We're Where, Exactly?
In April, I optimistically thought we’d be “back to normal” by August. Not. I was confident the ensuing months at home would inspire me to lose weight, cook fabulous meals (and still lose weight), and clean out my closets. Not, not, not. In other words, be someone else.
Perhaps you’ve had more success with your pandemic goals. To be fair, our attention and emotions have been on a rollercoaster which makes focus difficult. Everyone has cancelled or delayed something or many things. Maybe you’ve been on one too many Zooms to celebrate births, birthdays, graduations, retirements, and lives. Even the most patient among us are asking, “When is this going to end?” At mid-summer we’re in a hot mess with no assurance that fall or winter are going to be any better.
This is the middle of unrequested change; a natural disaster always precludes choice. But chosen or not, all change launches us from the old toward a new (hopefully more desirable) state. William Bridges called the middle of the process the Neutral Zone (see his seminal works Transitions and Managing Transitions). Think of being in a boat that’s left shore for the promised land when a rather prolonged period of uncertainty sets in. The departed coast is no longer visible, but the new land isn’t either. It’s like being adrift in fog. If you’re lucky, a degree of momentum moves you forward, but you can just as easily get lost or go in circles. It’s common to wish you’d never left home. To cope with the Neutral Zone doldrums, we latch onto stories of the future. The task of these tales is to provide hope and direction.
Globally, I believe we’re in the Neutral Zone; at sea, with no clear view of the future, and no possibility of going back. In the absence of any well-articulated national vision, I would recommend Dr. Anthony Fauci’s message: We can and will end transmission of the virus if everyone does their part. The thing is, we have to get everyone’s oars in the water and rowing in the same direction. That’s hard to do if some are stuck in eddies or hold onto a belief that they never left the dock at all.
Even in the midst of national fogginess, we can each create a personal vision for a preferred future. My self-improvement goals weren’t a vision, they were a version of boot camp. They required a level of commitment and energy unavailable to me in the midst of upheaval and grieving. They didn’t give me hope, just a list of things to do. But a personal Neutral Zone doesn’t have to result in endless swirling. It’s a call to articulate a vision for a post-COVID future. If you’re in the same boat as me, you might think about your own vision. Then when feeling discouraged or adrift, we seek our true north. Keep aiming toward your vision and gain momentum, even if it’s slow.
I’m still considering my vision statement and will share it when it’s ready. Do you have one that keeps you moving forward? If you’re willing to share, please comment in the box below.
Sending you appropriately physically distanced encouragement—and a reminder to dig past your clothes of the past 5 months to wear something different.