Updated: Apr 2, 2020
There’s this Chinese proverb- “May you live in interesting times.”
I think that maybe it’s supposed to be a joke. Or like a curse.
Raise your hand if you saw this interesting time coming... My girl D at the salon did. Two weeks ago she was spraying me with Lysol disinfectant as I feigned coughing in her direction. Generally happy-go-lucky, don't-watch-the-news and lives-under-a-very-comfortable-rock-thank-you-very-much, me felt like the whole thing was media overreaction and societal hysteria. I mean it’s not like we are in the movie “Outbreak” for crying out loud….
And then I heard there were a few cases reported in north Jersey. And one in Monmouth county, where I live. And then a client canceled her appointment that afternoon because she had direct exposure to a person who had a confirmed positive test.
And then the schools closed. And then we decided that it was safer for employees and clients if we closed the salon for the next two weeks. And then the governor shut down all non essential businesses and activities in the state of New Jersey. And then it felt a whoooole lot like the movie “Outbreak.”
And then I got a fever.
I don’t know how this happened, D sprayed me with enough disinfectant for days. And after that, I had really clean hands and had been staying the heck away from people. But I got it. I got the coronavirus. Thankfully, I am one of the fortunate who has suffered very little. I’ve been able to ride out my mild symptoms from the quarantined comfort of my home. But I have to let D have this one. She told me so.
All this has got me thinking about responsibility.
Had I been a little more curious, I might have paid more attention to what was happening in the whole wide world. Perhaps I would have seen the foreshadowing in Italy. I could have seen the tidal wave coming rather than cursing the blasted inconvenience. Lesson learned.
Is the worldwide pandemic my fault? Of course not, Yet, knowing that my body is harboring a known serial killer and terrorist, I am responsible for where it may go next. One may even pause to recognize that there is a tremendous power in that. I have the power to save lives. The life of my friend’s asthmatic partner, my diabetic mother and my elderly father. And even the life of the perfectly healthy, no underlying health conditions 27 year old who lives a block over from me.
We are all at a unique time where our interconnectedness is undeniable. My responsible (or lack thereof) actions could very truly make a profound impact on your life. And, your thorough hand washing could protect my aunt who’s fighting cancer, or my nurse friend in the ER out in Pennsylvania, or your very own mom. The strangest thing is, we get no confirmation about where we pick up or drop off the virus. We will never know the fullest extent of our impact, unless of course, we haven't been outside since February.
Let's take it a little further shall we?
It's unquestionable that we are all responsible for one another right now, even the people that we don't know, or don't particularly like that much. But guess what, our responsibility doesn’t end with each other. We also have the power to be outrageously responsible TO ourselves right now.
In coaching, I recognize that we have a choice in every situation. Often we can't really see the choices we have, because we are perhaps motivated solely by our emotions or our logic and resort to our default reaction. Yet when we pause, take a step back and look objectively, we see that other possibilities exist.
Hang in there for a second, I'm getting to the point….
You're not always responsible for the situation, but you are always responsible for how you respond to a situation. Always. With the awareness of this responsibility comes power. I was responsible for my ignorance of the global pandemic situation so felt a wave of helplessness as a result. I was responsible for my quarantine and sharing my diagnosis with the people I’d crossed paths with once I realized I was sick. Today, I am responsible for how I want to respond to this unique moment in our history.
We can’t change that this is real and that the economy has been put into a medically induced coma. We can't change that the shop is closed until who knows when or that your partner is working insane hours in an ill equipped emergency department. Or that you are suddenly your kid’s teacher and also working from home, or that you had to close the restaurant and let go of your entire staff. Or that you live by yourself and can't go anywhere or see anyone right now.
This situation isn't your fault. Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck tells us, “We are responsible for situations that aren’t our fault all the time. This is part of life.”
No one chose this, yet we can choose how we respond to it. Friends, I believe that this very interesting time is calling each and every one of us to bring forth the greater, perhaps the greatest, version of who we are. Not only for who we are as individuals, but also for who we are as a collective. When we accept the choice to fulfill our greatness, we become redonkulously powerful.
I’m seeing this happen every day. I see people stepping up, getting creative and serving each other the best way they are able with incredible acts of selflessness and concern.
Eventually we are going to see the other side of this and we will resume some kind of normal American life. What scars will criss cross our society? We don’t know yet.
How many people will die?
What businesses will close?
What industries will become obsolete?
Which ones will be born?
What social shifts will happen?
Will we be able to enjoy a simple hand shake with our fellow humans again?
The answers to these questions all remain to be seen. And if I begin to stab at the answers now, I would probably be wrong. Yet, in this moment I can chose to ask another question. One that evokes a choice and a responsibility:
Who do I choose to be in this very interesting time?
I know that I intend to be stronger, more aware, more compassionate and more connected. I want to be strong for myself, for my family and for my community and I am committed to being responsible for this choice and accept the power that this responsibility imparts.
Perhaps with this, the saying "May you live in interesting times." can be a blessing after all.
New Growth Coaching LLC