I have a thing for print materials: newspapers and magazines, novels. Even though I have digital tools and subscriptions, there’s something about holding the object of my focus and fascination in my hands that I love. It feels like a less-urgent way of taking-in what I want and need to know. Today, however, the newspaper’s print and images felt more ‘in my face’ than I wanted. I was reminded, in big bold caps, and images of Life’s current crises, that I feel powerless to address topics invading my consciousness. Reading my Sunday paper with my coffee used to be a different kind of experience.
There’s no escaping news and chatter about the global pandemic sweeping through humanity. Some believe that this marauding, opportunistic bug was destined to occur. Not as some evil kind of punishment, but as a result of our (literal) appetites and disregard for how Nature works. Regardless, if I try to avoid the updates of the day, even quick deli-runs offer more risk, and more evidence of the agitation all around me. People carry gloves and wipes with them. Anyone wearing a mask is eyed with suspicion. Are you masked because you’re sick, or because you think I might be?
Today, as soon as I’d careened through the maze of headlines and finance pages – really gloomy stuff – I needed an escape. I headed to the Fashion-Food-Design-Travel-Gear section. But there, page 1, was more proof that reality-checks are needed everywhere. The headline on the first page of this section read, “The New Face of 50”. Three-inch square colored images of four actresses, Lopez, Aniston, Hayek and Berry – all age 50-53. The sub-heading of this spread was ( my paraphrasing after the quote)…”thanks to antiaging tech and age-defying icons” women over 50 can now rejoice in the knowledge that certain women will stay beautiful and “hot”. For a long time. Yay.
This feels like a paradoxical time. There’s a deep need for accurate information, rationally presented; but also a desire for silly distractions. My own thinking today was, “Sandwiched in-between these ‘news’ stories – global chaos, and utter absurdity – has to be a calm, quiet place where I can center myself.” I recalled a recent New Yorker cartoon that captured my mood. A man in a doctor’s white coat stands over a bedridden hospital patient. As he holds up an x-ray the ‘doctor’ says to the patient, “The good news is that your cancer hasn’t spread as far as we thought. The bad news is, I’m the janitor.”
A very smart guy and successful CEO, Dinesh Paliwal,, was recently interviewed about his crisis-management style and tactics, the backdrop of his advice being current global financial issues. Paliwal has updated the World War II mantra of “Keep Calm and Carry On”, with “Don’t Freak Out” for organizations and their operations. Maintaining awareness and an appropriate level of concern is the goal, Paliwal says, when guiding a company through a major crisis. But I gained some everyday-wisdom and insights from listening to this guy speak.
Whether I’m stressing over the inevitable changes life (aging) brings, obstacles in my personal life, or absorbing the growing panic seemingly all around me, I’m actually better at ‘dealing’ than I think I am. “Just showing up” is an act of courage. Translation: sometimes just getting out of bed in the morning deserves self-praise.
“Sometimes we need to adopt a coach’s demeanor in the face of adversity”. Translation: being truly engaged in our own lives, as hard as that might sometimes be, is more important than getting-it-right. Whatever the “it” might be. “You can acknowledge your own fear, without scaring the hell out of people.” Translation: self-awareness and honesty, and the honest appraisal of incoming information, is the best way to move through scary transitions.
There’s much in life that I can’t control. But I’m not powerless, when I think clearly and evaluate carefully whatever’s in-coming from ‘out there’. I’m instinctively more trusting of the person who says, “Yeah, I sometimes feel uncertain and even afraid; but I’m going to stand my ground until those feelings pass.” These feelings will pass.