Saturday, 2 May 2020

Memento Mori 'Remember You Must Die'

Memento Mori is a Latin term meaning 'remember you must die'.  A Memento Mori is something that serves as a reminder of death and mortality.  Now, I am not trying to be morbid here, I promise, that's the last thing we need right now, but I do think we can use this idea as a motivator to live well.  
Daily Stoic | The Memento Mori medallion – Daily Stoic Store

Historically a skull was used as a symbol of memento mori.  Many people carry a coin of memento mori like the one in the picture to remind them that death is coming to them, using their own mortality as a motivator to live a good life. 

Steve Jobs famously said, when he was close to his death, 

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear or embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.  Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.  You are already naked.  There is no reason not to follow your heart."

This global pandemic, I believe, is making many of us think about our own mortality more than we would like.  However, if you think about it in the wrong way then it will be depressing - yes.  Think about it in the right way and it will help you realise what is really important to you.  It helps you to prioritise and live a life that is meaningful to you.  This pause that we are all experiencing is helping many of us to stop and reflect on our lives.  Is your life going in the direction you want it to? Are you doing what you truly want to do in life or is your current job making you miserable?  So again, this pandemic might help some people out there to choose their own path in life after this ordeal we are facing has past.  It might help some of us remember that time on this earth is short and very precious.  

“Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day…The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.”

Don't waste your time on the small insignificant stuff.  Very often people don't think about their own death or, and probably moreso, that of their loved ones, but death gives us meaning and helps us make the most of the precious time we have been given.  Never take for granted the time you all have, for tomorrow is not promised to any of us. 

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Coping with Isolation

We are now 4 weeks into the lock down in the UK due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.  So, how is everyone coping with the isolation? Many of us aren't coping very well at all, others are having the time of their lives.  So, what can we do to improve the situation if we are one of the ones who are struggling?

It is important to remember that there is little you can do about the current situation we all find ourselves in, but there is much you can do to control how you react to it.  These are truly unprecedented times for us all.  We are so used to our freedom. To going to the pub when we feel like it, to catching up with friends over brunch, to popping into see our mums and dad for a brew and a natter, to going to the shops to buy new clothes or furniture for your home or garden, yet here we are, for the first time in most of our lifetimes, unable to do these things we have always taken so much for granted in life. Probably the hardest thing for most of us is the isolation.  We are social beings and are drawn to the people we love and care about.  We need them to boost our mental health and wellbeing yet here we are unable to make contact physically with the people who are dear to us.  

The way I see this time is our lives is I see it as a gift.  An opportunity for life to pause for a little while. A time for us to stop and reflect about life.  It has certainly made many of us notice the things that are really important to us and the things that aren't.  We realise more than ever how important our people are to us - the people who matter in our lives.  We long for the day we can see them again, give them a hug and just be together.  You hear people saying things like, 'I will never take a hug from you for granted again'. Let's hope these things remain true and the impact of isolation doesn't just wear off and we revert back to our old ways. 

We also appreciate our essential workers much more than we probably ever did before.  How often before all this were you grateful to the people working in your supermarkets for stacking the shelves so you can get all your essentials for your weekly shop?  How much have you appreciated in the past the postman continuing to deliver you mail, the bin man continuing to collect your rubbish, the delivery drivers delivering fresh fruit and veg to the shops for you?  All these people out there risking picking up this, sometimes deathly virus, for us - to allow some of the world at least to keep moving.  Hopefully after this there will be no such thing as a low skilled worker.  These are the people coming to our rescue today.

And, of course, all the amazing people working for the NHS and Care System from the doctors, nurses and carers to the porters, receptionists and cleaners.  These people put themselves at the highest risk of contracting this virus and although we know for some they only experience mild symptoms, for others this simply is not the case.  It seems the more ill the patient the higher the strain of the virus they spread, which may be why we are losing some of our front line medical staff at an alarming rate.  Yet, despite having families, hopes, dreams and goals of their own they get up every day and go out to serve the public, strangers who need help at this moment in time.  We should never forget their sacrifice and I hope we never do. 

So, if you are struggling with isolation and have the option to be in the safety of your own home, with your immediate family around you then you are one of the lucky ones.  Feeling grateful to all those people putting themselves out there for us is something we should feel immense gratitude for and if you feel this way, believe me, you will cope with isolation.  This is only taking away our freedom for a very short period of time, we must remember that.  Use the time you have wisely because you are unlikely to have the opportunity again to hit the pause button.  Read, write, watch great films, draw, colour in, clean, organise those cupboards, exercise, talk, sleep, phone old friends, FaceTime your loved ones, enjoy your garden if you are lucky enough to have one - just enjoy the time you have been given here because before you know it we will all be back in the rat race (and complaining about that).  We cannot always control what happens to us but we can control how we respond.