How are you doing today? One of the many things I’ve learned about how to be with people during this crisis, is to give up ‘How are you?’ and ask a question that expresses more of our empathy and our humanity while giving people the space to say what’s really going on. “How are you doing today?” does that.
I’ve been asking a lot of people what the experience of this time is for them. We might all be interconnected and “in this together” but these times are accelerating and intensifying the inequities in our world that we live with. Just yesterday I saw a magazine cover with the header Rich Corona Poor Corona – who lives, who dies and who thrives. That captured it.
As I continue to ask others, I keep thinking about what I’m learning. It’s an immense question to consider as life’s restrictions continue without reprieve and has a bigger answer than the space available in this blog post. Yet, when I look at my own experience of this time with the advantages I have, I began to notice that there have been four stages to my personal experience of this time, so far. Viewing your experience in stages is a simple way of looking at a block of time. I encourage you to have a look to see if you can define stages, and if so, what they’ve been. Here have been mine to date:
I found this time a little scary but mostly stimulating. I was staying in, signing up for all sorts of webinars for professional development and personal interest. I created a handbook for living and leading in uncertain times which I shared widely. It was early days and I wanted to be helpful.
I became sick of staying on zoom calls and I couldn’t focus. I feared that I wouldn’t have the concentration to read a book. So I joined a virtual book club as a test and the temporary community offered both comfort and excitement.
A friend lost both his parents to COVID and everything went dark.
I worked hard to regain my focus and recognized that I couldn’t wait until my motivation returned so that my habits would continue. I had to re-imagine all the ones I worked hard to design and do. It took some time to reimagine new designs for eating and exercising and even working in this new world.
I enrolled in an online learning program and my creative juices are flowing again to create new materials, read, write and learn. My multiple groups, some I’ve been a part of for years and some just newly formed have helped me stay connected to myself and to others. I’m astounded that I am as creatively productive as I have been. It’s also true that there are dips in my energy.
Naturally, there have been sad and worrying moments, but for me, getting out into nature has been a standout experience I will bring with me into the future when this is behind us.
The day before yesterday, I became aware of the paradox of nature once more. There was comfort, it was peaceful, still and static and it was also filled with change and dynamism. How I viewed the natural surroundings felt familiar, but there was something foreign and odd about it.
We walked slowly and thoughtfully through cornfields, and then along the shores by a creek with brook trout. We sat by the shoreline to eat the lunch fixings we had brought with us. We were careful to taste our food, not just eat it because food is now an ordeal to procure. “Savour it”, I remember reminding myself.
When we were in the forest I felt as though I had entered into a universe. I noticed and then said aloud that I was appreciating the small wonders around us. The sounds of the Canadian geese that flew by close enough to see their markings, the mischievous burdock that grabbed hold on our socks, and the sounds and sightings of a butterfly with dark tips on the edges of its wings that revisited many times. When I returned home, I reviewed my photos and thought about what John Muir said at a different time:
“The clearest ways into the universe is through a forest wilderness.”
I’d had trouble with focus in this pandemic but I knew that the hard part was behind me. There was and will always be the forest that makes adventure and calm available.
Photo credit: Sheila Goldgrab