Meeting the Muse after Midlife is out now on Amazon or at your bookshop! 

Can the pandemic crack us open?

By some reports, we may be in for another two years of the pandemic. I recently heard it referred to as an era, not an event. With continuing day-by-day uncertainties, it may be hard to imagine that this, too, will pass.

Someday the pandemic will have run its course, and we’ll be able to ask ourselves, “Did I use it to grow?”

I’ve been thinking of Leonard Cohen’s oft-cited line from his song “Anthem,” “There is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”  How is the crack that is the pandemic changing us? Is it opening us to more light, more self-awareness?

If that crack breaks us apart, will it expand our hearts? 
 
I don’t have an answer yet. But I have new questions.

We learn through our toughest challenges

When I was teaching leadership, I used to ask my students to describe a peak learning experience that changed their lives. No one described an event in a university classroom. Participants talked about deaths, childbirths, tragedies, and life-threatening medical diagnoses. The exercise encouraged them to realize that learning, during their two years in the program, would happen in community, through life, and through the choices they made, as well as in the classroom. 

Students described how their “cracks” challenged them to accept more care and love from others. They developed inner strengths. They let go of outdated stories about themselves and became more present to life. What had shattered them often blessed them with new wisdom. 


A Better Set of Questions

 
Like most of us, I’m ready to get on with life. Travel. Hug lots of friends. Go to a concert where I’m not ensconced in my own breath. Yet I am here, right now, with an opportunity to learn and grow. 

Instead of asking my two big questions of the moment: “How long will the pandemic last?” or “Will it be safe to travel this summer?” I’m ready to try new ones:
 
I can ask:

  • What do I notice now about the world that I hadn’t seen before?
  • What kindnesses stand out?
  • How did I learn better to deal with fear, change, and uncertainty?
  • Where have my perspectives on life been altered?
  • How did I improve my ability to calm myself and manage my mind?
  • What have I learned about self-care and self-nurturing?
  • Where have I given to others?
  • Where has my heart been ripped open? How has it expanded?
  • How have I built more trust, courage, or the ability to let go?
  • How has the love in me expanded, so that I could receive or send more? 

You get the drift. Add the questions that feel important to you.
 
Navigating uncertainty isn’t easy. I still have a lot of ups and deep downs–feeling balanced and grateful one moment and near-depressed the next. 
 
The pandemic will be with us for a while. How will I keep growing while it’s here? Will I be expanding in heart and mind?
 
We are always growing. Sometimes it helps to notice.

As we start the new year, I’m so happy to be back with you.

4 Responses

  1. Thank you for this wonderful post, Sally! I will ponder it and think about your questions and any additional ones I’d ask myself and others. One thing I’ve been doing is to count the pandemic’s blessings at least as much as the hardships…a sort of balance in the universe. For me and for many, it has provided a unique opportunity to be more present for my family than ever before, having shed a long commute to a distant brick and mortar office and endless work travel. I am blessed to be the kids’ Uber driver, homework helper and sous chef. We sit together for dinner, even with teens. Remarkable!

    1. Thanks Greg. I agree, for me too, so many blessings have come with the pandemic even as it disrupted our world!! Best to you.

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