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Life's Edge

John Lennon's famous line, "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans", is truly apt for the ambivalence, anxiety and fear we're experiencing the world over. Getting in touch with who we are, our community and our connections has never been more important for our sanity and survival.

Yonge St, Toronto, Ontario Canada

“I believe that living on the edge, living in and through your fear, is the summit of life, and that people who refuse to take that dare condemn themselves to a life of living death”- John H Johnson

The only thing guaranteed to us in our lives are taxes and eventual death – though how, when and where that will occur is beyond our control. Our awareness of our mortality and our powerlessness over all the things that befall us to make it natural for us to fear what the future holds. To shield ourselves, we live in a comfort zone.

To survive a global crisis like the current COVID-19 pandemic, what the impact of the lockdowns will continue doing to us long after the virus itself has been eradicated, we need to build our resilience and learn to accept that for life to be meaningful, we need to be present in it.

Let me hasten to add that I'm no less affected by extreme circumstances surrounding me and the insecurity of having enough food to feed my family next week, let alone next month or next year. I, like everyone else, am hurting as I watch my short-term dreams and hard work come to a grinding halt. Yet I'm also aware that millions and billions of others don't even have the things still left to me: a roof over my head, clothes to wear and my loved ones with me and healthy. I recognise and give thanks for my privileges.

Like everyone else, I'm also wracked with fear as I see the world I knew changed into a surreal, alien place, with deserted streets, silence and the continual urge to watch the news. The life we all pursued and aspired to, and may have thought we'd secured, has been pulled out from under our feet. Things that were important just a few weeks ago – like going to the gym, buying a car and playing soccer over weekends – have become trivial. What matters now is staying alive, staying well and finding a path forward. Our priorities have to be re-ordered.

As you reflect on this, ask yourself: what's your default escape when the reality of all this becomes too much to cope with? Is it your religious faith, perhaps, or natural resilience, or a sense of duty to your dependants – kids who look to you for reassurance? Or is it the joy of music, art or dance, where beauty helps you forget your stress for a sweet hour or two?

I’ve never lived through anything this widespread and hard-hitting since the State of Emergency in our country, and even then, I was mercifully sheltered from its full effects.

But I think of the stories of survivors, both from wartime and civil life. Survivors of conflict, disasters like 9/11, illness, tragedy and crime. These people’s testimonies are proof positive that no matter how massive the chaos or panic of a situation, it’s temporary. The law of life is that everything changes. Nothing lasts – neither the good, nor the bad, nor the catastrophic. Their testimonies are also powerful reminders of how important it is to seize the moment, enjoy what we have and be aware that it – and we, ourselves – are fragile. Health and time are resources with diminishing returns. Where do we go from here? We don’t know. We’re all here for the first time.

What's required now is the grit to show up and keep going, no matter how hard or hurtful it is. Resolve to define this period we're living through on a personal level for yourself and those you love most. We can't control what's happening around us – but we can regulate the way we respond to it.

We are tested. We are required to be both vigilant and resourceful. This work is challenging; we have to be deliberate and make decisions not only for ourselves but for others too.

The choices we make today will impact the rest of our lives. Will we rise to meet the present challenge? Will we emerge victorious, together with our fellow human family?

Create the space and get with it. Cultivate the edge, lean into the corner and be present. Don’t cower; don’t hide from your fears. Acknowledge them – but don’t give in to them. The moment you can name a fear, it loses its power over you, because it becomes an identifiable, quantifiable – and negotiable – threat.

Connect with your truth and let that feed your resolve to see this time through. Be open to discovering your inner self. We have no choice but to live through this to a better time, so let's do it with all the courage and strength we possess. And that strength is formidable since it comes not only from ourselves but from the love we have for others: our relationships.

I hope you can find the courage to walk through this dark passage, knowing that there's an exit at the end of it – where we'll feel the warmth of the sun once again.

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