We are experiencing the largest global effort to distance ourselves from one another than anyone alive has ever seen. This call to action goes against the very nature of our humanness, which is to gather socially. I know it will be a huge mental and emotional challenge for many people.
My wish for each of us is that we will find, underneath this burden, opportunities.
The light in the dark.
The purpose inside the pain.
The soulful connection despite the physical distancing.
While we are social by nature and seek out activities that bring us together, many of us will be spending a lot more time with our own family members. For some, this will be a welcome break from the hustle of the daily grind. For others, it may prove to be a terribly challenging feat. For us, it is not too big of a pivot since my husband already works from home and we homeschool.
However, I realize this shift has the potential to tax even those who already have good family dynamics, so I can only imagine how hard this time will be for those who were struggling before this quarantine began.
In challenging times, I reach for words and works that offer guidance. When my thoughts won’t stop and I feel this hyper, wheels-spinning energy building up, I go to my shelf or pile of books by my bedside and I grab the ones that I believe will speak to my current mood or the current situation.
Since family systems are being exercised mightily right now, I reached for Stephen R. Covey’s wonderful book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families this weekend. His book is the perfect guide for all families as we embark on living situations that seem more reminiscent of colonial times than our typical face-paced 21st-century one.
Covey’s overarching message is that families who intentionally create a culture of “we” are stronger, healthier, and more resilient when times get tough.
“A beautiful family culture is a “we” culture. It reflects that movement. It’s the kind of culture that enables you to work together to select and move toward a “together” destination and to contribute, to make a difference–in society generally and perhaps to other families in particular. It also enables you to deal with the powerful forces that would throw you off track…”
And boy, have we all been dealt a powerful force that has thrown us off track.
This departure from normal is not ideal. The economic hardship it will cause millions of families and businesses is overwhelming. I can not even comprehend how far-reaching this will be.
What I do know, is that we are in it and we have to make a choice:
Slam shut our eyes and our hearts in an attempt to avoid or disassociate from our collective reality.
Look for the opportunities buried under this burden.
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”-Marcus Aurelius, Meditation
Please understand, I am by no means trying to sugarcoat the very real suffering people are facing. I am not trying to downplay the economic unraveling that is happening before our eyes. Nor am I acting as the self-appointed silver lining cheerleader of this pandemic and suggesting that you not lean into your pain. The worry is real. We all feel it. I am unsettled too.
We don’t know if my husband’s job is protected for the long haul. We have loved ones with pre-existing conditions that could be severely harmed if they contract COVID-19. I have a daughter with Type 1 diabetes who needs daily insulin injections to live. Her body responds differently to illness than those with a normally functioning pancreas and I have NO idea how her body will respond if she contracts this virus. All these unknowns get to me.
That being said, I am also deeply aware that uncertainty is the constant in life, not certainty. I know life can change on a dime. I have experienced it time and time again. I have watched others experience it time and time again.
A crisis doesn’t give you a headstart, it strikes.
Yet we falsely believe that we KNOW what is coming tomorrow because we knew what happened yesterday. Our advanced communication systems, technology, and medical facilities definitely contribute to our feeling of certainty. But we have all watched a weather forecast. Even the most advanced climate data and equipment can still only give us best-guess scenarios. We have all gone to a doctor when we feel unwell only to have him suggest treatment based on his best guess. There are no certainties in any area of life as depressing as that may seem.
The flip side is that we have an inordinate amount of power to respond to a crisis. We are built to withstand challenges, storms, and disasters. We have a magnificent brain and generations of warriors who got us to this point. They did not curl up and submit to their worry and pain. They chose to reevaluate and to retool.
We can do the same. Instead of wallowing in the worry and fear, ask yourself what you can do with all these intense emotions. Set some intentions within your family and for your own life. The opportunity for personal growth while quarantined is unprecedented. A stronger “I” produces a stronger “we”.
I leave you with words from Jordan B. Peterson’s spectacular book on life, chaos, and order. A book I highly recommend during these chaotic times. Here is his take on creating a vision for yourself:
“Don’t underestimate the power of vision and direction. These are irresistible forces, able to transform what might appear to be unconquerable obstacles into traversable pathways and expanding opporunities. Strengthen the individual. Start with yourself. Take care of yourself. Define who you are. Refine your personality. Choose your destination and articulate your Being. As the great nineteenth-century German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche so brilliantly noted, ‘He whose life has a why can bear almost any how.'”Jordan B. Peterson
12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos
Dig in. Our collective spirit needs you.