Oh, this quarantine time is a long, long road.
We're all going through our own version of it: management teams, organizational leaders, job seekers, parents, partners, sons and daughters, friends, humans. The days are monotonous, the path is unclear and we are tired.
Like you, even though I'm living it, I can’t fathom it: My kids go to school in their bedrooms. One tank of gas lasts all month. Friends and neighbors won't be coming in and out of our house throughout the holidays. My neighborhood newsletter includes directions on how to 'plant candy on a stick' as an alternative to classic trick-or-treating. It's enough to... well, it's enough.
But because I don’t want to go through (what is it? two, three, six?) more months of dragging my feet, I have to take a few moments to get my head together. There must be a way to navigate. That's when I remember:
The Answer is Almost Always Connection.
What’s that saying about putting on your own oxygen mask first?
First, connect to the real feelings. I'm all in for a healthy wallow, and I’m not alone in recognizing the value of truly experiencing your emotions. Repeatedly reciting: "I'm doing great, all things considered", and tamping down what's happening for you internally doesn't serve you as much as allowing your own felt experience can. I'll sit with a friend or the dog or journal or eat a fair amount of chocolate and popcorn (sometimes together) or take quiet walk with the family. Occasionally I stomp around the kitchen, muttering. The feelings are there, and they will emerge eventually anyhow. Try to let yourself feel the confusion or disappointment for a bit, and notice how this act softens the edges just enough to take another step forward.
Then, move to connecting with others.
Make one simple outreach to someone who makes you feel good. As the great Parker Palmer writes, what we’re going through (work challenges, health challenges, parenting challenges) is deeply personal, but it doesn’t have to be private. Humans heal and grow in community. Is it a little more of a challenge now? Yes. Does that make it impossible to connect? No. I’ve fallen back in love with making a phone call in my backyard, and even the group texts with my college friends, my bookclub and the fencing moms bring me companionship when I need it. Not feeling like your old social self? Try this...
Build connection by lending a hand.
Give something – ideally your time – to support someone else. Evidence abounds that giving boosts our sense of social connection and well-being when done healthfully, and we could all use a dose of that. Extending a hand, or an ear, or time to someone who needs it may feel small but it can be so impactful. The stories of goodness are everywhere; my friends are driving neighbors to vote, mentoring colleagues, and teaching art to kindergartners over Zoom for free. For me, giving has meant donating time to my alma mater to support young women graduating this year, and reconnecting with a former boss to thank him for how much I still reflect on the lessons he taught me. (If you need a story of someone who converted his few small steps into massive action to inspire you, check out a former student who left private equity to fight systemic racial inequity through financial education.)
And here’s a little something extra: The way you support others during this time as a form of connection, that intuitive service, that expertise you offer? That thing you do that people call you for when they’re feeling a little worn down and in need of a boost? That’s a lovely piece of evidence about what you’re great at, a part of what your value is to the world, work- or otherwise. Note that down, I am sure it will come up again.