A Year of Stillness: How Reflection Can Inspire Action
To be honest, it feels a little trite to be writing about life during the pandemic. First of all, it’s still very much with us (even though it’s true that we’re in a new phase, a new era of coping with the virus), and second, it’s so clear to me that individual experiences during the unprecedented 18 months we’ve just had are so based on circumstance…where you live, what your occupation is, what your financial situation is or your child care or elderly parent care needs.
Even as I acknowledge all of that, I also believe in championing our own successes and learning from our own experiences, so I thought I’d share my own reflections as I consider my journey to enduring success within the context of these challenging times. It’s my hope that through reflection, through telling my own story, and through providing tools to help you on your own journey that I can spark a little something in you. A spark of action or of hope or compassion. Thanks for growing with me as I build this platform, and thank you for your continued support. I have been so inspired by all of you.
The circumstance that I found myself in during this COVID-laced time period has much to do (perhaps all to do) with the five critical choices I made on my journey to enduring success. Those choices fueled (or helped form) the relationships that, unknowingly, would support me, guide me and lift me up through this crazy, unexpected hit to our families, our communities, and ourselves. I had no idea when I created these relationships that years later the world would be hit with a pandemic that forced school closings, immediate halting of all travel, no social physical connections—and with that, create fear, confusion, discord, job loss, loneliness, and a hit to our health and well-being. I didn’t prepare for this, specifically, but I was prepared.
Relationship with Community
I had deliberately created community here in Canton—for my kids, for me, and for my husband, Joe—knowing that I wanted safety, shared identity and belonging. We had our “pod” created before we ever knew we needed such a thing! I made this choice eight years ago when we moved from Chicago to Canton where I began, nurtured and strengthened my community here.
The steps on my journey to enduring success were generative; each step building on the previous one until I trusted myself and inspired enough trust in those around me to reach my enduring success: to embrace the boundless capacity to love and be loved.
Many years ago, my sister promised to take me away from my abusive father. What she was able to do, in fact, was to take me away from my hopelessness and desire to die.
In the slight exhale before her words form, resolve overtakes defeat, “I promise you, my little sister, one day, I will take you away forever.”
The promise she made to me all those years ago, was so much more than a geographical distance from my dad. She promised to give me a chance to live.
In 1994, I made my first choice: to give myself a chance to change and to thrive. This choice set up my second choice: a two-way agreement between myself and my sister. I learned that ordinary actions that start from duty can transform into efforts of joy. I found joy in the ordinary.
Inspired by this two-way agreement from so long ago and the resulting trust that I was able to build with those around me, I intentionally amplified the strength of many relationships within my community as the reality of the pandemic struck. A brief anecdote: one close friend had completely different COVID comfort levels than I did. In fact, we were pretty much on opposite ends of the spectrum with our comfort level and boundaries. We went from spending much of our free time together (with the kids playing together) to not seeing each other at all for months. It was difficult and sad. But we both chose to respect one another and our friendship and trusted that our friendship would prevail.
Our actions and words of respect and love about one another and to one another were apparent to our kids: they saw how we handled the stress and discomfort of this new, totally unexpected jolt to our once-effortless friendship. We did what any trust-based relationship would do: we spoke to each other candidly and honestly and with love. Though our boundaries and comfort levels were wildly different, we actually became closer throughout this whole era. It is beautiful and amazing to think that two people, with totally opposite views and boundaries and experiences with COVID could become closer. It’s because we chose to make it that way.
Relationship with My Spouse
As it turns out, I married the person I would want to be stuck in a house with, both working from home and homeschooling two kids! Ha! I flew back from work in San Diego on March 12, 2020, expecting to leave again three days later and didn’t get on another plane for a year and a half. On March 13, 2020, everything shut down, and Joe and I were hit with our new and totally unexpected reality…being together, all day, every day, with work and homeschooling. We definitely got on each other’s nerves, argued or kept to ourselves for entire days, but the fundamentals of a strong, unwavering partnership had been built and cultivated through the years. I never questioned our stability.
What did surprise me is that I began to fall in love with Joe more. Like seriously, the act of falling in love! Joe’s humor, care towards others, fun, industriousness and intellectual debates enveloped me and carried me away into learning about him all over again.
But with this deeper feeling of love came a choice: embrace it all by giving all my love (which required being vulnerable, which I don’t like) or temper it and withhold. Withholding didn’t mean to stop loving, no. It meant to not give Joe all the love I was feeling. It is absolutely a choice, to give and receive love, and when the choice presents itself, I often feel trepidation or fear about the outcome. But each time I make the choice, I feel my enduring success. So during the pandemic, I did choose to give him all of my love regardless of his response back.
We’ve been back to our ‘new normal’ now for a while. He goes into the office a few days a week, kids are back full time at school, and I get to hop on a plane to be with clients in person. But the closeness and affection I felt for him during our shelter-in-place months carry on. And on the days or moments when the chaos of raising kids or the stress of work or the world begins to mount, I know that I will choose to give Joe all my love, forever. I can’t imagine a more meaningful outcome from this craziness.
Relationship with Myself
My relationship with myself is the one I have to check myself on the most. I can, like most moms I bet, get sucked into the neverending juggle of my career and motherhood. Pre-COVID, I had built-in boundaries because traveling gave me the ME TIME I needed to get a jump start on work assignments, or nail my workout every day, or nurture my work friends or decompress with a book on a long flight. I had the physical space and the mental space away from being a mom and I need that.
But when the pandemic hit things shifted overnight and I was home all of the time and completely focused on my kids and work–and no just me time.
At first I was excited to be home without all the travel. I was making up for all the years of not being home enough. I got to make breakfast for Lilly and Sam every day. We had family dinners together each night; and when activities started up again, I took Lilly and Sam to the stable, soccer, or baseball. I am so grateful for the shift. But I soon realized the pendulum had drastically swung from one side to the other. I had to create some balance-boundaries to nurture my relationship with me. Because, really, choosing to give all my love, includes giving it to myself.
An important place for me to start was resetting my physical health. During this non-travel or not-much-travel era, I noticed I had less energy and motivation to workout. It was like the more time I had, the less motivated I became. And quickly, I lost the mental benefits of making my workout time a priority. It became a chore, a “have to” and when I didn’t…a reason to beat myself up all day. This forced me to create (to choose) a new relationship with working out. As soon as I chose to commit to a new daily workout routine (at home in the basement or running), I bounced back to my positive mental state.
Next, I chose to add ON a healthy habit—eating healthier. Like many of the new things I choose to do, I chunked “eating healthier” down to a bite-size commitment and made small, good decisions each day that built upon each other. Simply tracking my macronutrients (without making any changes to what I was eating) was a great first, small step to me adding new, healthier habits into my new home routine. In other words, I re-created my relationship with food. Instead of it being something that I had to grab on the go, or based on the social dynamic of a business dinner with wine, or running to the airport, it has become a relationship based on how I want to feel today and what will fuel me and assist me in feeling strong.
2022: Year of Action and New Commitments to Ourselves
So, if you’re like me and feeling inspired by all of the messiness of the COVID era to take some action, I hope that I can help inspire your own journey.
Over the course of the past year, I’ve put together 3 downloadable tools with the goal of providing a framework from which your own journey can take form. I’ve linked the downloadable tools below. Take a look, and let me know what you think. I can’t wait to hear your stories!
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