When this pandemic started and the first national lockdowns were enforced, literally stopping the world in its tracks, a memory started to obsessively haunt me. It was about a novel, called the South Highway (link goes to the Spanish version on Amazon, not affiliate). In that book, a family traveling on a highway (the South highway, obviously) has to stop because of a road incident.
The incident is so far ahead that nobody can see what’s really happening, all they know is that they are stuck. Hours are passing by, and, as the evening comes, they realize they’ll have to spend the night there. The next day, they realize nothing changed and, slowly, the characters go through the full range of violent emotions: anxiety, fear and anger. As times go by, while living in that suspended space in which they can’t move in either direction, they are forced to meet each other. A few “relationships” are starting and bonds are formed. Slowly, negative emotions are replaced by empathy and hope.
I don’t remember exactly how long this whole road incident lasted in the book, but in my memory it’s at least a few weeks. What I do remember, though, is the moment when, just as suddenly as the unexpected blockage, the car line starts to move, like a giant snake. Some lanes are faster than others, cars move at different speed again: people lose sight of each other, relationships are suddenly shaken, bonds are vanishing.
As far as I remember, though, some of the characters are willing to continue their relationship, promising to meet again in “real” life, and that’s the vibe of the novel.
Coming Back From A Suspended Time
From many points of view, this story is similar with the current Covid-19 pandemic. Only instead of a few hundred people stopping in a car for a few weeks, the entire planet stopped completely, for a few months. At the moment of writing, things are starting to slowly move forward. Some countries are allowing more freedom, some businesses are open and, day by day, we get to adjust to a new “normal”.
I know that for many people this pandemic was perceived as a frightening incident. To a certain degree, it really was. Some people caught the virus and, from them, some are no longer with us.
But the biggest part of the world didn’t suffer from the illness itself: it suffered from isolation. The main (perceived) problem was this “suspension”, this lockdown, this curfew that drastically cut us off from each other.
As we slowly start to move again, we’re doing it with various velocities. Just like in the novel, some “lanes” are faster than others. With some things, some activities and some people that used to be present in our lives, we are starting to part ways. They’re no longer around, or are so changed that it’s like they were never there. We’re disconnecting from a lot of stuff that we used to consider “normal”.
But, just as in the novel, some newly discovered things, activities or people are going to be present in our lives from now on (if we really want to allow that).
Every time the world stops, we get to see what really matters. We get some precious introspection time and some perspective. We can “see clearly” again.
If you really think about it, this global pandemic was a huge opportunity. It was a gift of clarity and it generated a lot of unexpected “maneuver space”, which, in the previous frantic pace, we didn’t even hope we’ll ever have. We got an unexpected relief, an incredible window of opportunity, in which the world stopped in front of our eyes, giving us the almost impossible chance of a new beginning.
Use this opportunity wisely, and be aware that every decision you take right now will shape your life in a completely new direction, for a long time. Make sure you like that direction.