“Even when you can’t leave the room, find a way forward.” — Carl Smith
The last few months have, let’s be honest, been a dumpster fire on pretty much every level.
The economy crashed and recovered and is teetering on the edge again. Friends and family members have lost their jobs, and some their homes.
People who were living comfortably, pay check to pay check, are now in line at food banks, trying to feed their families.
The world is on fire. Social injustices are getting the air time they SHOULD have gotten for the last 200 years, because people are at home and have time to actually deeply think about how terrible we’ve let things become.
The world has ground to a halt, and we’ve been forced to stay home, and take a good hard look at what matters. And what matters? People. People are what matter. Family members, friends, our kids, we’ve all been forced to slow down and re-evaluate the things that are most important to us.
People are losing family members to this awful disease. Cancer treatments had to stop and people close to remission are now starting their battles over again. Family members have died in the hospital alone because hospitals were overflowing and visitation couldn’t be permitted due to the nature of this pandemic. People haven’t been able to have funerals for loved ones.
Teenagers and their parents, who have fought non stop for years, are now hanging out having movie nights and playing video games together, because they can’t leave the house. And it turns out, for many of them, they don’t even want to. Spending time together as a family isn’t as bad as they expected it to be.
For the last few decades, teaching had gone from a revered, respected position in society, to a low paying, thankless job. Parents now fully understand how much incredible value teachers bring to their kids lives, and are grateful for what they do. (Fingers crossed salary increases for these everyday heroes will soon follow.)
Others are trapped in homes where horror is the daily norm. Kids from all socioeconomic backgrounds are witnessing spousal abuse, addictions are at the forefront with a full audience, violence is a daily expectation, and there is no escape.
This experience is shaping the next generation in ways that will change our future. (And honestly, I think our future will change drastically for the better.)
Folks are realizing that without other people around to marvel at your “stuff” the “stuff” loses all importance.
A few weeks ago I had to take a week long vacation to sit in the sun in my backyard and stop thinking. I was spinning out completely. A friend checked in via social media every few days to see how I was doing, and I was honest in my response. I was so busy talking that I didn’t take a breath to ask how he was, and I’m now learning that he and his wife were receiving death threats from white supremacists because he joined the #ShareTheMicNow movement.
I was so tangled up in my own life, that I completely neglected to focus on those around me, who were suffering just as much if not more. It was a very sobering, awful realization that I could be that selfish.
So where do we go from here?
Folks are realizing that what they were spending the most focus and money on, is not actually what is worth the most in their lives.
The most valuable thing we have is time. Time to live. Time to paint. Time to sing. Time to design. Time to care. Time to spend with the people you love most, just being. Losing the high speed, busy every second lifestyle, being forced out of it, is causing many people to rethink their lives on all levels.
Relationships that should have ended long ago, are finally ending. People who hate the city are moving to the suburbs. People who hate the suburbs are moving to the city. People who are unhappy with the political situations where they live are preparing move to other countries once it’s safe. People who have lived far from family are realizing that they want to be closer, and want to have the opportunity to take care of aging parents themselves, as time feels far more finite.
We’re all finally slowing down enough to realize what we actually want our lives to look like, and that we have limited amount of time to make the changes necessary to live them.
For the first time in over a century, people are LIVING. Truly, actually, fully living every moment. They’re experiencing the things around them. Star gazing, spending more time hiking and boating, actually listening to each other, playing boardgames, waving at neighbors, I mean, “The Andy Griffith Show” was even trending on Netflix in June. People are finding comfort in things that have seemed out of date or irrelevant for decades.
Why the change? Because we’re all starting to understand that living simply, is simply living.
Keep an eye on your friends struggling with illness, on friends who battle mental health issues, on the elderly folks in your neighborhood, and kids in tough situations. They all need as much extra support as we can provide from a distance of 6 feet wearing a mask.
Be gentle with yourself, everyone is handling this situation as best as they can, including you. Don’t feel ashamed if your stress level is high, or you have a short fuse, or you’re in self preservation mode and don’t have the mental space to focus on others. You have to take care of yourself, in order to be able to take care of those around you. It’s easy to forget that sometimes. If you neglect self care, it’s going to impact not just you, but also the people who rely on you. So take a bath, watch some mind numbing TV, read a book, take a hike, do whatever you need to do to keep yourself in a good place.
And as you’re evaluating your life, what’s important to you, who is important, what brings you the most joy, what you’ve been doing out of habit that doesn’t add anything positive to your life, and you’re applying for new jobs, struggling financially, caring for kids while working all in one space and trying to keep it together, remember that all over the world, we’re going through this with you. There are millions of people standing alongside you, feeling what you’re feeling, trying to take things one day at a time. You’re not alone.
And with that I’m going to leave you with a comment made in passing that really resonated with me this week on multiple levels—pandemic living, as well as physical health wise: “Even when you can’t leave the room, find a way forward.” — Carl Smith