Finding Meaning and Purpose in Lockdown

“Meaning is not necessarily something enormous that will save the world, it is often the little things in every day that connect us to ourselves and our past, present and future.” 

The Langley Group.

Suddenly being home all the time can make you realise how much of your identity and purpose is tied up in work, that’s not necessarily wrong, especially when you consider how much time we spend at work.  It can be a bit panic inducing and even depressing trying to figure out our role in and how we contribute to the world around us in it’s absence. 

Meaning is something that generally people will flourish when they have it and suffer when they don’t.  Researcher Paul Wong writes about having a ‘meaning mindset’ and how it comes from a balanced life, that meaning can be found in many places across all aspects of life.  It could be anything from meeting your basic needs (safety, food, shelter), a hobby/activity, relationships, spirituality, to helping others and much more.

Going into level 4 lockdown was again a challenge to my sense of meaning and purpose, although better than last time around.  I’ve actually been enjoying it but understand that this could be a controversial view point and want to acknowledge that many people are suffering financial hardship amongst other things during lockdown and worse still, some aren’t safe.  My prayers go out to them.

Last lockdown I spent far too much nervous energy trying to react to ever changing news and the unknown, trying to get it right for my family, my finances and wrestling with my natural tendency to rush in and be of use to the greater purpose.  It took me a while to realise that my role was to manage my family, their physical and mental health, that my greatest impact was literally closer to home.  To turn this into as positive an experience for them as I could.  It took about 2-3 weeks to settle into this last time but this time we were there from the start.

My circumstances are are a lot clearer, I cannot work until level 2.  I am home but cannot work from home, my husband is an essential worker and is working as he usually does, based from home.  I have my three primary school aged children at home with me.

For me a lot of the uncertainty has been dispelled, I know how we’ll transition out of lockdown, we’ve done it before. I know my kids will be fine, that my elderly in-laws are well catered for at their home and vaccinated, the patients will be back and we’ll have another surge of busyness that will push on till at least Christmas.  I know that whilst the wage subsidy isn’t what I’d usually take home, our spending will dramatically drop, not running a car, no school or activity expenses for the kids.  True our grocery bills will be higher but our out of house food spending like takeaways will be down

With that level of security and my basic needs met, I could look to the things I missed when we came out of lockdown last year, like spending more time with my children, getting outside more, reading, cooking, studying.  Getting back those long days, not eaten into with commutes, or journeys nipping to the shops for something, unbroken by the school day, the work day and after school activities.  Getting stuff done off that never gets done at the weekend list, playing board games and family movies.  Doing things that fill my cup, things that warm my heart, things that I don’t need to look hard to feel purpose and meaning.

I was grateful for the surreal existence we had compared to the rest of the world once we descended to levels 2 and 1 last year.  Grateful that I could work with relative ease, grateful for my circumstances and lockdown experience compared to others.  But if I seem a little sad when we do return to work it’s because part of me loves the simplicity, self care and prioritising family values that came so easily during lockdown life.

“For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and hour to hour.  What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.”

Victor Frankl