Social Isolation and Optimism
This is by far the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever shared professionally. But the world seems particularly vulnerable, open and kind right now; I hope this lands well and offers valuable insight, inspiration and peace for those who are grasping for normalcy in a unique time.
My story of isolation and loss did not begin at the outset of coronavirus. It began in July 2019 and continued throughout the rest of the year in a series of events that produced a heartbreaking upheaval in my life. Save for the fact that my house was still standing, most things I hung my proverbial hat on were gone. The details are less important than the outcomes (I share my insight below) but the events that transpired qualified this time as the darkest of my life.
I lost my typical vivacious and happy nature. I couldn’t interact with friends in the same way. I became severely depressed and lost my appetite (for food and for life). Spending time with others became something I avoided or dreaded. Everything felt like a struggle. I was never more thankful for being a business owner, if only because it afforded me the space to recalibrate how I wanted to show up and be useful in the world.
Ashamed of myself for falling to pieces, I eventually found purpose and solace in accepting my new normal, as I knew it was temporary. The Buddhist concept of anicca, or impermanence, was a support I used each day. I finally found the clarity to ask myself, “When this is all over, what will I wish I would have done?”.
For you it might sound more like:
- What is the money I’m losing buying me right now?
- What is the one thing I’ve been avoiding that I can sit with and work on?
- How can I look back on this time and be happy with how I spent it?
I started writing a book. I slept a lot. I forgave myself for not eating my usual vegan diet and instead enjoyed whatever food I was into at the moment. I spent an inordinate amount of time on myself, which meant I learned a lot about who I was and how I wanted to contribute to the world. I saw some things I didn’t like, I saw some things that surprised me and I rewrote some narratives that had been running the show.
The more I questioned everything (since all was up in the air anyway) the more my entire perspective changed- I accepted this uncomfortable time in my life as an opportunity to reconsider the way I did just about everything.
From the way I scheduled my days to the people I surrounded myself with, it was The Great Reset. It was not, at the time, comfortable. I had little control over events in my life and even less energy. At one point I became so defeated I took a nap on my kitchen floor.
But I would not give up that time in my life for anything.
Here’s what I learned:
- Our strength and resolve is certain to rise to the events that require us to demonstrate it.
- Time and health make nearly everything possible, and without them we have nothing.
- By avoiding uncomfortable, trying times we cheat ourselves out of a critical part of our human experience.
- Nothing grows from easy. Struggle and adversity prompt us to unite, grow and act.
- Reframing “strength” to include humility, vulnerability and compassion, and treating these traits as highly valuable, might be one of the best changes leadership (and humanity) can do for itself.
- While most of us are never truly alone in life, the quality of the relationship we have with ourselves determines every relationship that follows. Knowing who we are today, and the events that have shaped us in the past, allow us to become the greatest version of ourselves tomorrow.
This is not a comfortable time in history, we have to face the fact that it’s quite scary. But I tear up daily when I see the acts of sheer love and comfort we are providing to one another. I hope this never changes.
I hope everyone can take this time to reconsider the way they live. Whether it’s evaluating how you speak to yourself, your consumption of daily food and items, your relationships with your spouse or kids or friends, or simply the way you show up in the world every morning. If we do this right, I truly believe there is so much more to be won than lost.
I had to build recalibrate my business due to COVID-19. I will need serious help with my mortgage. I miss my friends and seeing my clients. I was forced to cancel a trip to see my father who is deeply depressed, currently in the hospital with pneumonia, and in the advancing stages of dementia. It is likely that by the time I am allowed to see him again, he will not know my name. While I started 2020 feeling lighter, making more money, and with more positivity and strength than ever, this second wrench has been a shocking and heartbreaking interruption.
But I refuse to accept that we cannot thrive in the space we’ve been given.
While there is so much loss, I’ve been through enough to know that there is time to gain. Not through pushing productivity upon ourselves, but by asking what “time well spent” means to you.
In a time of crisis, we are told not to panic. “Easier said than done” you might say. True. But it does not change the fact that we are experiencing a strange lack of autonomy over where we go, who we see and how we work. All we can truly control is how we respond. And in how we respond, we know ourselves and each other in the most profound way.
We are not simply who we say we are, we are what we do in these times. How we lead. How we modify the course but remain dedicated to it. How we choose to spend our time. What we learn. Who we take care of.
While I’ve made a career out of challenging the status quo to improve the way we work and live, I’ve made a life out of supporting people through difficult times, helping them to emerge from the other side more positive and victorious than ever. I am not certain of much these days, but I’m certain that this is my purpose.
Our Human Infrastructure — the internal tools we were born with — have never been more important. I look forward to bringing empathy, clarity and meaningful change to what we should have been focused on all along — living and leading from our insides.
We can do this.
You can do this.