I understand that we are amidst sombre and serious times. The daily death toll is a reminder of the severity and cost of this pandemic. This regular drum beat of the news can numb us to the sheer number of real people who are being killed by Covid-19. Despite the sobering reason for lockdown, there are quite a lot of things I like about it.
Life is simpler, which is saying something from someone who has had to ‘shrink’ her life and clip her wings considerably in the last two years. It’s just a bit calmer. Everywhere. So many fractious family moments were about getting out the house with the right stuff at the right time. Now none of that (Zoom call log in’s aside).
Appointments and meetings that were previously ‘impossible’ to do over the phone are now slotted neatly between bread making and home schooling. rather than dominating a whole day of family/work life. I realise that sounds so idyllic, rest assured that both usually involve unmet expectations and swearing! When I do have to travel to an appointment like today, it is a breeze. A 3.5hr journey to the trial hospital reduced to 1hr 20mins; parking right outside; patients only in the hospital and a lot less of them and previously critical parts of each treatment cycle no longer required or streamlined. Above all, a lot more civility and appreciation of each other. All this has massively improved my quality of care and life.
Why did it take this, to challenge and shift the status quo?
I have been in communication, innovation and change most of my working life. I understand about entrenched ways or working, about stuck patterns of thinking. This is why i have to push clients to think differently. I ask them to role play made up scenarios, to consider the opposite of every aspect or assumption of their business or to use ‘imagine a world where….’ cards to stimulate them to activate the side of their brain that is creative and unaccepting of ‘how things have always been’. When I wrote the ‘imagine a world where…’ cards I had examples like ‘we all have to work from home’; ‘there are no schools’; ‘food is rationed’; ‘poorer paid work is more respected’; ‘brands matter less’; ‘people are grateful for small things’ and ‘our local communities are revived’. I sometimes had difficulty encouraging clients to imagine one of those things happening in their life time and I certainly didn’t imagine all of them and many more happening together in mine.
As an individual and a consultant, I naturally look for a more efficient way or a better experience. I do challenge ‘the way things have always been’. I’m restless, so I like to find ways around, ways through (avid blog readers may have noticed this trait of mine!). This is not the way of large corporate organisations or institutions like the government or the NHS. However, stuff that was deemed tricky or impossible in the world of cancer treatment, palliative care and counselling is all being turned upside down and delivered by digital means.
Needless and unchallenged processes, protocols and paradigms, once set in stone have dissolved. In days or weeks Government, food service logistics, local councils and multiple grocers have collaborated to deliver boxes of food and essentials to our vulnerable population. I’m considered one, my disabled, housebound, 89 year old mother-in-law who lives alone is not – I’ve worked around this since (she will make better use of the 1970s throwback tins than we will anyway).
Virtually overnight a joined up NHS app allows chemists, doctors’ surgeries and patients to interact in lightening speed. I no longer wait in a phone abyss to make an appointment with my over stretched GP to get a repeat prescription. I then don’t wait in a germ ridden waiting room or queue up at the chemist to find my items are yet again out of stock (and this was before lockdown and Brexit!). Now I effortlessly tick a box on my phone, while swotting up on the definition of a ‘relative clause’. Then a few days later, when the item is in stock a lovely kind person appears on my doorstep (just like the shopkeeper from ‘Mr Ben’, as if from nowhere), with the complete order of my prescription. It is so God damn efficient. Although, I’m sure my pharmacist and GP miss my incessant visits.
The BBC (another great institution I hope we will cherish post this pandemic, rather than take for granted), have collaborated with educational brands like White Rose Maths, Twinkl and many others. They have produced fantastic structured resources and lessons for every school year over the Easter holidays. Something that would no doubt have taken months or years to negotiate copyrights, access and IP pre-Covid and the home schooling crisis.
Even zoom socials are better for me. Forget covid, any cold or cough germs have previously put me in hospital. My white blood cells too scarce to fight off common everyday bugs. I’m often too tired to last the duration at adult events, or muster up the energy to get ready. Zoom avoids a lot of this I even skipped lipstick and the prosthesis with one good friend!
Aside from the practical benefits of lockdown, there are some psychological ones too. I feel less obligated to do things and this makes me feel less guilty. I also feel less like I’m missing out on my fulfilling career, overseas travel and the exciting adventures that social media would have me believe ‘everybody’ else is enjoying. As I said on 19th March, it is great to welcome the rest of the world into my uncertain world. Even if its only for a brief while.
Imagining the unimaginable and dealing with uncertainty are definitely skills that advanced cancer patients have been trying their hand at mastering for longer. It is still tricky, but in lockdown we tend to spend less time longing for an exit strategy and more time enjoying the moments. Maybe this is because our exit strategy from uncertainty is pretty final.
28th April 2020