I didn’t need a pandemic to teach me to be grateful for my lot in life


Lockdown has been a time for all of us to take a step back and count our blessings.

Be thankful for what we have, and appreciate the people who matter the most… but is anyone else feeling sick of being grateful?

At the risk of sounding cynical, if the grateful-o-meter is reading ‘at least I’m alive’, then there must be a lot to be unthankful for.

During a rather candid lockdown phone call, my friend and I discussed our Covid woes. She’s pregnant, she’s tired, she’s isolated and bored. But when I pointed out that we should be thankful for the things we have, she said, ‘But I was already grateful for those things! I didn’t need a pandemic to tell me that.’

And she’s right. I didn’t need 13 weeks away from my family in order to appreciate them. I didn’t need quarantine to know that banana bread is underwhelming. I didn’t need a loo-roll shortage to understand the importance of wiping your arse.

It’s human nature to see the bright side, the silver lining, the lessons learned. But it’s also human nature to scream into a pillow when your five year plan gets royally f*cked by a killer virus and a monster recession.

In the absence of mainstream religion, many of my generation have taken a more secular approach in the search for meaning in life. We no longer look to God for guidance, but rather to the ‘universe’. Less ‘old white guy with beard’, but the same principle of something bigger than us making decisions on our behalf.

The universe is teaching us a lesson, the universe is pointing us in the right direction. Well, the universe is having a shocker.

I’ve seen so many hot-takes on global warming and the positive effect that lockdown has had on reducing carbon emissions. ‘Nature is healing’ seems to be the go-to phrase for anyone attempting to find gratefulness in our current situation.

If the universe was more effective in its strategy, it could’ve probably saved half a million lives by rigging the ballot and making Greta Thunberg president.

Does the universe know that nice things can teach us lessons too? That we don’t have to face hardship to appreciate what we do have?

Winning the lottery would teach me many lessons. I could learn how to scuba dive in the Seychelles, what the leather interior of a Rolls Royce smells like and discover what a Balenciaga is.

I shouldn’t have to feel guilty for wanting more. Right now, it sucks for everyone, for a myriad of reasons. It sucks that you can’t see your grandparents, that you couldn’t get married, that you have no idea when your next paycheck will come through.

It’s really, really sh*t, and it doesn’t help to see an onslaught of motivational Instagram quotes telling you to learn something.

Sometimes there is no lesson.

Sure, we can make the most of a bad situation, but we must also allow ourselves to be p*ssed off about it

When I go through a break up, my nearest and dearest will comfort me by saying that at least I’ve learnt more about what I want from a relationship. That I’m just one step closer to finding Mr Right.

I understand their point, but I could’ve done without the gruelling staircase to get there, thank you very much.

In times of adversity, we search for meaning to try and make sense of it all. But sometimes there is no meaning, and nothing makes sense. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but who wants to live a brawny existence on the verge of death?

Denying your negative feelings in the pursuit of gratitude isn’t healthy.

Having said all that, we shouldn’t just wallow in our woes. Acknowledge them, yes. Vent them, sure – but find a healthy balance. Like when a friend recently told me they thought they had been the person worst affected by the virus, I pointed out that there were around 45,000 families who would beg to differ.

I’m not saying no one can learn lessons from this – I’m looking at you Boris. With reflection our Government can ensure the spread and scale of any future pandemics can be better controlled. But I’ve heard too many individuals beating themselves up about things that are completely out of their control.

You are not a failure if your business is in tatters due to lockdown. You are not incompetent if you didn’t plan for this.

For members of the public, a global pandemic was not a lesson on the timetable of life. Sure, we can make the most of a bad situation, but we must also allow ourselves to be p*ssed off about it.

The most important lesson the pandemic has taught me? I like the pub. But I knew that already.