Shouldering the Weight of the World

I’ve found myself on an emotional roller-coaster lately. I keep thinking this is all just a bad dream and I’ll wake any moment. We are likely on this same bumpy ride. That’s just it-We are in it together, socially distant and yet together. Everything that has happened is quite mindboggling. Rapidly changing circumstances, fear, panic and a seemingly constant barrage of information (factual and otherwise), can leave you feeling that you have no control. It’s quite easy to get wrapped up in this and when you do, that’s when you lose control. Likely the same fears motivated the toilet paper hoarders to panic and buy supplies-that reaction for all intensive purposes, was an attempt to exercise some degree of control over the situation. There are several things on my mind that should be on yours as well; What you can do; Letting go of what you cannot control; and last but not least GRIT.

A month ago, most Americans, myself included were blissfully ignorant about the coronavirus. While the majority of the rest of the world was slowly, gradually learning the hard way, more than they had ever wanted to about it. Though it may have been out of the distance of proximity, (ie. It wasn’t affecting them directly or their loved ones) most Americans didn’t appear to be overtly concerned or aware of the coronavirus. As it made it’s way closer, creeping with an increasing pace, concern grew. Experts warned of the dangers however until it was in our backyard the nation as a whole didn’t heed the warnings. With the realization it was here and there was no longer time to prepare, fear set in and in some cases, panic, began.

You can choose to panic and like Chicken Little proclaim that ‘the sky is falling’ or you can listen to the experts.

Health experts have long stated the two best ways to protect yourself against the virus are to stay home (social distancing) and to wash your hands. You can choose to panic and like Chicken Little proclaim that ‘the sky is falling’ or you can listen to the experts. The virus is real and it is dangerous and has been deadly. Please don’t misconstrue what I am about to say as a minimization of the aforementioned facts. The larger more concerning issue, we are currently facing, is that there are many not heeding the warnings of the experts. For whatever reason it may be. I get it-you have bills to pay, mouths to feed and/or you are bored out of your mind. So do I and so am I. It’s estimated that most of us haven’t listened to the financial experts either and financially prepared for emergencies by having six-months worth of money saved up in an ’emergency fund’. Well, well, well…If this is you, I’m right there with you. Another thing, I’m an introvert at heart but let me tell you, this much time cooped up has me stir crazy and I want nothing more than to meet up with friends and family and give them great big hugs! However, I don’t know about you, but I prefer to learn from my mistakes (I’m slapping myself for not listening to those financial experts right this moment). Hey, you live and you learn (*visualize me shrugging here). Luckily, Mama didn’t raise a fool, so I am heeding the recommendations of the clinical experts. It’s what you and I can and do have control over.

You probably don’t stay awake at night worrying that you could be injured or killed in a car accident…[t]he current situation is not any different from this perspective. Do yourself a favor and let go of what you can’t control.

Having outlined the seemingly small list of things that we can do to minimize our risks, it would behoove us to evaluate the things we don’t have control over. This list is much more complex and exhaustive. It is what keeps me awake at night (and has likely crossed your mind more than a time or two). Let’s see there’s the economy; my 401K; just how ‘non-essential’ I am in the workforce; the pile of bills that continuously grow; and of course the concern for the health of my loved ones. There are many, many more things that can be added to this list and I’m not an ‘essential employee’ so I can only imagine the concerns weighing on the minds of those that are in that scenario. Bless you! I, we all, owe you a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. At the end of the day, I can worry myself sick, cry myself to sleep, be miserable and not change a single damn thing on this list. Neither you or I have the ability to do this. So friends, here’s the hard part-let it go. I heard something the other day and it seemed to be impeccable timing. If you need to worry, cry, or yell ‘why me’ or ‘it’s not fair’-whatever you need to do, go for it-get it out of your system, but only allow yourself five minutes to do so and then say the exact following words: “can’t change it”. This is hard to do, but the reality is, whether you spend five minutes, days, or months lugging this around, you have absolutely zero control of how it’s going to work out. When you think about it, we really don’t have much control over anything in our lives, though we choose to let go of most of these concerns. For example, you probably don’t stay awake worrying that you could be injured or killed in a car accident, slip in the shower and get a concussion, or get food poisoning from under cooked takeout. These are very real concerns but you’ve likely chosen to do what you can to minimize your risks (ie. wear a seat belt, put down a rug outside of the shower, and not eat gas station sushi) and then focus your energy on other things. The current situation is not any different from this perspective. Do yourself a favor and let go of what you cannot control.

Grit is “not just resilience in the face of failure, but also having deep commitments that you remain loyal to over many years” which are arguably a better predictor of long-term success than cognitive ability. 

Angela Lee Duckworth, Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance

The final and perhaps most important thing on my mind is GRIT. You may be asking yourself what I am talking about. To explain this, we need to start with a definition of what grit is. Angela Lee Duckworth is a psychologist, researcher, MacArthur Genius Award winner, and author of Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance. Her definition of grit is, “not just resilience in the face of failure but also having deep commitments that you remain loyal to over many years,” which are arguably a better predictor of long-term success than cognitive ability. Grit is when the going gets tough, you dig in and do what needs to be done. It’s resilience, dedication, commitment and the sheer will to keep fighting despite the odds. It’s Dory from Finding Nemo‘s famous line, “just keep swimming”. Dory’s character is the perfect example of this. She isn’t the brightest fish out there but she is dedicated to her task and when obstacles are thrown in her way and things aren’t ideal, she has her ‘moment’ and then she forgets about it (admittedly she does have short term memory loss) but then she keeps inching closer towards her goal. That friends is grit. It is the thing that you rely on deep down inside of you, when things are tough and you just know you’ve got to find a way to make it work one way or another. It’s the dirt under your fingernails, sweat on your brow type of hard work. It’s your drive to keep going, even when it would be much easier to give up. Most likely, you’ve had to rely on grit before, now is the time to let that instinctual grit kick into high gear and take care of business friends.

I am well aware this situation isn’t ideal, but you do have the option to make the best out of less than ideal circumstances. No matter what you are going through please know that you are not alone. Try not to enter panic mode. Keep in perspective the things you do have control over and those you don’t. Try to focus on the things that you can do rather than the things you have no control over. You do not have to shoulder the weight of the world and certainly not on your own. We aren’t all going to feel strong every moment of this journey. Be strong when you can and show yourself some grace when you can’t. Do what you can to help others. This is when we need to rely on each other. We all need someone to lean on.

Photo by Emre Kuzu on Pexels.com

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