re-connect with our wider networks and communities.

Only now are we beginning to understand the nature and extent of the pandemic’s mental health implications. A Feb. 7 survey by the Canadian Mental Health Association says one in four people interviewed sought mental health assistance recently, up from 17 per cent last winter and nine per cent almost two years ago.

Isolation plays a huge role in mental health deterioration, especially for the young, elderly and vulnerable. Being separated from others deepens an individualism that leads to more self-centredness and anti-social behaviours.

This isolation is especially dangerous for our Catholic community. As COVID Mass exemptions are being lifted, it’s crucial we return to in-person Mass, where we physically receive Holy Communion, pray and fellowship with others.

The pandemic has caused us to see others as a threat, initially to our health, but as time passed, to other aspects of our lives. Our patience, kindness and commitment to one another are waning with the weakening of our social skills; instead, ire, impatience and rudeness seem to be on the rise.

An April 20 Globe and Mail survery bears this out. It found that 60 per cent of people polled would switch jobs if their employer required them to come back to the workplace, with many angry or anxious at the prospect.

Returning in person to Mass, the workplace, family functions or any other network is vital for every aspect of our health. It is through community that we live out the Fruits of the Spirit and other Christian values as we support one another face-to-face.

Thirdly, we must return to concepts of collective rights. Pandemic measures have become equated with the erosion of civil liberties; wearing masks and social distancing are now widely regarded as violating individual rights.

For better or for worse, we enacted measures to protect the vulnerable and prevent our health-care systems from becoming overloaded. We lost sight of the fact that, in certain circumstances, the rights of the collective need to take precedence over the wishes and desires of individuals, especially in the protection of children, the sick, the elderly, just as the Gospel teaches us. 

Measures are over: there is no more need for trucks and motorcycles to block roads, mobs to harass health-care workers, and screaming, angry flag-waving protestors to swear at politicians.

 Let’s all take the initiative to challenge these and other mindsets of the past two years as we build a fresh, post-pandemic society where kindness and respect replace fear and anger.

(Majtenyi is a public relations officer specializing in research at an Ontario university.)

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