There is a vaccine. The answer to the year that changed everything for much of the world arrived in record time. And the world exhales. There is that light at the end of the 2020 tunnel, one that is dimmed by the losses of loved ones, worries about incomes, and the fears of years of economic instability. But what COVID has taught us is when needed, we can adapt and redefine.
Vaccines normally take 10 to 15 years to be developed, let alone approved. Yet here we are. It took two days for this vaccine to be designed. TWO DAYS. On January 11, 2020, Chinese scientists released the genetic sequence of COVID-19. Then on January 13th, the design was completed.* 3 weeks later, the first batch of vaccines was manufactured, and then 4 weeks after that, the first trial began. That was in March. 8 months later it was announced there is a vaccine that is 95% effective against the novel coronavirus.
Bottom line, there was the crucial need for there to be a solution to a crisis that brought the world to a standstill. What was once deemed impossible was made possible. Where once we were told it couldn't be done, it was done. And there are so many other examples of how this year we saw the need to quickly adapt. For years, campaigners have asked for flexible working hours and conditions, to be able to work from home, to balance the need to be at home and to be at work. To restructure the 40hr 9-5 week. To have a life. For years, employers have said it couldn't be done because that's not how things were always done. And yet, here we are.
It made me think how not only do we find ways to save ourselves, we are also the ones to hold ourselves back. And we do so with mindsets that refuse to evolve or adapt; mindsets that aren't open to change. It is what psychologists call "cognitive dissonance" which is "the mental discomfort experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. The discomfort is triggered by a situation in which a person’s belief clashes with new evidence introduced to that person."
So much of what dictates our behaviour and our choices stems from our ego. The need to be right, the need to stand firm, the need to hold on to control/power, the need to prove we are something or someone, the need to feel that we are here for a reason. But what would happen if we didn't hold on to those things? What would happen if we let it all go? I asked myself that question and that's when I came across Jim Carrey's story.
The man who has made us laugh for years had an awakening after playing his comedic idol Andy Kauffman in Man on the Moon. Carrey not only lost himself in that role, he found an understanding that would change him forever. He said in an interview at the time, "It was just nakedness...I was looking back at myself and going, ‘What the hell do I believe?’" He would go on to add, "“The process over time has been, ‘Oh, even that is not real. Even that is not solid. ’It’s disconcerting at first because it’s a death...None of this is who I am. None of this matters. That’s liberation.” In other words, what doesn't matter is what value we place on how we see ourselves, how others see us.
It's how Buddhists would say is the start of our journey to true freedom and enlightenment. We are here to evolve, to learn, to appreciate, to enjoy every moment, to find that which brings us genuine joy, to acknowledge that we are part of something greater than our physical existence: that we are here literally for each other. Nature understands this perfectly. But most human beings don't. And if you were to Google Jim Carrey, what would come up is a slew of videos and articles asking "what happened to Jim Carrey?" As if he had gone mad when in actuality, he had found his truth.
I am on my own journey of discovering my truth. This week in particular. Alot of old emotions resurfaced as I went through old clothes this week to give away or sell. Clothes that, don't even feel like me anymore. But they dredged up those feelings of who I was. Who I used to be. And how, for a moment, I felt I had failed in keeping that persona alive even if that persona doesn't feel real anymore. I reminded myself that I am a lot closer to where I need to be than where I was. I revel in living near nature. I revel in being part of a community that supports each other. I feel more myself than I ever have. I don't feel like I am wearing a mask or playing a part in order to be accepted or seen or deemed of value. I have my moments of insecurity. Everyone does. I have my moments of tress. Who doesn't? I worry about alot of things that I have no control over. I haven't reached that sense of Nirvana that Buddhism says we are here to strive for. It might take me a lifetime if not more. The important thing is I know I am on that journey, one that began when I started to shed who I used to be in order to begin discovering who I am. I remember saying to my husband this week as I looked through those clothes, that the life we live now, our professional aspirations, would have never been part of our consciousness before. I guess we didn't think it was even possible to live this way. I am at peace with having let go of who I was. In fact, what I am so ok with, and who I am proud to be known as, is my little boy's mother. That's what brings me the most peace, the clearest sense of direction I have ever had.
We only have to look around, read the papers, watch the news, scroll through the social media feeds to see that most of us aren't ready to start that journey towards our truth because it would feel as if we would have to let go of all that (we would believe) is holding us up, together even: our ambitions, our desires, our assumptions of who/what we are supposed to be, judgement, expectations, "norms", societal constructs that prioritise the individual gain over the collective good. So many of us want things to "go back to normal" when normality is what brought us to this point in the first place. Normality, with its definition of doing things the way they have always been done has made it ok for some to make billions in the span of nine months while billions will not be able to feed their families as a result of job losses, businesses shutting down, egocentric leadership that prioritises one group over another, one country over another. I guess what I'm trying to say in this stream of consciousness is that when there is a need to find a solution to a problem that affects the right people or the right economy or the right crisis, a solution will be found. And it will be found quickly.
It is a painful process shedding what we once held dear: our thought patterns, our beliefs, even our fears. It literally feels like we are painfully removing a part of ourselves. Unfortunately for many, the realisation comes too late--when we are dying, when we've lost someone we love. And it is only when we realise that we are in a crisis do we quickly try to find a solution. Yet the true crisis is never finding that peace within that comes from being free from the internal and external assumptions about who/what we think we are. That we never gain insight into what this life is truly about. I wonder how long, how many global problems it will take for us to finally get that dose of this true reality.
*The mRNA platform used for the design of this COVID vaccine had been developed many years ago (mRNA is like software for cells which can be used for vaccines fighting multiple diseases).