We all had plans that have changed dramatically. Jobs which have disappeared. Calendar items which now seem hilariously inappropriate. This time of Pandemic has made it very clear just how little control we have. We actually never had much control, but it felt like we did, and now it feels we have lost all our power. We have to stay home. We have to protect ourselves against this silent, invisible thing.
For some of us – particularly freelancers – we are somewhat used to living in this state of flux and unknown. You never completely believe you have the gig until you have been paid in full and the finished product is out there for everyone to see. Now we are almost all in the same boat. These events are unprecedented. It is March 28 and yet the next month still seems like a complete mystery. Things could potentially get dramatically worse – and what does that really even mean, on a day to day level? What will that feel like? We won’t know until we live it. We cannot control it and we cannot know exactly what’s coming until it hits us.
However, the fact remains that while we cannot control the big picture, there is so much that IS in our control. We can control our actions and our reactions. That covers a lot of space. If we choose to own this control, it can be life changing, especially in times of hardship.
Think about everything in the sphere of your control. This includes: how you spend your time, what you eat, what you drink, what you read and watch, what the space around you looks like, when you sleep…..every day is made up of a million choices and you have control over so many of them. You cannot choose the mood or the words of the people around you, but you can choose how you react to them. If something pisses you off you are at a crossroads: will you lash out, or will you find another way?
I am writing this blog to myself as much as anyone else, because it is what I am thinking about and working on right now. I have good days and bad days but I try and start off right. This is greatly helped by journaling. I make a plan, write about what I want to do that day and also general thoughts on what I am trying to achieve or change or overcome. This shifts ALL the time, which is fine. It is still helpful to write it out and look at it.
I try and have things that I do every day. Journaling, composing, walking, yoga, any work things that are critical to achieve that day, communicating with my parents and other people. These are my touch stones. If I have done those things then I have done something with my day. I have moved myself forward. And if I don’t achieve them the sun will set and rise again. Each day is new.
Friday started well. I woke up, journaled, planned the day, started executing the plan. Mid-afternoon I was NOT feeling it AT ALL. I was frustrated by what I was trying to do and overcome by the news and the general state of things. So I stopped. Picked a TV show. Made some food. I threw out the initial plan and made a new one: rest and take care of myself for the remainder of the day. I had managed to get through my to do list, at the absolute minimal level, so the day wasn’t a complete waste. (Brewing question: what exactly is wasted day – who decides?!) I could have chosen to push through. But instead I chose to rest.
It’s funny: we worry in those situations if we made the “right decision”. So….do you know who the judge of this is, exactly? Is there some ethereal omnipotent Being keeping score? No? Just me? Yep. Just me. So apparently I am scared of me….judging me. I get to choose. I get to live with those decisions. It is pretty simple.
There is nothing more empowering than taking ownership over every single thing in your control. To do that you need to be present. You need to be in the moment, paying attention. You can’t make a decision if you’re not paying attention.
I have spent too much time looking at the numbers, comparing these numbers with those numbers, looking at graphs, reading the predictions of so many experts. But while that is valid information, ultimately it cannot guarantee anything. It is simply a prediction based on available evidence. I find myself spending so much energy weighing these different potential realities whereas I could spend that energy on just being here, today, and making the best of it.
One of the realities of this time, for a lot of us, is our life has been vastly simplified. (This of course does not apply to all the essential people out there such as our health care professionals, first responders, grocery workers etc. whose life is similar to before except much more complicated and intense, not to mention dangerous). But for me: I have to be safer at home. My comings and goings have been minimized. My days involve staying put and making that work. So seems like a good time to practice being present and making mindful choices in a simplified scenario. If I can pull it off now then maybe when life goes back to – I don’t want to say “normal” at least but “not this” – then maybe I can emerge from this having developed a practice of presence and mindfulness which I can continue to use in life moving forward. It is worth a shot.
If I can’t do it today, I’ll try again tomorrow.