What The Pandemic Is Taking Away (Hint: It’s Not All Bad)
One: The Pandemic Is Clarifying
I don’t think it’s too early to begin thinking about what structures are collapsing in our lives during the pandemic.
To be clear, I’m not just talking about the direct losses caused by the actual physical struggle with the virus. People are dying, or not dying but facing months of healing ahead of them, their families are affected by their absence or by the monumental task of living without them or helping to shoulder the load.
Neither am I speaking about income insecurity in an economy that cannot function while we must stay safely indoors. Or the loss of so many women from the workforce as children and family members must be cared for.
All of that would be abrupt and game-changing on its own. But at the same time there are other more subtle shifts happening in all of us even if we’re not as directly affected by the virus.
I’m speaking to the fundamental realizations about who we are, what we cannot tolerate anymore, and what must change in ourselves and in our lives going forward.
We are being shaped by this time in our civilization. As deeply devastating as loss can be, it can also be very clarifying. Some of us will shed limitations born of ignorance, illusions, and the unconscious patterns of a lifetime.
Life has a way of renewing itself through what it takes away. We become known to ourselves and others in new ways. We emerge with different priorities.
We’re no longer willing to postpone: being kinder to ourselves. Getting good sleep. Making our goals and dreams a priority. Learning to see the world through someone else’s experience. Being generous. Having better boundaries.
What have you realized about yourself during your social isolation? How is your daily life being shaped by new thoughts and decisions?
Two: The Pandemic Will Open Your Heart
Suffering is universal. It’s one of the common denominators of our human experience. Right now there’s definitely enough suffering to go around, especially during this pandemic when every single human being is struggling with all of the same stuff we were before, plus another layer (or two, or three) of difficulty.
The pandemic is casting a spotlight on suffering, especially on the inequality and privilege that has grown deeper roots into our society. If we generally believe we are entitled not to suffer, and that life should be smooth, we are more likely to blame others for their own suffering and miss the lessons our own can teach us.
Suffering can wake us up to others’ lived experience. It can shake us from our complacency. It can give us a chance to re-evaluate what our values are, and what is deep in our hearts that wants expression. Suffering can show us how resilient we are, how capable of generosity, how connected we are to the entirety of life.
Your own suffering, lifted away from comparison, can inspire you to reach out and help others anyway. Simply because it is the humane option.
You cannot solve the entirety of the world’s problems and it will only harm you to try. However, you are responsible for stretching your capacity for understanding another’s lived experience. No matter how little or how big another person’s problems seem in relation to yours, your job is to leave them in better shape than when you met them if you can.
During the pandemic, are you surprised by anything happening in your daily life that feels like a gift or an opportunity? Don’t force yourself to be cheerful during a challenge that’s stretching you, but do claim your good. This is hard work. Making the best of a difficult situation is strength. Yet nothing that exists, no person or situation or event, is all good or all bad.
What is being allowed to take root and grow in the wake of the losses unfolding from the pandemic? Is there anything that you are definitely going to do differently going forward?
Three: Do What You Can, No More And No Less
“He who saves one life saves the world entire” is a Talmudic saying. It means you are responsible for transforming as much of your own limitations as you possibly can while you travel on this earth, so you can be of service to others. How much service you want to be is entirely up to you. Initially, you will encounter deep levels of resistance within yourself when you observe someone who struggles more or less than you. Your job is to remove the suffering away from comparison and convert it into compassion. Only then will you be able to see how to truly help.
It will not be easy and it won’t feel good. Your own struggle, which seems desperate to you, might appear to others as luxury problems. Or vice-versa.
It doesn’t matter who wins this game.
You cannot take any of your privilege, or your luxury, or your possessions with you.
You also cannot earn a spot in heaven by living in a hair shirt.
What one thing can you do differently today, so that when the Universe puts you in a position where you can make a difference, you’re ready to say, “yes”?
Four: What’s Left In The Wake Of Loss
Great difficulty brings it all up to the surface, Friends. But not everything that rises from the dark is destructive.
There are seeds that cannot sprout unless their casings are burned off. Flowers that cannot bloom unless their roots freeze every winter. Succulents that propagate from their detached leaves that once dead, grow roots.
The paradox of this pandemic is how the chaos and loss brought by it are linked to the rebirth of the best of humanity. The most awful parts of humanity are constantly highlighted in broad display, but these same horrifying examples will yet yield. Some days you will have to look hard to see it, but inspiration is erupting everywhere, clarifying what we must do to honor our common humanity. You will hear the stories and add your own.
So while it might seem ridiculous to pause and contemplate the ways in which this grounding has been good, there is already evidence of it. Our course is being righted. The unnecessary is being shed.
Above all, we understand now more than ever what is precious, who is important, and what we cannot abide anymore.
Do we dare claim the peace we may have found? It’s still very early days, but yes. We need to.
If you have the ability and the circumstances that allow for a pause, now would be a good time to take stock of how you are already changed.
What’s different in you now?
Five: No More Heels
A couple of weeks ago in my social feed, a friend from high school posted that she was clearing out ALL of her high heels. They were officially up for grabs, so who wanted ‘em?
She was tired of how painful they were. She was tired of looking at them taking space in her closet knowing she was never going to wear any of them ever again.
Lines are being drawn, Friends. The pandemic has pushed us beyond our limits. It’s clarifying, illuminating. We now use so much energy for coping with the changing realities of our lives that we don’t have much left over to tolerate the intolerable.
I’m hearing from many of my clients about their emerging No More’s: “I’m done with my long commute”. “I’m never working in an office again”. “I cannot stand not having a dog one more day”. “I’m tired of waiting for the perfect time to write my mystery novel”. “I’m proposing”. “I’m moving out”. “I refuse to be silent about the racist behavior of people around me”.
We can’t stand to be physically uncomfortable anymore. We can’t stand to put on masks every day, some emotional, some physical.
We’re tired, we’re stressed, we’re worried. Uncertainty and sadness are too much some days. It’s all pushing us to be more honest, kinder, more interested in the big picture. This pandemic is demanding transformation, and we are changing.
Working from home for months in our Zoom mullets (presentable on top, sweats, shorts or pj’s below the camera) has now made it impossible to stuff ourselves into clothes we don’t love: No more button pants, no more clothes that itch, no more shoes that pinch. We crave authenticity now more than ever. We look the way we look, and we love it.
I think it’s beautiful. For my part, I will neither confirm nor deny that I have ditched most of my old undies for so many! Pairs of a new brand that is so exquisitely comfortable, in theory I may never have to buy panties again.
What are your No More’s?
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