No One Is There To Make You Whole

There have been real losses over the last few months, and more lay ahead. People you know may die. Businesses will close. Clients have disappeared. Years of gains have evaporated from the market.

This is not your fault. You work hard. You pay your taxes and your insurance premiums. You follow the law. So you should be good, right?

It’s a Natural Reaction

That’s what many people seem to think. It’s a natural reaction—especially when you hear the promises of politicians. Checks are in the mail, they say. We’ve passed bailout legislation. Hang tight, we’re coming to help! We will have testing. We will reopen soon.  Our lives as we knew them, are soon to return. All will be back to normal.

I don’t believe we should count on any of this. A terrible virus escaped into humans. Governments failed to act. We are still at risk for this terrible disease and more deaths, which we STILL have no real data to predict. We have put profits ahead of people in our country, leaving us unprepared for this. We are in an overpopulated world and we have not done our part to protect it.

There is no government or conglomerate rich or powerful enough to protect us. There is no bubble we can get inside, no body armor we can put on, no place to escape to, in which our world is free from this menace.  We will never be the same.

Although this sounds pessimistic, I believe it is realistic. If we can accept that there is no way to change what has happened, we can begin to shift into a realistic appraisal of where we are now and how best to face the future.

Life Has to Come First

Today, I saw a man walk into the Mayo Clinic without a mask. It was the man in charge of the United States’ response to Coronavirus, Vice President Mike Pence. Those who need to take this seriously and set the tone for our country, are failing. Despite their limitless access to the science, they can’t see that this is just not the flu, no matter how much they’d like to pretend it is.  Then, we have the outright deniers - the demonstrators and media pundits enraged at having “the government restrict our freedoms”.  In “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – life necessarily has to come first.  Without it, all other freedoms are moot.

These are simply elaborate rationalizations and distractions to avoid accepting the reality of our situation and the fears, even terrors, and losses that we have now have to endure. It’s always easier to be in denial, or to construct an enemy that we can attack, so that we don’t have to face our own realities and fears. It’s always easier to follow an emotional groupthink than it is to accept that we are in a world that will never be the same again.

You Have The Strength

This is the moment that will define who we truly are.  Do we have the strength to face the reality of our situation clearly – to be honest and to feel the fear it brings?  Once we can address our fears and thoroughly process them, we can begin the work of moving forward clear eyed into the new future.  The “Greatest Generation” had the Great Depression and World Wars to hone their characters.  Now, we have our test.  No one will fix this for us.  It’s our time to rise up as individuals, families and communities to create something new.  Years from now, when we look back on this time, how do we want to see ourselves?  Will we be proud of our actions?

The answer begins today, with you and me.  Here are three daily exercises that can help you gain control of your mind and calm your day.  How are you doing? Please connect with me and let me know what you are experiencing.

Three Daily Exercises:
  1. Settle Yourself. Throughout the day, and especially when you are feeling anxious, practice breathing exercises to relax your sympathetic nervous system.  This can be a simple 5 minute break where you focus on your breathing and tune out the world.  It’s like pushing the ‘reset button’ on your brain and body.
  2. Stay Present.  When you catch yourself marinating in regrets, past actions or “should have” thinking, bring yourself back to the present.  Yes, you can mourn your losses, but you can’t control your present if you are focused on the past.  Similarly, dwelling on fears about what may or may not happen in the future can be damaging.  Spend time writing a plan for the future – even a task list – and then put it aside.  Regretting the past or worrying about the future will needlessly rob you of attention to the present.  Look for things to be grateful for.  Look for productive ways to spend your ‘now’ that will give you a sense of accomplishment today.
  3. Connect with Empathy. Maintain realistic expectations on the people close to you. Everyone is going through their own pain, and it is not anyone’s job to take yours away.  You may find yourself feeling or acting critical of others – or of yourself – as a way of acting out your anger or frustration.  This is often an attempt to alleviate your own distress.  Be patient and empathetic with yourself and others close to you.  See your agitation as a sign about your own condition.  Breathe, settle yourself, and then reconnect with others.  Now is the time you need them most, and they need you.

While it may be difficult to imagine right now, your best life can be built from the struggles you are facing – and overcoming – today.