Do you wonder if someone’s absconded with your life and left crazy town in its place? If so, you’re not alone, and there’s some comfort in that, at least. It’s not comfort enough if you’ve lost someone to COVID19*, and life is really hard now for so many. But I’d like to talk about the less excruciating though no less real pain of life disrupted.
You’re holding a very large and rusty old wrench. Now imagine heaving that wrench into the gears of a fine-tuned engine in your car. It’s probably a goner, right? Do you feel like COVID19 is a wrench thrown into the workings of your life? It feels like it’ll never be right again, doesn’t it? When someone ‘throws a wrench into the works’ of our lives, what breaks is our sense of “the norm”- and it’s more important than it sounds.
Change disrupts the familiar. Routine, ritual, and same-ness give us that sense of familiarity, a healthy form of “taking things for granted” that helps ground and support us. We need a few things we can count on to stay put so we can get our bearings in a shifting world. That’s true even though a change of scenery now and then is a good thing. When change arrives uninvited it can feel like a thief that robs us of comfort and shakes the ground that steadies our feet. When something disrupts every part of life, the sweeping change can leave us reeling. We find ourselves grasping for what usually helps us stay upright and feel okay with the world. But as much as I’m hearing about the instability we’re all feeling, I see many finding fresh ways of “staying upright”- of not just getting by, by finding joy and meaning in their moments.
Yesterday I spied a man who’d fallen asleep reading on his porch. I realized It’s been decades since I’ve seen so many neighbors looking so relaxed. Please don’t think I’m minimizing or oblivious to the COVID-induced loss, pain, and general angst. It’s just that there are some positive effects of this reality worth noting. Maybe even (dare I say?) savoring.
There is indeed a silver lining to the dark reality of COVID19: slowing down. We’re reminded there’s something we like about being less busy, less pushed, not having to rush every moment of the day. In a time when our routine is disrupted- perhaps even shattered, there’s a simplifying effect. Change that simplifies thigs can be a really good thing, particularly when change is long overdue.
Have you tried to buy gardening or home improvement supplies in the shutdown? If so, you know by their scarcity everyone else wants them, too. We not only have more “project time” on our hands, but we realize the import of empowering ourselves. Watching the entire world fall prey to a deadly virus cuts to the chase: we must be able to sustain ourselves in crisis, depend less on “the system” for our most vital needs. Social media is abuzz with stories of people returning to a simpler way of life. We’re weighing the preciousness of time with loved ones and resources we can’t live without. We’re re-thinking our values and priorities because we haven’t time or resources to waste.
Knowing your values and priorities is vital. In fact, it’s a frequent theme in my life coaching practice and writing. I love helping people let go of ill-fitting values, ditching priorities that weren’t legitimately theirs in the first place. I get a front row seat to the joy generated as they streamline their lives, simplifying and calming their days, leaving more time and energy for what’s most important to them. I want everyone to know that joy. I’ve been known to pray for widespread cultural re-set so more of us can. But I never really thought I’d see it happen, at least not in my lifetime. And yet here we are.
You’ve got to get quiet. To sync your life with your values, to get clear on who you are and what’s important to you, you have to drown out or silence all the other “voices” vying for control of your moments, hours, days, years. The truth about who you are and what really matters are hidden in you personal blueprint, your original design. They’re hard to discern when you’re rushed, in a frenzy to satisfy expectations imposed on you from the outside. We’ve relinquished control almost wholesale. We’ve allowed our time and effort to be co-opted by “needs” and “wants” not authentically our own but superimposed by those turning a profit from the deal.
It’s hard for me to slow down, disconnect from tech gadgets. But when I do, I feel more ease and peace. By silencing the otherwise ceaseless bombardment that vies for my attention, I begin to recognize it for what it is: a giant, incessant, invasive imposter. Something or someone outside me posing as my priorities, my values. I can finally hear myself think. I have a chance to listen to my heart, attend to my soul. I suspect it’s the same for you.
I challenge you to savor the slow-down, the comparative simplicity of your “new normal”. Be still and quiet long enough to ponder your deepest truths. The opportunity is an unexpected twist in our current global narrative, a welcome one we may never see again. It’s heartwarming to see whole families on after-dinner walks, reading on the porch until they fall asleep, rethinking their unemployment as an opportunity to rediscover their passions. It’s okay to say we’re actually enjoying a thing or two about our “new normal”.
Life can be simpler. In fact, it was meant to be.
I know this because I’ve lived it. There’s much more to be said, but just know this: your life can be simpler and more meaningful at the same time- not just for you, but for others, too. Savor the slowing down, the imposed streamlining of your life. Take time to know your original blueprint and check your values. By simplifying your days, you’ll find greater satisfaction and the ability to sustain it for good.
If you want more on this topic, keep an eye out for my book, Your Life Creed: 4 Easy Steps to the Life You Were Born to Live .