It’s hard to wrap my head around this new normal that we are experiencing during this pandemic. My community is on Day 30 of sheltering in place. For my family, this means Day 30 of closed schools and canceled sporting events. Day 30 of social distancing. Day 30 of not having a houseful of teenagers gathered around my kitchen island making frozen pizzas at 2 a.m. Day 30 of my husband and I working from home while our teenagers navigate distance learning. Day 30 of wondering if we will run out of toilet paper. Day 30 of watching press briefings of rising death rates.
And yet it is also Day 30 of family dinners together. And Day 30 of long walks and soaking up the sunshine. And Day 30 of conversations that are not centered around managing our crazy schedule. And Day 30 of one-on-one basketball games between brothers in the backyard. And Day 30 of our “we before me” mantra (that our family adopted early on) as we strive to center compassion and common humanity during these unprecedented times.
This is why I have had such a hard time wrapping my head around this. For all the devastation that is happening in our world, there is also so much that brings me such joy. Our planet is able to breathe again. Our communities are social distancing to help those in our most at-risk populations. My boys are seeing first-hand the impact of slowing down and spending time with family.
What a gift this is.
And yet I am reminded daily, if not hourly, of my white privilege as I watch the numbers of COVID-19 deaths among the Black community continuing to rise disproportionately. I am reminded of my safety when I hear about the number of domestic abuse cases on the rise and I think about all the children who found safety and comfort in going to school every day to escape a home of abuse and neglect. I am reminded of the white supremacy culture we live in that focuses on urgency, control, and capitalism.
So my waves of joy have been mixed with waves of helplessness and sadness. I am learning to sit with all these emotions. Learning to accept them as they come, breathe deeply into them, and think about the story that I am attaching to them. I am taking a “yes, and” approach as I navigate these unprecedented times. Holding more than one truth at a time as I push back against the binary world of “either, or” that I feel is often a much easier path to take. I do this because I know it will help me cultivate my resilience.
As I tap into my resilience, I connect even more deeply to the habits and dispositions that are outlined in Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators. I have been spending time getting to know myself more deeply. Connecting to my core values in ways I never thought possible. My core values are mindfulness, humor, and connection – and everything I do comes from an underlying foundation of compassion. I am finding so much comfort in my values these days. If you haven’t done this core values activity, I strongly suggest it as our core values can help keep us centered and grounded.
I am also learning to sit patiently with all of these emotions as I manage all the uncertainty in my life and our world right now. I am finding comfort in this Zen parable that is shared in Chapter 11 of Onward. This chapter is so fittingly titled Riding the Waves of Change.
“Maybe,” Said the FarmerZen Parable
Once upon a time, there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day, his horse ran away.
Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The next morning, the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.
“How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg.
The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy for his misfortune.
“Maybe,” answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by.
The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turnout.
“Maybe,” said the farmer.
Hopefully, this parable will bring you some comfort as you experience all the ups and downs that accompany the pandemic. As you work on cultivating resilience during these unprecedented times, try on a “yes, and” approach and see if it can bring you some much-needed comfort.
Here’s to seeing what day 31 brings.
ONWARD THE BOOK AND THE ONWARD WORKBOOK
We know that many Onward book clubs have been disrupted – and we’re here for you. Join Lori and Janet for book club discussions
- Onward Book Club: April 22 Beginning in April, we’ll begin with a brief introduction, followed by a discussion focused on the April theme. “April: Although change is constant, spring brings especially high levels of change to schools. Learn to ride those waves of change with focus, patience, persistence, and courage.” Register here.
- Onward Book Club: May 6 With the end of the school year in sight – at least for a normal school year – and so much uncertainty in the road ahead, it is important to provide yourself with a way to close out the year. Janet and Lori lead you through exercises and insights on the May theme. “May: Endings are times for celebration and appreciation, which lay the foundation for resilience in the days ahead.” Register here.
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