In what feels like a lifetime ago (pre-COVID) I wrote about living life in the gray. Pre-COVID, living and thriving in ambiguity looked quite different. Pre-COVID, the majority of my life wasn’t lived in the gray, so my ability to focus on thriving in the gray was a completely different story. In this COVID world, most things in life are in the gray, so where do we even begin to focus our energy?
There’s no clarity on a timeline for normalcy for our personal lives, my children’s school schedules (help us all), our professional lives, and how we celebrate holidays. Everything seems to leave more questions than answers: are candles on birthday cakes a thing anymore? Do we shake hands? Hug? What’s the office going to look like? When are we going back? And sneezing feels like a huge faux pas with the immediate declaration of “IT’S JUST ALLERGIES!” The number of times I’ve heard the phrase “unprecedented” is unprecedented. I’m faced with the impossible choice every day of balancing my family’s mental and physical health. There’s no right answer, it all just feels impossible. How do we even consider thriving in this time of complete gray, especially as we’re nearing winter, entering a time of literal and figurative gray?
You don’t have to the thrive in this season of gray. Lower the bar (how’s that for inspiration!). The strongest thing you might be able to do today is to fall down and ask for help. In my earlier musings on ambiguity, I said “it’s not necessarily about feeling ‘good’ in the gray or relishing the unknown. It’s accepting the fact that ambiguity is hard and that it’s hard because it’s supposed to be. We are all facing the complete unknown right now in every single area of our lives. It sounds hard because it is hard. You’re not doing it wrong. We’re all figuring this out as we go.
We’re facing the impossible in 2020: incredible injustices in our society, an upcoming election, a global pandemic, wildfires, hurricanes, home school and murder hornets. With the impossible also comes an incredible opportunity that I don’t want to waste. I’ve been asking myself lately, what is on the other side of this, and what do I want to be on the other side of this? I think we have a unique opportunity to shape our new reality, to influence what life looks like. We can identify what was working before and what wasn’t. We can learn the best way to measure our productivity and success, which is different for everyone. You may find that you are using old and irrelevant standards and that it’s time to shake things up. Take inventory and be intentional as we move forward day by day, hour by hour.
In a change management training I attended, I learned about the phases of transition and change. In the middle of a major change or transition there is an incredible amount of confusion, impatience, unknown, but also curiosity and innovation. Key in on that curiosity and innovation. Everything is a possibility because everything we knew before looks, feels, and is very different.
A few things that have helped me navigate these times:
- Gratitude – I’m not great at journaling, but I’m trying. I tell myself I’ll want to read about these times someday! One thing I try to do is write down 3 things I’m grateful for each day. It may be a cup of coffee, a smile, my favorite socks or a joke that makes no sense from my 8 year old.
- Limit your intake of news & social media – No need to learn about the murder hornets as you’re falling asleep.
- Exercise – Endorphins, it’s science.
- Identify the things I can control – There is so much we can’t control, so there is power in naming the things we can. It might be as simple as your meal plan for the week.
- Music – Turn on something fun, it’s a mood changer (and do a little dance. Again, endorphins).
- Do something for someone else – It may be a random act of kindness, write a letter, donate to a cause, or call someone who is isolated.
- Talk to a counselor – Your mental health is as important as your physical health.
- Ask for help – If you’re struggling, reach out and tell someone.
- Boundaries – Set boundaries, the lines between work and home and school are all very blurred, it’s okay (and healthy!) to protect your capacity.
Take heart in the fact that you don’t have to have the answers to what all of this looks like. As scary as this sounds, the answers don’t even exist yet because you are writing them. As much as these long days of COVID feel endless, they’re not. Someone wise once told me during my early parenting years, everything is a stage, it will come to an end and a new stage will begin. We will come through this, and on the other side we’ll come through with new resiliency and strength that we didn’t know possible. Until that day (I will say it louder for the people in the back), take it one day/hour/minute at a time.
Take care of yourself and each other.