“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”
~ Viktor Frankl, holocaust survivor and author of “Man’s Search for Meaning”
It’s pretty clear – the world is in panic mode.
Here in the U.S. we’re experiencing something we’ve never seen before in our lifetime: empty grocery store shelves.
When Dush and I do our weekly grocery shopping these days, we’re constantly on the phone with one another asking if one of us can find an item at Whole Foods or if the other person can find it at Safeway.
If neither of us can find it, then we’re off to search other locations – Natural Grocers, Lucky’s Market, Walgreens, etc.
The other thing that’s clear is that our emotions are running high.
Like, DAMN high.
I use the neighborhood app, NextDoor, to stay apprised of what’s going on in our neighborhood here in Boulder, CO.
Under normal circumstances, the conversations are usually about lost pets, recommendations for one thing or another, or help with random tasks like snow-shoveling.
Now, the conversations are all about COVID-19…and while there are some positive strings (like supporting local restaurants that are offering take-out)…I’ve seen WAY too many posts ranting about social distancing and blaming people for not doing enough.
(I’m not saying social distancing isn’t important – it IS! It’s the way people are choosing to communicate that message that I’m using as an example of our heightened emotions. One message I read started off with the subject line, “I feel very sad to feel the need to write this to an EXTREMELY educated community!” and then went on to say things like, “…it appears to me, you have no respect for one another” and “…don’t be selfish”.)
I’ve also experienced people responding in an abnormally sensitive way to written communication (a note to be especially mindful of tone when you write – misinterpretations run rampant when people are under stress), and we’ve all seen videos of people fighting in grocery stores over short supplies, like toilet paper.
The point is this:
We’re bathing in a cesspool of stressful energy right now, and many of us are experiencing personal stress in one form or another…
…whether it’s a lost job…business revenue falling off a cliff…health issues…concern for loved ones…figuring out child care and homeschooling…or just the stress of worrying about potential health and financial suffering in the near future.
Add to that, the feeling that we “should be” doing something productive now that we have this extra time on our hands.
We “should be” doing that deep clean on the house. We “should be” working out everyday. We “should be” meditating everyday. We “should be” pivoting our business FAST or looking for a new job NOW.
It’s not that these are bad ideas…
…it’s that the emotion behind them is based in fear, anxiety, scarcity, and not-enoughness (e.g. “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not doing enough”, “I’m not productive enough” etc.).
And rarely, if ever, do actions driven by those emotions end in good results.
So here’s what I’m inviting you to try today.
Before you dive into your “should do” list (which might very well be needed at some point)…and before you get carried away by stress…
…ask yourself this question:
“What if it’s ok?”
“It”, in this case, can refer to anything.
…”What if it’s ok that I lost my job?”
…”What if it’s ok that I want to rest and relax instead of being productive?”
…”What if it’s ok that my business revenue has dropped by 70% in the last 2 weeks?”
…”What if it’s ok that I’m worried?”
…”What if it’s ok that I’m sick?”
….”What if it’s ok that I’m angry?”
…”What if it’s ok that I don’t know what my next move is?”
…”What if it’s ok to read, watch movies, and nap instead of workout or deep clean the house?”
…”What if it’s ok that I lost my patience with my kids?”
Some or all of these questions might sound completely foreign to you.
They might even sound completely batshit crazy…
…especially if you truly are in a serious financial crunch or your house smells like wet dog…you’ve gained 10 lbs…and you could build a child’s playhouse (quite spacious, in fact) with all the leftover pizza boxes that have piled up on top of your garbage can.
I’m not suggesting you can use the question, “What if it’s ok?” as an excuse to stop adulting.
Nor am I saying that everything really is ok and it’s all in your head.
I’m just saying that maybe you don’t have to “adult” right now.
And, maybe we can give ourselves permission to explore the possibility that things *might* be ok…
…just as we give ourselves LOADS of leeway to “explore the possibility” (i.e. determine with 100% certainty) that things won’t be ok.
Notice the bolded words, “explore the possibility”.
That’s all I’m asking.
I’m not asking you to believe that things will be ok or to minimize the reality of what you’re facing.
Just get curious and ask yourself the question as if you were researching any other topic.
For most of us, our brains automatically do a deep dive into the “research” of things not being ok.
Try giving equal consideration to the other side.
If you truly give yourself time to ponder this question (maybe even write out your answer), here are a few things you might find:
- Things are better than you thought. (Maybe not great…but maybe you won’t be standing on the corner with a cardboard sign tomorrow, like your brain said you would be.)
- You actually do have ideas on what to do next.
- Making it ok to feel emotions like anger, worry, and fear actually reduces their size and sharpness.
- You’re actually still a good mom.
- You’re strong enough to sit in the discomfort of not knowing the future and be ok.
- You really do have a lot to be thankful for.
- You don’t have to figure this out right now. You can let yourself just breathe and take a beat.
- Your thoughts and fear about your situation are worse than the actual situation.
- There’s a piece of you that’s a little relieved to not have to deal with that job or that client anymore.
- New possibilities and adventures await you.
- The future that awaits you might just be better than the past you’re afraid of losing.
Here’s the thing about this exercise – it won’t change the facts of your situation; but it might just change your perspective on it.
And since your perspective is your reality, the facts don’t have to change for the situation to get better.
Above all else, what I most hope you discover through this process is that treating yourself with love, compassion, and empathy actually feels really good and you should do it more often.