Pandemic: a wake-up call

Pandemic: we’re coming up on the ninth week of the shelter-in-place order issued by Governor Gavin Newsom, to flatten the curve of COVID-19 here in California. The heaviness of fear and sadness is palpable along with the fear of infection. Let me ask you this though, can you feel a shift? It’s a different kind of energy. The kind of energy that reminds us that good changes often come alongside difficult challenges. It feels like an awakening.

We’ve all seen the Facebook memes about the shelter-in-place orders being a test of relationships and marriages. Many are wondering if it’s possible for partners to get along with such restricted movement? What happens when you can’t escape from your spouse? Believe it or not, I’ve actually heard of couples getting closer. Maybe they can now work out those kinks that have been backburner-ed in favor of attending to professional schedules and soccer practices. I heard a friend say that every night is movie night, even date night, that his marriage is no longer crumbling. It’s fascinating for me to witness the curiosity of friendship resurfacing between them, to see their romance become again.

Many parents were aghast when they realized they would be home with their children all day. I mean, we love our kids, but alllll dayyyy??? For the first couple of weeks, it seemed as if every parent was scraping their elementary school-aged kid of off the living room ceiling only to stuff them in a beanbag chair with some electronic device. Lately, I have seen families walking together around my neighborhood. One of my neighbors lives with her adult son and daughter and she typically asks me for advice about how to quell the strife between the siblings. She told me just this morning that the three of them are working on do-it-yourself home interior projects and that her home is harmonious. I know of several parents who became quite anxious when they heard that they might be required to home-school their kids. Then, after they were told to stay home from work, they realized that the connection between you and your child in those teaching moments can be absolutely magical. Some of us have adult children that are busy doing exactly what they are supposed to do at their age – staying busy as hell doing their own thing. You know, the ones that usually call you because they need something? With busy schedules and social lives, which means that sometimes you have to wait until the next birthday or holiday to see them. Enter COVID-19 and now it’s been months since some of us have hugged our older kids. When we finally get to hold them it will be hard to let them go all over again.

Many people my age are still raising children and even making room for the arrival of grandchildren, which means…our parents take a back seat for awhile because there are only so many hours in the day, damn it. When our parents get older, their worlds get smaller; imagine how small it is now. My mom likes to talk about all of her interactions with people in her small town and sometimes she gets so detailed that I gently remind her that I don’t know them. I listen because I know she is excited about it, but there have been times that I looked at my watch, or haven’t given her 100% of my attention in some other way. I promise you, I will think twice about letting that ever happen again.

What happens when money makes the world go ’round and then all of a sudden the economy stops? Will employers finally get it that having one individual do the jobs of three people, while plumping up the title, just isn’t going to cut it anymore? Maybe hiring four people is the answer to distributing the burden in a way that is more efficient, even if it costs them more money. Will this time be an opportunity for us to see that imposing unrealistic expectations on anyone or anything only causes stress? Will we realize that we have become so hyper-focused on maximizing human output and upgrading our devices that the things that really matter are being neglected? Is this what it takes to slow us down enough to reflect on our lives and realize what it is that truly brings us joy?

I am certain that all who emerge from this will never be the same. Maybe in some ways, at least for me and maybe for you, that is actually a good thing.

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