The 2020 pandemic has thrown all of us into uncharted waters, in terms of uncertainly and an experience that is, from a contemporary standpoint, unparalleled. This is not the first time our society has been subject to this phenomenon; the 1918 Spanish Flu is most often cited as an analogous event, although we’re still in the first wave of this particular crisis. In addition to the obvious concerns associated with a large scale public health event there are the associated implications of practical matters, both during the crisis and in its aftermath. We are all uneasy about our daily micro losses that can quickly add up to major losses. What is the way forward, that will not only mitigate the health crisis, but also mitigate the octopus which has wrapped its tentacles around us, each tentacle carrying a unique, yet often shared consequence of our circumstances?
Despite being an optimistic, proactive person this experience has, for lack of a better term, knocked me for a loop. The insidious, nebulous nature of the virus, the isolation that is a necessary sacrifice until we can mitigate the spread, the fact that my job is now in a precarious position, just as is the case for so many others… this event has assaulted every level of security we humans need, to feel safe.
As I have expressed my daily feelings, so many friends have rallied around to offer words of encouragement, even as they are undoubtedly dealing with the same issues. I am so grateful for people who are steeped in compassion and willing to meet me where I am. I always strive to do the same… it’s such an important gift.
Several friends have mentioned that reinvention is going to be the key to moving forward. I have always taught my students that the ability to adapt is critical for success. In fact, adaptability is probably the chief trait that allows people so succeed, despite external environment.
As they’ve mentioned reinvention, they’ve also correctly observed that I have embraced reinvention over the course of my life, running towards experiences that would help me grow, evolve, become an expanded version of myself. I do think reinvention is both exciting and necessary because at its very foundation it is about growth. Personally, I have always operated from two basic ideas: My values are unchanging but the way I express them and move about in the world, to manifest those values… that’s always open to anything from a minor tweak to a full-blown life change. So why is the idea of reinvention so scary right now?
The first thirty five years of my life, reinvention was an undertaking couched in potential and excitement. The spiritual context for each reinvention was moving toward my higher self, as well as making contributions that would help others. The former was based on an inner drive to cultivate my maximum potential and the latter was rooted in my passion to make the world better for every walk of life.
The last ten years, reinvention has been a little heavier. My personal circumstances have been unsettling. I have dealt with the aftermath of family catastrophic illness and death, divorce, financial setbacks due to each of those occurrences, the post-Great Recession economy, my own health issues… and while I have a tremendous set of friends, each of whom I love dearly… I have no family. It is scary, being without a family. It just is.
Meanwhile, my desire to contribute and make the world a better place has not waned, in the slightest. I derive my greatest joy in life from helping others. One of the most painful aspects of my own struggles has been a reduced ability to do everything I’d like to do, to give others a helping hand. That’s painful for me, to see anyone unduly challenged, and I’m limited in my ability to assist. I was always the one who had resources to help anyone in any way.
So… reinvention. There comes a point where one grows weary and it feels impossible. It feels like the energy has suddenly become a finite resource, both emotionally and physically. This is when the spiritual/soul resources must be called upon.
There is a massive call for reinvention right now and none of us knows what it will ultimately look like. We each have to approach it alone, but we also are called to approach it collectively, as part of a connected, universal family. The sacred assignment often involves, as Dr. Martin Luther King once said, a faith that “Takes the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” How do we do this when we’re already tired?
Taking off the pressure and allowing each day to unfold is the first step. Especially in this time, our routines were thrown off so completely and abruptly, we’re all left disoriented. We are programmed to be productive… okay, let me own that, I am programmed to be productive. Operating in such an uncertain environment is beyond uncomfortable. Yet, surrendering to faith over fear… or meditation… or music therapy… whatever grounds us… allows for flow.
Accountability is a recommended step toward creating a new way of being and it is important. As I process everything I am finding that the highest form of accountability right now is a commitment to honoring my feelings yet finding ways to work through any anxiety, fear or trepidation. They’re normal right now. They are not something to ignore, criticize or minimize. They are to be gently acknowledged, then channeled into something constructive… in that moment. They will probably return. That’s okay; rinse and repeat. It’s also vital to recognize that compounded anxiety and fear have a thousand different faces right now. Sometimes, we’re even afraid of the fear itself… we think if we allow ourselves to go there… we’ll stay there. We won’t… because everything changes. That’s the only given.
Gratitude is the third thing that is so important, as we ground ourselves in preparation for a reinvention. If I can make someone’s day better… I’m grateful. If someone pays me the smallest kindness… I am grateful. Gratitude is a spiritual practice that dwells in the heart with joy and unconditional love as its companions.
I am apprehensive about the prospect of having to reinvent myself… again. It is coming… I know it. Yes, it is part of my sacred assignment… and some have encouraged me that while it is a bleak existence right now, the best is probably yet to come. My nature is to believe this… my sacred assignment is to embrace it.