Reality Reflection: Appreciating the Past

Something I’ve reflected on throughout the last few months, but especially of late, is how we underappreciated the little things in life before this virus took over and completely changed things. Yes, there has been some good to come out of the changes and upheaval, but as I’ve said before many of the changes are things that I hope we’re able to change back, like being able to visit with out-of-state friends and family without being concerned and wearing a mask, and being able to do TV interviews in person. I think we’ve done remarkably well with what we have, but the past few months have definitely revealed that our technology isn’t quite at the point where it is totally seamless and there aren’t dropped calls/videos, and it’s totally beside the point that we need physical human connection, not just virtual.

Which is part of the point, but not what I’ve been really reflecting on this week. What I’ve been reflecting on is how ordinary and normal things that we saw as normal and very typical were not as appreciated or understood for how special they are. I know, it doesn’t really seem special to be able to hug someone or go out for a meal as a group or attend a sporting event, but compared to our experiences the past few months, they are. It didn’t seem special that multiple people were able to be in a room together on TV, but it was. It didn’t seem special to run any of our errands or see a doctor for routine stuff, but now it does.

I appreciate that we’ve really increased our consideration of others, but am struggling with the different connection that we’ve had to have the past few months. We’re still connected, but it’s not in the vibrant, physical, carefree way that it used to be. The sacrifices that we’ve had to make have been very painful for some of us, and many have lost one or more family members. For many of us our way of life has been forever damaged. We may be able to return to some of our previous activities, but will we ever lose the scars this year has created?

I hope that our will to live and community-mindedness will help us through and help us become stronger than we were before, but I don’t know how long it will be before we throw much caution into the wind and experience the freedom that we’re just realizing we had in the past. Time will tell, but until then this is an opportunity to work on our communication and community building skills and hopefully we’ll be able to come up with new ways to be a blessing and encouragement to others while our world is so very different.

Reality Reflection: Making Choices

This year so far has been a challenging one when it comes to making choices. We’ve been put in a very strange and different place with this virus and it’s forced us into places and actions that we’ve never considered or had to make decisions about. Some of these decisions are very difficult to make as many of us have been forced into choosing to work and risk exposure to the virus and not having any money to buy food or pay for expenses. There’s been a level of unpreparedness that almost everyone has had to deal with, some kids have been forced to grow up rapidly and deal with more adult situations and a level of responsibility than they shouldn’t have to based on their age, and we’ve been asked to get along with people in a single space for a longer period of time than most of us ever have.

I love choices, I think they’re really important and we need to have good decision making skills to be truly successful in life. There’s often a level of risk involved in making a choice, and sometimes you do have to choose between the lesser of two evils or the more preferred among two choices you don’t really like. Sometimes we make a choice based on what’s good or better for others than our personal preferences (for instance it’s better for others if we wear masks right now, even if we don’t enjoy wearing them). It doesn’t make me more excited to do something I don’t enjoy if I know it’s good for others, but it does make me feel a bit better about doing it.

The good thing about even the tough choices and teaching the tough choices, is that there’s usually some room for making them yours. For instance with the current mask choice, it’s another way to express your personality or express your unity with or support for a brand or organization. Other choices do have room for negotiation or have an out that gives you the ability to remove yourself from the situation. Sometimes we get lucky with last minute reprieves or extra options, but not often. But as the saying goes, even when you choose not to make a decision, you’re still making a choice. What have you learned about choices over the past few months?

Reality Reflection: No More Neat Little Boxes

The world never ceases to amaze me. Even when we humans stop or change what we’re doing the animals and other creatures and parts of nature that we share this world with keep trucking on. They struggle with the same natural disasters that we do, and even more so since many of them are more significantly impacted by things like small rain storms and non-seasonal temperatures, and yet they keep going about their daily lives, building, rebuilding, caring for their young and eating. Yes, their lives are simpler, but they still have some of the very same challenges we do.

This week I accomplished a couple of things that have been nagging at me for a while, and it feels really good. They weren’t as quick to do as I would like, but that could be why they hadn’t been fixed earlier. That’s one of the challenges we have in this day and age as humans, that as quick as some things can get done, others still take a lot of time and have to be done in small steps.

While I wish all of the virus and race issues could be fixed overnight, as you may know, we’ve been fighting those fights for months and many years respectively. It hurts to see people fail their fellow humans as we saw with George’s death and the many other wrong race or culture related deaths over the years. I think most can agree that we’ve made some good strides in the past several hundred years, but we still have a long way to go. I have faith that with more of us working together we’ll be able to make positive changes in a shorter amount of time, but it will take work and willingness both to care and make the necessary changes.

Maybe one place to start is with truly accepting that we can’t put everything in neat little boxes. There are good and bad police officers. There are good and bad clergy members. There are good and bad people of all races, cultures and sexes. There are good and bad politicians. There are good and bad bosses. There are good and bad marriages. There are people who make mistakes, there are people who make bad decisions, and there are people who are evil. Figuring out which is which isn’t something you can always do on a snap judgment, usually it takes time and effort and communication to figure it out, and then more effort to work through issues or the choice to distance yourself from someone or a situation if it can’t be resolved. Of course, one of the most important places to start is with yourself, and making sure that you’re presenting your best self to the world, someone who others can depend on and makes the world a better place.

Reality Reflection: Reality Check

Yet again we’ve had a difficult week, not only did we cross a sad milestone when it comes to death in the US from this virus that’s stormed our world, we’ve seen another sad example of mistreatment of a black man, ultimately resulting in his totally unnecessary death. I admit I was tired of hearing all the virus related news (we’ve been talking about little but the virus for over two months now), but I certainly didn’t want this to be what got everyone to stop talking about the virus. Over the past few days I’ve seen some very insightful posts on social media and some from different leaders and brands, and of course there were people who said absolutely nothing or responded in insensitive and unbecoming ways.  

Regardless of what you know or think about George’s death, I believe that just about everyone has a right to life and to be treated with as much respect and humanity as possible (the exception being stone cold killers who have and never will develop or become capable of having remorse). I hate that we’re again having to face this situation, that another person has senselessly lost their life, and even more than that, that some people still don’t care. I wish as a world we were better at dealing with challenging situations without resorting to violence or without having knee-jerk reactions or without yelling things that we can’t take back that forever damage our relationship with someone else.

That said, I do know people have bad days, people make mistakes, people do as they’re trained or told to do, people respond in certain ways out of fear, people do dumb things, people make decisions with little knowledge and/or little time, people don’t take the time to think about right and wrong, and sometimes our minds get the best of us and make us incapable of thinking or behaving rationally. These are things that can apply or be talked about across the whole spectrum of life and industry, not specific or relevant or related to this specific situation.

In some ways this is all very simple, but in other ways it’s very complex. Simply, I believe that George should still be alive. But I don’t think that we should vilify all police as a result. I don’t think we need to burn buildings down. I do think we all need to learn better stress management, improve our interpersonal communication, choose to be more patient and willing to listen, and many people need new advice and training when it comes to how to deal with challenging situations we face.

The past couple of months have brought to light some really serious issues that we have been willfully ignorant about. Of course a virus could go from one part of the world and spread to all other parts. Yes, many companies (for-profit and non-profit) have ignored how things had been changing and now many of them are struggling or SOL with the rapid changes and stops that have occurred with the virus. Yes, people deal with domestic violence and are in abusive relationships, more so than most of us are aware of. Yes, some bosses and managers are having to work hard for the first time and they’re struggling while many of their employees are doing well at home and incredibly productive. And yes, we’re still struggling to see each other without looking at the color of our skin and making judgements and reactions based on that.

On some level I understand why some people aren’t responding to this because for all the response in the past it seems like nothing has changed and we have the same conversations again and again.  But at the same time, there’s no way we should let any killing go without calling people accountable and there’s no number of “acceptable” deaths. It’s been one thing after another these past few months popping up like huge billboards announcing issues that we’ve put off.  And now we’re here and the world is falling apart in more ways than one and again we’re asking where do we go from here (in addition to how did we get here and how are we still here).

I don’t have all the answers, but I believe we need more honesty, courage, compassion, patience, caring, proactivity, communication, planning, joy, living and community.  I wish none of this will happen again, but unless more of us are proactive about and invested in creating a win-win-win world, we’ll hear more of these stories every year.  

Reality Reflection: Nothing Lasts Forever

The other day I was watching a couple of shows on one of my favorite topics, ancient Egypt, and they were showing mummies they recently discovered as well as taking the viewers along on a quest to find a lost city. It is amazing how much evidence is left after many thousand years for us to learn from and discover. Yes, many things have been lost either through natural decay over time or from robbery or natural disaster or war, but much has remained. It’s enough to teach us a lot about who they were, how they lived and what was important to them. If you’re familiar with ancient Egypt culture, one of the biggest goals was eternal life, and many of them did a good job being known thousands of years later, and likely for many years to come. But that culture did come to an end, and we don’t have all the answers and probably won’t ever have them all.

Change is part of life, a very reliable part. From civilizations that come and go, how we live and where we live, the jobs we do and things we need, and the programs that we enjoy or rely on, things change. With this pandemic much of life has changed on a temporary basis, and there will also be permanent changes, although we have yet to see exactly what all will result from this.

It’s a bit Pollyanna or naive to expect that life doesn’t change or won’t change; that your favorite actor or actress will be making great TV/movies forever, that the credit card program you signed up for will remain the same forever, that your partner will always remain the exact same person you married, that you’ll even like the same stuff years from now that you do today. Yes, some things remain the same, but those are few and far between.

I’m not thinking or suggesting that we should not think about the topic of forever or not want things to last, because as I shared with the story about Egypt, things can last for a very long time. I’m just reflecting on how yet again change may be the biggest tool we have in our wheelhouse to be successful and enjoy a satisfying life. How can change help you in your life right now?

Reality Reflection: Courage Through Change

Have you ever gone into a garden and dug a shovel deep and turned the content of that shovel upside down? Or maybe stirred a pot of soup or stew a little too vigorously? Or tried to pull a carpet or table cloth out from under some stuff? The past couple of months have felt a lot like that, that just about everything we’ve known and believed about life to be thrown up in the air and come down either completely destroyed, only able to be looked at from a different perspective, maybe able to be recovered or put back together, and with a lot of emotion thrown around.

I am a believer in change, I think it has a very important place in our lives. But it’s extremely rare to have your whole world be changed in practically an instant like our world has over the past few months. We’ve been forced to seriously question what we knew about health and the ability of the medical community to fight anything well, about our ability to work and provide for our families, and about our ability to move our society as a whole forward.

With little notice before our whole world was completely topsy turvy, we’ve struggled greatly to manage our emotions and figure out how to deal with all of this emotionally. Of course, this has completely rocked what little confidence and strength some people had and as a result they’re heading to the dark end of the spectrum and expressing a lot of hate. Yes, there’s also been a lot of support shared, but with many (most?) of us around the world affected by the virus it’s a lot harder to support each other because we don’t have the resources to tap into that we’ve had in past situations (those in one state affected by a flood can be supported by those that aren’t in that state and not struggling with it).

Don’t get me wrong, I agree that we should accept and spend some time with these challenging emotions and situations, because we’re going to continue to struggle for at least a little longer. It doesn’t benefit us to completely shut off or avoid these negative emotions and challenging situations. We shouldn’t dwell on them, but it’s OK to admit you’re struggling.

But I have faith that if we’ve pulled ourselves out of as many challenges as we have as a nation and world, we can do it again. As I’ve said before, I’ve never believed that anything is going to be achieved that is sustainable or truly able to support people when we’re nasty to each other or trying to drag each other down because we’re miserable and unhappy. The struggle will stick around for a while yet, but even while it’s here we’ve got a choice to make about how we deal with it for the most part. I expect setbacks and struggles, but I also plan to approach them with as much courage and patience as I can muster.

Life Before and After

This morning I read some wise insights shared by Laura Scholes through Chip Conley’s Wisdom Well email series. I encourage you to read the whole post, but the essence of the post is talking about seeing life in before and after stages, especially when big changes happen to help with the processing and applying of lessons. These types of changes could include moving on from a job, transitioning to married or divorced life, building or selling a business, or experiencing something like most of us are experiencing with Covid-19.

While we never want to experience some things more than once in our lives (or at all), the likelihood that we’ll get sick or change jobs or that our world will experience something like this virus again is higher than most of us would like to admit. It’s not really smart to try to wish it away or pretend it didn’t happen when the world is able to return to a more normal life. Yes, we can and should put the past in the past, but only after using the lessons it has taught us to plan and prepare for the future, whatever it may hold.

Yes, we should have fond memories of what it was like when we could move about freely and with an innocence that we had most of the answers we thought we needed about health. We should remember how hopeful we were about this new year and decade. We should remember how much we loved spending time with others and how it felt to be part of an in-person community. We should also remember how horrible it felt to hear about the number of people sick and dying around the world from this virus. We should also remember how it felt if we had the virus or if someone we loved had it. We should remember how tough it was to be out of work or suddenly working from home.

So with those memories in mind, it’s up to each of us to use the precious time we have now to the fullest, and to do our very best to look out for the others that we share this world with. For most of us, it won’t be a huge hardship going forward once we get beyond this, we can simply work harder at keeping ourselves and our places clean and being considerate if we’re not feeling well to help avoid something similar in the future. It doesn’t mean no fun gatherings, just to be more conscious about each other in the future. The bigger changes should come with careers and businesses and non profits, who should be more proactive about planning for something like this in the future, both financially and with regard to other resources including employees and customers.

What future are you going to help build?

Time for Spring

Yesterday was the first day of Spring. I’m thankful that nothing can change the arrival of the seasons, they happen on their own and change every year. It is encouraging because it keeps things moving and if you don’t like a season you know that in a few months the seasons will change again. I love spring because of all the cheerful colors that appear, the overwhelming signs of life everywhere, the baby animals, and the return to life from all of us who really don’t like winter. It’s also a big sign of hope for the US as we struggle with this virus and the abrupt halt that has come to much of our world. The past week has been a very crazy one, so today I thought we’d celebrate a little spring life and talk about bringing spring to life in your home.

Spring does mean that we’re getting closer to the end of the school year, so it’s a great time to get more creative with educating your kids when they’re starting to get a little antsy with traditional learning. Tons of organizations and companies like zoos, Explore.org, and Scholastic just to name a few, have opened up some resources for free, and have other resources like live video that are always available. I’ve also seen museums that offer virtual tours, and that can be a great way to visit place around the world without even leaving your couch. Giving kids the opportunity to explore topics that interest them means that they’ll be more likely to do the work and keep learning, and you might learn something too.

Spring is also a great time to get outdoors more, whether it’s on your front steps or in the back yard or hiking in the woods. Yes, physical activity is encouraged, but so is getting crafty and creative and even reading, as long as you’re outside enjoying the fresh air. So go ahead and plant a garden or a garden box, do finger paints, paint the house, color a picture, read a book or magazine, do a puzzle, or do a craft with your favorite medium outside. Craft companies like Joann and Michaels have craft ideas posted on their websites, and of course Pinterest is a great resource for all things creative if you need ideas.

Finally, make sure you make time to breathe new life into your world. Maybe we can’t all be out doing what we usually do to welcome in spring, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do our usual (or better than usual) spring cleaning, plant new plants, open our windows or turn over a new leaf in our lives. In fact, the disruption that is happening in our world could help many of us finally make the decisions and changes that we’ve been putting off.

What will you do with this new spring?

Reality Reflection: An Abundance of New Years

So today has been the start of the Lunar/Chinese Year. In case you haven’t heard, it’s the year of the rat. Something I’m fascinated by is how often we may start a year. There’s the new calendar year that started 25 days ago, there’s the Jewish New Year which typically happens in September, there’s the Lunar/Chinese new year today, a business can start a new year at any point throughout the year, and people have birthdays (new years of their lives) throughout the year.

In many respects I like the idea of having new years to help us mark time so that it doesn’t just all blend together and there are milestones to acknowledge and celebrate. It also helps with record keeping and helping people understand and predict where things may be heading with their lives. I also greatly appreciate the opportunity to start fresh because there are some days (and years) that you just don’t want to repeat or continue, which is technically something we can do with each new day or month.

But on another level I get frustrated by the focus on all things new and the lack of time taken to appreciate what we have or really dig into whatever part of our journey that we’re on. As I shared about on one of my other blogs today, we can run through life focused on shiny new things, or we can make a better effort to make the most of the special moments that come our way. It’s not that I don’t think new things can be good for us, just that sometimes it’s necessary to complete the stage of the journey that you’re on before moving on to something else, unless you know that that opportunity won’t come your way again.

Where are you at in your life journey? Are you looking for a new adventure? Ready to start a new stage or head to the next part of your journey?  Struggling to work through what life is throwing at you right now? Digging into a project or experience?  Or just enjoying the ride?

A Year of Promises?

This year more than other years I’ve been seeing some backlash on the whole new year new you idea and resolutions as well, in part with people just not talking about it at all. One of the big reasons I like talking about the new year is because it naturally encourages change, and change is something we all need to work through and talk about. Change should be a year-long conversation, but if we are at least having the conversation once a year, that’s better than nothing. So for this year to be mostly back to business as usual, it’s gotten me thinking about if we’ve reached a place that we need to have a different conversation about the new year and change.

Maybe instead of talking about changes, we’re going to have conversations about promises to do more, be more and live more. In that conversation it’s as important to talk about the ‘more’ aspect as it is to talk about promises. Are we better or worse at keeping our promises from a year ago? Are we more or less committed to our relationships than a year ago? Are we more or less committed to making decisions, and smart ones at that? Or have we given up on making promises because we seem to fail so often with how quickly the world changes and how much harder it is to anticipate everything going on in the world and our lives?

The past year for me has renewed commitments and promises to family and those I care about, but in other aspects it hasn’t been as reassuring. I also see some people making and keeping promises to themselves and making commitments to themselves and the people who are good for them. Every day that we wake up we know that God is keeping His promises to be with us. We still have a long way to go on navigating promises in this new, fast paced world, but keeping our promises as best we can may be what we need in our lives right now, and not more change. There’s always room for improvement in our lives, maybe this time the improvement is about following through and not about making changes.

Do you need to make some promises or work harder to keep some promises you’ve made?  Maybe you don’t need new resolutions, you just need to commit to the ones you keep making.