The most dreadful times you face
are the only opportunities you will ever get
to prove to yourself
exactly what you’re made of.
J. Warren Welch
I never let kids title things, "Untitled." There is always a better descriptor out there, something to let us know what is coming, plus it feels like a cop-out. But this week? Yah, this is untitled.
There’s only one thing to write about.
It’s all that we talk about. Think about.
Live our lives around.
And it has only been a week and a half, really, since things started to change. Remember when hockey just up and stopped?? Yah, it feels like sooooo much longer.
Like everyone else, we are self-isolating at our house. For those that don’t know me personally, we are fortunate to live on 40 acres of forest in between Pike Lake and Delisle. With both of our children at university this fall, I’ve written a lot about empty-nesting, so self-isolation isn’t that much of a change for me. I talk to my cats, hang laundry out on the line, split wood, go for a run on the grid roads that don’t have loose dogs, and sit by the fire and read a lot. I literally have nothing to complain about. The only real social interactions I have are with my colleagues and my school ‘kids.’ Volleyball, my yearbook duo, handbells, the super-chatty 7s and my go-getter 8s. And I can tell you, I’m already missing that A LOT.
To people with a busy social schedule, that probably sounds like a sad existence. But as someone who is an extroverted-introvert, it’s the perfect mix. I can relax and be myself with my students at work, and then relax and not be with people outside of work lol.
But this is different.
I tend to be an overthinker at the best of times, so a global pandemic can throw that into hyperdrive. And without bemoaning how I am handling the fact that our daughter has chosen to stay with her bf in the thick of the infection in Calgary, I’ll just say that it has not been easy.
As my son said, “Mom, we’re worriers.” Yep. Although thankfully he packed up and came home this week, as I’d be substantially more worried if it was him still there.
I know everyone has to find what works for them, but there’s two things that I have tried to do to manage feeling overwhelmed.
First, I’ve been alternating a couch-day (with no expectations of even moving), with a day to get something done (even if it’s something simple like doing loads of wash.) When the province gave educators a week to “pause” it was the best possible idea. This ‘new normal’ is going to be THE normal for a long time, and that has taken a huge mental adjustment. I still catch myself thinking about going to work, or thinking about something for a class, and realize that won’t happen…or at least not the way it was before…AND FOR A FEW MINUTES I JUST CAN’T FATHOM IT. I envision that one part of my brain is arguing with the other side, like the little angel and devil on the shoulders of cartoon characters growing up. Eventually it sorts itself out, and I focus back on what I was doing.
Which is the second thing I have been doing to feel less overwhelmed: thinking at a micro level. It was a few years ago when someone first mentioned the phrase “micro-ambitious” to me, and I loved it. What are small, tangible things that I can be doing to manage my own anxieties and fears at this time? But even more so, in this period of social-isolation when everyone is feeling stressed, what can I be doing to reach out to help others?
Recently, I had read a short article by Bill Taylor called, “Great Leaders Understand Why Small Gestures Matter.”
What if we took just a moment to think a little smaller, to act a lot more humbly, to elevate the person-to-person interactions that lead to more meaningful relationships? Sure, successful companies and leaders think differently from everyone else. But they also care more than everyone else—about customers, about colleagues, about how the whole organization conducts itself when there are so many opportunities to cut corners and compromise on values. In a world being utterly reshaped (and often disfigured) by technology, people are hungrier than ever for a deeper and more authentic sense of humanity.
The last week and a half have really shown which companies and leaders care.
And which ones don’t.
By looking at snapshots from around the world on Twitter, if nothing else, this pandemic has forced people to simplify, stop and look around, and reach out to their neighbors. Whether it was singing from balconies in Italy, people coming out in Toronto to celebrate a little boy’s birthday as he rode his bike down the middle of the street, or 7pm nightly clapping in Vancouver to honor health care providers everywhere.
As the spread of the virus lays bare, something doesn’t have to be big to make a giant impact.
But it can be a positive too: “Small gestures…can send big signals about who we are, what we care about, and why we do what we do.”
This is the first post about our new normal, and it won’t be the last. Remembering that it is a marathon and not a sprint is a good way to remind ourselves to slow down, pause, and in small ways find the positives in each day we spend alone, but together.
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