Never would I have imagined on my return flight from Sweden in February of 2020 that figuratively speaking the entire world was about to have its wings clipped for a very long time.
While the world has begun to reopen and the desire to return to “normal” is foremost on the minds of many, let’s not turn away too quickly from the incredibly unique experience of lockdown and the impact of isolation during the past 15 months.
There were many large and small lessons to glean and school was intensely in session. Unbeknownst to us, cautiously moving forward, the transition into this very unknown territory was to be a monumental learning opportunity.
It was surprising to me to hear how difficult it was for some colleagues and friends to be alone. Individuals who were only children and true introverts were actually prepared from day one for such an event. While it is a natural component of the human experience to be social, solitude does have its benefits.
Odd & Uncomfortable
To be able to decompress, to slow down, to put aside the rigors of a packed schedule and the recognition that some deadlines weren’t as threatening to business affairs and life as previous thought was initially strange. Our well-organized life was now a bit odd, and uncomfortable. Along with what was thought of as unchangeable, improbable, and unpredictable it took days, and weeks to reframe what was with what quickly became a very different norm.
Being one’s own company was less interesting to some, while infinitely satisfying to others. The context of routine work, family needs, outside obligations, multiple distractions and all related activities to maintain and support the lives that we meticulously curated was seen as a given.
The flip side was the circumstances pushed many towards personal experiences that were never thought of or remotely imagined. An assessment of real growth is often discovered post events. It rarely comes with a handy roadmap.
This global disruption, this unscheduled detour was a personal tsunami to which we each had a unique response. The event impacted everyone differently. As isolation continued with an unknown duration, we began to recognize the enormous stored energy to reconnect, reengage, to explore- but how?
One meaningful discovery for me was in how we communicated with one another. There was this intense silence. A forced calm that made all of the otherwise acceptable distractions disguised as communicating with family and friends fall away. Were we really connected as well as we thought?
When was the last time you spoke to someone in real time, face-to-face? When you mentioned that you “heard” from one of your besties was it phone, Facetime, Facebook, text, IG or any number of the latest platforms? The lines were blurring. Who knew that Zoom fatigue would become a thing?
This forced calm of the body led to a forced recognition that what we thought was the necessary downshifting on Friday nights with an adult beverage and select music was not as much reconnecting with the self as much as it was trading one form of busyness for another. As the distinction between home and office, external world and external life faded, another way of understanding the space we occupied most also faded. What then, who then was the person now occupying this smaller space?
While we are each in the process of reclaiming what we believe is normal and ours to possess, it is worth my while to consider the following: One of my favorite analogies is that of time being like a river. You can touch the river at any point, but it is never the same river that you touched before nor will it be the same when you touch it later.
Whatever your particular perception of reality may you not only touch, but step into the river with your new once in a lifetime lockdown lessons. Here’s to being fully present, while embracing the future.