The past four months or so have been pretty fucking weird for a number of reasons, not least of all the fact that there is an international pandemic keeping us on our proverbial toes. Some days feel so surreal that I almost expect someone to appear on a screen on some or other news- or social media site, and proclaim the end of the worldwide, social experiment that has been conducted in an attempt to understand how people would react to an international pandemic.
Scientists would roll away the planetary microscopes and clean out their galactic petri dishes and we'd all go back to "normal". Social scientists and anthropologists would proclaim current civilisation not well-suited to such an event and the medical fraternity would run endless gaggles on their treatment protocols, while psychologists, social workers and the rest of the mental health industry tried to stem the tide of depression and anxiety, and the bankers and financiers wink knowingly at one another.
And then I remind myself that this experience is in fact real and that no one is going to pull the plug on some weird experiment that I've conjured up by melding together countless tv series and a few Margaret Atwood novels. I have honestly expected some days for some one to look up at me from a counter or as I have my hands sprayed for the third time and whisper, "Under his eye."
Of course we don't really need a study of any kind to understand that the world is not, nor ever will be in my humble opinion, ready for anything resembling what we're going through at the moment. What is really disturbing is that what felt bizarre and uncomfortable just a few months ago feels a lot more ordinary. I know that things have probably changed forever, and I've made some sort of peace with that, but I do get a little irked when people talk about the "new normal". There is nothing normal about the way we're all doing things at the moment. And I am not talking about government lockdown rules and regulations, but rather about how we as people seem to be handling the stress and the strain that we're under.
I'd like to think I was an outstanding example of someone who used their coaching tools, coping skills and knowledge of personal development to adapt effortlessly during the first month or so, but that would be a lie. Anger was my staple emotion, tinged with resentment and a double dose of blind fury every so often. The unfairness of all my business's coming to a screeching halt! My partner's clients deciding early in the game that they didn't want to be hanging out in the gyms (even before the hard lockdown was announced) felt personal. Not having a job to go to was confusing and 80% our income slashed in a few short weeks was crushing.
All around me I have watched people grapple with their addictions and their mental health, trapped in relationships and homes that are dysfunctional. Blindsided by isolation and disconnection, and unable to be around people who could support them in their process. Of course there are online meetings and support groups aplenty, but it's not the same as being in a group with people and sharing the collective energy. And let's be honest about the cost of data and stable wifi. And still in all this mayhem, I have seen people make extraordinary gestures and engage in acts of service to support those around them, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. I see people genuinely and fully engaged in their purpose of helping and supporting others.
It's when I see those kindnesses and generosities between people that I feel like maybe the pressure we are under at the moment is giving us all the opportunity to become a little more conscious and aware of those around us. It seems like a brutal way to be encouraged to tap into our humanness and be able to look out for others, but then it's a bit like diamonds being formed under pressure over long periods of time. Shit, I hope that we're not set to becoming that "precious" because I'm not sure I can hold out that long. But it is often under adverse conditions that we're given the chance to show up in a way that helps others, and become more resilient and robust in the process and this is growth we'll be able to carry with us in whatever comes next.
I remember Sheryl Sandberg who when talking of loss and grieving and how to rebuild resilience refers to psychologist Martin Seligman's work on how "after spending decades studying how people deal with setbacks, found that three P's can stunt recovery: (1) personalization-the belief that we are at fault; (2) pervasiveness-the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life; and (3) permanence-the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever."
Over the weeks I have become far more accepting of the reality in which we find ourselves. Understanding that everyone's experience of this is different. So what I am trying to do with my work and my personal situation is continue to make myself available for those who might need it. I'm still fearful of how my partner and I get through the next months financially, but I have been fortunate enough to have been on the receiving end of an overwhelmingly generous act of love recently. And since that moment, it has felt as though the energy in the universe shifted and started to make extra space for me to pay that gift forward with love, time and support.
So although in the big scheme of things some real cracks are showing up, there are really some remarkable things happening as people discover their authenticity and courage. Through their generosity of spirit and unwillingness to be defeated, they have taken their love and expertise out into the world in a way that is healing the hearts and minds of the people they encounter. And that is something that it is both humbling and wondrous to see!