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Spontaneous Overflow Reflecting in Tranquility

The Official Blog of Michael Schoenhofer, Executive Director

Thoughts in Uncertainty #4

Same Storm, Different Boats

There is so much grim news surrounding us these days. Will I have a job? Will I get sick? Will someone I love die? Will there be another Great Depression? We are all having such unique experiences during this time. Here are people I’ve met while maintaining social distance.

  • Health Care Worker—I talked to a health care worker who is feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work and stress happening in her world these days. So many expectations and the feelings of danger and exposing herself and her family to the virus. She is grateful that so many people are wearing face coverings and social distancing.

  • Grief & Loss—My brother-in-Law lost two uncles, a friend lost her husband, and their grief is such a struggle.

  • Small Business Owner—I bumped into a friend who owns a small business. He worries about the future of his business, and if there is a surge later in the year and another shutdown, he is afraid he won't make it. He understands the issue but is anxious about his future.

  • Elderly Parents—Neighbors both have elderly parents who they want to protect and keep safe. Their biggest worry is that they will give them the virus without knowing it.

  • Furloughed worker—I bumped into a neighbor who is furloughed right now and will be for a while. For now, he has finished every project he can think of at home and is feeling bored, worried, and concerned.

  • Graduates—Two neighbors have seniors graduating, and they were decorating cars for a "drive-by" graduation.

  • Stuck in Lima—Another guy I met was just visiting family here when the shutdown happened, and now, he finds himself trapped here in Lima. He's making the best of it while staying with family and staying in contact with people.

  • Panic—A friend talked to me about being out wearing a face covering, and no one else was. She was worried about her own health, and while she was doing her part to keep other people safe, she was concerned and anxious that others weren't doing their part.

  • Doing Well—Another friend is an attorney who has experienced no slowdown in work at all.

Because we all experience this situation through our own lenses, we can discount others’ experiences as irrelevant, a dangerous overreaction, or a hazardous under-reaction. Or we might not even take the time to realize how many experiences there are.

These moments, when things feel like they are falling apart, offer us an opportunity to think differently. The most significant learning for me is that everything is changing. I suspended my big plans for travel, and I reduced shopping trips to necessities. Yet, everything has always been changing. We grow older, the seasons change, people die and are born. Change and uncertainty surround us. We just aren't used to experiencing it in such a dramatic fashion. And this moment in time, I share with the entire world, is full of uncertainty and fear. This fear separates, confuses, and fragments us.

“The challenge is, can I stick with the uncertainty and learn how to relax in the midst of chaos? Can I remain cool when the ground beneath me disappears?” (Pema Chödrön) Perhaps this is when I step back from my point of view and wonder what is life like for you. Maybe just for an instant, I suspend my need to convince you of just how wrong you are and how much better off you would be if you thought like me.

  • Can I extend compassion toward those who are suffering?

  • Can I appreciate that there are many different experiences at this moment?

  • Am I willing to step back from unloading my opinion on someone to become more curious?

Just a moment of mindful awareness helps me to refocus. Here is a brief (five minute) guided meditation from UCLA.

Maybe just for a moment, I can relax with the chaos instead of trying to fix everybody.

We are all doing the best we can.

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