Here in upstate New York, we’re coming to the end of our fourth week in lockdown.
What I’ve learned so far is
But more than anything else, I’ve come back again and again and again to gratitude. And to compassion.
These practices are the bedrock of my resilience.
Gratitude for my family, my community. For where we live. For enough food. For shelter. For being safe at home. For effective leadership. For spring coming. For digging my hands in the dirt. For creek walks. For the beauty, decency, kindness and humanity that is bubbling up everywhere.
And with gratitude also comes awareness of my privilege. I’ve written about it before. But the stark and grim news of how this virus is most impacting people of color, the marginalized, the disenfranchised, the poor, the less able, minorities, the abused is both shocking and sobering. We need not to be silent about this. Not to look away. It’s hard to talk about this. We need to.
Gratitude doesn’t mean I don’t have hard feelings about all of this. Tears, anger, acting out, fear, doubt, worry - these are all very present for me. My long-suffering husband and back-at-ya’ kid will tell you so. But I also know that comparing my suffering to that of others and coming up short (i.e. who am I to be feeling anxious or complaining, other people have it so much worse) is not a path to greater compassion and empathy. It's called comparative suffering, and it doesn’t work to increase our capacity for compassion or empathy (see here and here).
And what of compassion?
That too is a practice. Like gratitude, it leads to compassionate feelings. But first and foremost it starts as a practice.
And I’ve needed it so much these last few weeks. As the tiredness and weariness of struggling with new ways of parenting and working - simultaneously, obsessively reading the news until midnight, or numbing out on Netflix until 1am (by some bizarre choice we landed on Hunger Games as our first lockdown binge watch...hmm, not our best choice) and my heart breaking at the loneliness of our son, and the use of screens as the only way to connect with his friends, it’s been hard to always be kind to myself and my family. We’ve snapped at each other. We’ve done the tug-of-wills. We’ve done the “let’s have a serious family chat.”
Again, and again...and again, I’ve had to give myself permission to hit the pause button. To slow it down. To deliberately and intentionally first give myself compassion for what it is I’m feeling, or however I have behaved, and then from there, reground myself in what’s really important, own my part, and reach out to connect.
I don’t have the answers here. I don’t know what normal will look like on the other side of this. I fear, deeply, what we may lose - lives, livelihoods, and perhaps much else. But I also have hope - deep hope - that something beautiful and amazing may also come of this.
It is the practices and skills of resilience, gratitude and compassion that I keep coming back to. And they sustain me. Even as I am head bowed, tears pouring down my face, or wanting to punch someone in the face so enraged am I at callous leadership and pig-headed selfishness.
So as I take a deep breath in, I practice those skills. I feel my body held and supported by the couch I am writing on. I sense the rhythmic rise and fall of my chest, the warmth in my hands, the pleasant tingling in my feet. I close my eyes and listen to the bird calls. I look outside and appreciate the soft beauty of snow showers swirling in the wind. I take in the luminous lime green of my raincoat that jumps up and down excitedly announcing “it’s spring, it’s spring, it’s spring.”
I let it start in my body. And radiate and grow from there.
Sending you all light and love and life. Wherever you may be.
May you find peace.
May you find solace.
May you find love and community.
May you find hope.
(PS: I’m making the resilience toolkit I’ve been slowly developing available to everyone on my email list. To access, click <Log In> on the website then <Reset Password> and enter your email address. Let me know if you have any problems.)
Sue Mann - Coach
Reflections on how we reclaim and sustain our worthiness in the face of falls and challenges.