Two things keep coming to mind repeatedly during this whole coronavirus thing, both of which I’m a little embarrassed to share.
First, as hard as this is, it’s an opportunity. There’s nowhere to go, little to do beyond work, few distractions, no end in sight, and more choice over who I interact with.
I can’t help but slow down, which aims a microscope at my thoughts and feelings.
Talking with friends and family is an opportunity to notice who I become in their presence, whether I’m really listening.
Getting pissed at the Trump administration and the Democratic Party’s incompetence is an opportunity to notice how anger tenses up my neck.
Wanting to jump in the car and ride off into the sunset is an opportunity to notice how restlessness makes my leg shake.
Texting with someone I have a crush on is an opportunity to notice how badly I want them to like me.
In other words, this crisis—like any other—has a silver lining. It’s an opportunity to learn who we are without many of the routines, habits, people, etc., that normally comfort and distract us.
And, like it or not, we learn the most about ourselves through pain and suffering. “The enemy is a very good teacher,” as Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, says.
But, it feels wrong to say all of that. My little oasis of personal growth doesn’t mean shit compared to over 56,000 dead and more than 26.5 million unemployed. I sound like a venture capitalist but for emotions: “This is the best time to invest in yourself!”
Yet, I’m trying to allow space for all of it. Yes, we need universal testing, the suspension of rent, #MedicareForAll, and so much more. We need politicians who will fight for poor and working people. And we need emotional support. We need therapy, meditation, yoga, close friends, nature, etc., to help us wake up to who we really are.
The second thing I’ve realized is: everyone is just where they’re at on their own path, including myself.
As much as I want all my friends to see this an opportunity for growth, as much as I want Nancy Pelosi to truly fight for poor and working people, as much as I want to stop getting into bickering matches with my parents, I can’t control anyone else.
As spiritual teacher David Deida writes in “Wild Nights”: “An ocean can fall on your head, but if all you have is a thimble, then you can only catch so much.”
I’m embarrassed to say it because every life coach, spiritual guru, and their mother says it, but all you can control is yourself. All you can control is whether you’re willing to catch as much water as you can with the thimble, to feel the discomfort of taking one more step down your path.
It’s like lifting weights. I wish I could bench press 300 pounds. But the only way to get there is to lift the heaviest I can today so my muscles wear out and grow back stronger tomorrow.
Turns out, Anna from Frozen 2 was right:
I won’t look too far ahead
It’s too much for me to take
But break it down to this next breath, this next step
This next choice is one that I can make
So I’ll walk through this night
Stumbling blindly toward the light
And do the next right thing
Or, as a business consultant who was interviewed in Tim Ferriss’s book “Tribe of Mentors” put it: “Make the next five minutes rock.”
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