Have you been imagining life after the pandemic? Have you been dreaming of the time when the coronavirus is no longer such a threat to our world? How do you think you will feel? What will you do? And what will you do with your memories and experiences of the last two years?
I suspect that many of us can’t wait to move on and put this whole debacle behind us. We would rather forget the last two years and get on with creating new, happier memories. But I want to suggest that moving too quickly into the post-pandemic world could be a mistake.
Waiting is hard. Receiving what we’ve been waiting for is much easier and much more fun. And, while there is nothing wrong with this, there is a danger here that we need to be aware of. There are learnings, experiences, achievements, and benefits that have come to us in the midst of the pain. And if we move too quickly into the freedom and excitement of post-pandemic living we risk losing these important gifts. Let us rather take time to recognise, celebrate, and treasure what we have received through the struggle of the last two years.
In our world where instant gratification is prized much more highly than waiting and anticipation, we can easily fall into the trap of moving from pleasure to pleasure without allowing time to enjoy anything. We become addicted to the dopamine rush to such an extent that we hardly even feel it and we find ourselves in a constant quest for bigger and more intense ‘hits’. And when we get on this ‘pleasure-go-round’—even to a small degree—we lose our capacity for enjoyment and appreciation.
As I wrote in my post on The Gift of Waiting, there is tremendous joy and learning when we make waiting an intentional practice. One of the benefits is an increased sense of joy when we finally receive what we’ve been waiting for. But to maximise the pleasure of receiving, we need to slow down and give ourselves the time and attention to really enjoy what we’ve received.
Novelty wears off quickly, and if receiving is focussed only on a novel experience, we miss the deeper, more lasting value of new experiences and acquisitions. This doesn’t mean we can’t seek novelty at all. It just means that we also need to make space to learn to enjoy what we have for longer and in a deeper way.
As a guitarist, I spent many years longing for a premium instrument that would make my music sound as good as possible. It took decades for my dream to be realised, but in 2007 my father gave me the gift of a brand new Taylor 12-string acoustic guitar. The initial moment of receiving was filled with immense excitement and joy. But now, nearly 15 years later, I still get a thrill of joy when I pick this guitar up and hear its warm, vibrant tone as I strum across the strings.
This doesn’t mean that I haven’t wanted or needed other guitars since that time. As my musical ability has grown I have sought out different instruments to meet different musical needs. But it does mean that I have never lost the appreciation of this one significant instrument. And in the eleven years since my father died, this guitar has given me more than just the joy of a new instrument. It has given me a connection with my father that death could not sever.
MAKING CHRISTMAS LAST
Christmas is now just a few days away. There will be lots of excitement, joy, and novelty as we unwrap new gifts. I can’t wait! But I am also setting an intention to make space to enjoy what isn’t new—the love of my family, the wonderful gifts, like my guitar, that have been with me for years and that continue to bring me such joy. And the gift of a deeper awareness of the goodness, beauty, and truth that exists in the world around me. And when, in a few days, Christmas is over and the New Year has begun with its new challenges and opportunities, I intend to keep making time to remember the gifts I have received and to enjoy them as thoroughly as I can. Will you join me?
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