Let me first be clear… this is not a blog about how to survive a pandemic, battle social injustice or tolerate an ugly presidential election. I am not an expert at ANY of those things. I have struggled with each of those, like many of you reading this.
This IS a post about embracing your humanity in all its messy forms something that I have come to be well-worn in the last 3 decades of my life.
Like many of you I have felt beyond fatigued with the majority this year has had to offer.
In a rare moment of lucidity amid e-learning with two elementary school kids, trying to scale our consulting work and preparing for a second marriage, I wanted to share my thoughts in the hopes that:
- You realize you are not alone in your struggles
- Give you some semblance of hope for the future.
Like many of you, I have begun to hate the word “pivot” – and I certainly don’t want to hear any more about the “new normal.” Honestly, I feel like I’ve pivoted so much that I’m dizzy and NONE of this feels normal. My inner dialogue daily (sometimes hourly) sounds like the Garmin of yore (by yore I mean early 90s): “Recalculating.” Perhaps you can relate.
So when is it over? Where do we find hope? What can we do? Simply put: we don’t know (yet), I’m not quite sure (most days), and change our attitude (easier said then done).
The worst may not be over.
I’ll apologize for this sentiment in advance because I don’t want to hear it, either, much less say it. But we just don’t know what the future holds. In truth, we never have – we just made up a narrative that allowed us to make us think we did.
In fact, there’s research that supports this. This theory – called the Stockdale Paradox – says that those avoid confronting the most brutal facts of your current reality often don’t survive. In other words, one cannot simply survive on optimism or faith alone. We have to acknowledge that this is hard – otherwise, known as Embracing the Suck.
What realities have you been avoiding? How might your feelings & fears be magnified by doing so? What is one small change you could make to acknowledge the difficulty of the presence?
We can do the hard things.
I have a colleague and friend who said to me at the beginning of the school year that for e-learning they could do anything for 180 days (i.e. they could e-learn with their children for the entire school year if they had to). It became my mantra for surviving those tough “teacher” days with those “awful” students – i.e. my own children.
A few months in, this parent sent their children back to school. Does that mean they failed? Absolutely not. Does that mean I’m a better parent for sticking it out? Absolutely not. We both had to make hard decisions and do hard things. Whether or not you’re a parent, you’ve probably done the same this year.
What things were you able to do, see or accomplish this year that felt difficult? Looking back on these things, what do perceive about your resilience and courage? How might your future leadership be impacted by acknowledging these hardships?
Simple joys less judgement.
I’m not going to judge you if you watched Tiger King this year. I hope you won’t judge me for watching all the old-timey crime series I can find or Disney cartoons when the kids are asleep. So many of us were looking for these simple joys this year – something, ANYTHING that would take us away from this current reality; if only for 30 minutes at a time.
That doesn’t make us trashy or “less than” because we enjoy(ed) watching shows that helped us forget about life for awhile. It simply means we were exercising our right to utilize coping mechanisms to get through the shock and difficulties this year brought us.
What were the simple joys that helped you cope with the stresses and anxieties of 2020? What of those do you want to continue in the New Year?
We rise, we fall, we survive… together.
We don’t need an election or social inequities to tear us apart. As things get more difficult, we’re genetically more likely to move into judgment and only surrounding ourselves with others who look, think, and feel like us. While we are hardwired for connection, we ALSO are hardwired in times of some crises to runway (read: fight/flight).
But we’re also wired for connection. We even prefer suffering together rather than suffering alone. Whatever we’re doing we are better together – even if we don’t feel fit for human consumption. Yes, solitude can be a good thing, but loneliness can be deadly.
What opportunities for connection have you newly begun in 2020? When do you find you most need connection – or solitude? Think of a time you relied on another person to help – what fears or feelings did you have to face to do so?