Embracing uncertainty

“We know we are no longer who we were, but we do not know who we will yet become”

Fred Mandell

Reinvention by its very nature is captivating and exciting. The possibility of personal renewal, embarking on a new career, or beginning a new relationship often captures our imagination. Nurturing our dreams and planning for a future that we have envisioned for ourselves is an essential part of who we are. But in order to do this, we must first learn to embrace uncertainty.

Making any type of change in our lives means that we are facing some degree of uncertainty. And for most of us, we are often quite adverse to altering our day to day lives. Consider how challenging it has been for many of us since we have begun social distancing and sheltering in place. We have moments where we may experience strong emotional reactions to the impact the coronavirus is having on our lives. This is compounded by the understanding that this will be our new normal for quite some time to come. Uncertainty is part of this new normal.

Fear, frustration, and the weight of our own expectations as well as those of others, could cause us to collapse. Or perhaps we become paralyzed by the emotions that surface during times of uncertainty or change. Indeed, believing that we should achieve something, or aspire to or do a certain thing, can force us blindly down a path that takes us further away from what we are meant to do.

These types of transition are often the most challenging for us but if we are able to find strategies to remain grounded, they can in fact become the most fruitful. I listened this morning to a podcast that was about sharing stories of youth in the child welfare system during this pandemic. One young woman spoke of having to live in a group home and not being able to leave or have people come to visit. At first, she recalled, this isolation from the world, caused her to experience feelings of depression but she talked about moving through that by learning to skateboard and to knit.

These grounding activities helped her not only get through this time of social isolation but she spoke about finally getting to know who she actually is. The hardest part of living through uncertainty and transition seems to happen for all of us regardless of the age or stage of life we are in.

But in the midst of challenge and chaos in our lives comes a hidden opportunity to discover those creative moments that signal to us what we are truly interested and passionate about, and to learn more about who we really are. And it is these learning moments that help to get us excited and motivated to prepare to make changes in our lives. If we choose to acknowledge our fears and take the time we need, to sit with ourselves to figure out where we want to go, our chances of reaching our new destination will increase.

Who knows what we will discover during this time of uncertainty if we reach out to embrace it?

Stay healthy and well!

Creativity fosters relevance

Much of the world has been in lockdown for the past few months and social media platforms are chock full of posts that display the many creative ventures that people have embarked upon. From baking sourdough bread to finding innovative methods of gardening in little to no space on an apartment balcony, there is evidence all around us of creativity and innovation.

Children do this naturally and as we reach adulthood many of us lose our natural ability to adapt, innovate, and pivot when faced with changing circumstances. This world crisis has given many of us ample opportunity to progress through boredom to create novel solutions to many problems that have been imposed by “staying together by staying apart.”

The need to find ways to reimagine how to do things in our lives in new ways also helps us to feel relevant. In some ways, this seems reminiscent to me of my first few months when I had retired from full time work. The need to feel relevant loomed large at that time and I had to relearn ways to adapt and live this new life so I could still feel like I mattered.

Watching the world lean in to doing things differently and considering a new normal has been inspiring. The creative spark has been electrified around the world at a time when chaos could have overwhelmed our spirit. From watching a local arts festival on my iPad at home to receiving an invitation for an international virtual convention for fellow professionals.

It seems there is no end to ways in which something can be created from nothing.

One of my favourite places is our local library and since it has been shuttered, there has been a proliferation of electronic resources added to our community system which everyone can now access with a digital password and pin number. Wonderful! Through one of the new additions to the electronic resource catalogue was an ebook where I found the following quote,

“I am motivated to create so I can shape my life with my actions. Life is not simply happening to me; I play an active role.”

Rebekah Younger, Be Awake, Create.

Stay healthy and safe!

Discovering some silver linings…

Strangely enough, there have been several facets of my life that seem to have actually improved during this pandemic. Moving from a fairly structured routine, that was governed by a variety of activities to our new normal where many activities are no longer available to us, has led to the creation of more flexible and adaptive aspects of daily living.

Exercise can take place outside when the weather permits and when it doesn’t then creating in home workouts has been necessary. Using exercise equipment like the rebounder that was gathering dust in storage and trying out a skipping rope after a twenty year hiatus have proven interesting to say the least. After initially fumbling my way through how to use both of these newly re-discovered pieces of equipment, I have discovered new muscles and a better sense of balance.

Overall, my physical health seems better and it likely can be attributed to having developed a new physical routine that has begun to challenge muscle groups that previously had begun to plateau. Doing some cursory google research has led me to understand that our bodies will plateau typically after a 6-8 week period of exercise sameness and unless you adjust and change things up, you no longer reap the benefits you may be hoping for. My former routine had become stagnant and I hadn’t even realized it.

So that got me thinking about plateaus, and other daily routines, and I wondered if our bodies require constant change in order to grow and stay healthy, this must be similar to what our brains need. Sure enough, greater cognitive flexibility is a precursor to a healthier brain and contributes to the neuroplasticity which helps us age “well”. How do we acquire cognitive flexibility? By having to adjust and adapt to changes, to having more opportunities to problem solve and to learning new skills and tasks.

Given that the coronavirus has been an ever present disruptor in our lives, we have all been forced to pivot, to adapt, and to adjust to the myriad of ways in which our lives have changed. Problem solving at times, seems to be a daily occurrence as many of our “old” ways of doing things have disappeared or are no longer available to us. Problem solving is critical for improved cognitive flexibility and it sparks creativity. Bonus!

Many of us have had to lean in to both learning and using technology in new and novel ways and for some of us, just learning to use it period. It has been fascinating to pay attention to the many new skills belonging to the technology realm that I have not only begun learning about but using with some proficiency. It has certainly enhanced some of the activities that I love such as reading and in my writing practice.

After reflecting on these changes in my life, I realize that these are valuable lessons that I have received as a result of the chaos that is occurring in this time. Seems there is a true silver lining in spite of these challenging times, and one that should be paid attention to for the long term. Hope you have discovered your own lessons learned during our time at home.

Stay healthy and well!

Navigating the New Normal

There was a point in this pandemic a couple of weeks ago when there were a plethora of examples of heartwarming and touching gestures that showed us how humans can connect and care for one another. From firefighters driving their trucks to the home of a child on his sixth birthday to provide celebratory greetings, to a quartet playing concertos outside a seniors assisted living facility to cheer locked in residents.

Windows filled with Hearts. Sidewalk chalk messages of hope and encouragement. Banging on pots and pans at the 7:00 p.m. shift change in healthcare settings. Good news stories have served as an antidote to buffer us from the information being shared about the pandemic 24/7 on our news channels. Stories of human compassion motivate us to stay the course for the common good.

It has been heartening to see some politicians behaving in the interests of their constituents and not playing politics at this chaotic and challenging time. Governments around the world have released resources to help people from many walks of life. And people across the globe were staying apart in order to help one another stay healthy and safe.

Countries were sending support and aid to one another and for a short period of time, it seemed as though sensitivity and decency was the silver lining in what we have been collectively experiencing. As the world moves forward to re-opening, it seems as though we are now running a three legged race. A few positive steps forward, with some jolting steps back. We have seen a mix of both the best and the worst forms of human behaviour.

Citizens living in one of the most heavily impacted nations demanding the lifting of restrictions by using assault weapons to reinforce their point on the steps of a legislature building. Another set of finger pointing exercises, veiled racism, and the spread of political conspiracies have emerged to take the place of humans simply wanting to help one another. Criticism, and harsh indictments without real substance, threaten our ability to treat others as we would wish to be treated.

Moving into this new normal means collectively we need to be strong in order to persevere in the face of selfishness, power mongering, and blatant insensitivity. Our health and well being depend on our willingness to place the simple act of caring for one another above politics, power, and greed. Let’s stand strong in the face of all of these distractions so we can get through these trying times together. Every action that you take to look after yourself as well as others is where our real power lies. Please make it count.

Stay healthy and stay safe!