By Hillary Sward
With so much happening at any given time, much of it intensely intertwined, it is hard to address one challenge while paying little attention to another. My main thought while writing was COVID and the impacts and changes I have seen personally, although this is general enough to be applied elsewhere. I have also decided to leave this a bit jumbled, without many edits and an even flow because it reflects life right now. Things aren’t clean and smooth, but for the most part, the pieces and ideas are there, and we can decide what we will do with them.
If people learn anything from the way we have to do things now because of COVID-19, I hope they learn to do things with more patience, understanding, and intention, now and continuing into the new normal we are all responsible for creating.
Things are hard for all of us right now. We’ve all heard that we’re in the same boat, but I like the version saying “we’re all in the same storm” a little better, but even that isn’t all that accurate in the big picture. Maybe it’s the same storm, but some of us are on land and others in the middle of the ocean. Some of us sit in the eye and are surrounded by the rest of the storm. Some of us refuse to recognize the full force of the storm, or even that there is a storm at all. Some have little to nothing to fear, while others have everything to fear and next to nothing to protect them. A lot of us fall somewhere in the middle.
At this point, I am comfortable, even at ease, with my role. Having to adapt and quickly change no longer phases me in most situations. Most of what I am working on right now involves collaboration in some form. Some projects are roughly equal splits, I am the point person for others, and then I just do what I am asked/told sometimes, too. I have to take a step back and acknowledge that not everyone feels as secure with their new roles or they may not have the right knowledge to adapt as quickly as others deem necessary. Each person and organization that I work with are uniquely challenged and I can never completely understand their additional struggles on top of new COVID requirements and procedures.
I can, however, take a moment to recognize that there are obstacles unknown to me. While I might produce my portion of a project with ease, those I am working with may need a little extra patience and grace from me, allowing them additional time or support as the situation warrants. It seems rapid-fire changes aren’t so abrupt anymore, but things are constantly evolving, providing additional hindrances for any attempt at long-term planning. For some of those I work with, long-term is what they do. Big picture is what they know. And now with the big picture changing at least weekly, we do what we can. And sometimes, what we can do is wait. Wait for a response from a collaborator, wait for approval from some guiding figure, wait until each party finishes their tasks. We’re not used to waiting, we get tired of it really quickly because we are so used to things being nearly immediate all of the time. My patience has never been tested as much as it has been recently, but recognizing that makes it easier for me to wait.
“Patience” has a pretty universally understood definition, but what does it mean to do something with intention? We don’t just end up at the grocery store randomly, we go there for something. Isn’t that intentional? Not necessarily. The action isn’t always the intention, the reason is. While going to the store isn’t something out of our control and we do it intentionally, the reason we go is our intention. Limiting unnecessary shopping trips and getting 1-2 weeks’ worth of supplies at a time is shopping with intention. Running to the store for ice cream because you have a craving is not. Whether it’s getting groceries, ordering take-out, shopping for new clothes, or any other reason we go out, making sure we have a reason (I should specify, good reason) is how we determine our intention.
If we start breaking down our actions and determine the underlying reasons, we can make better choices and create sustainable change in our lives. This is particularly important now, in the age of COVID, when each of our outings could put ourselves and others at risk, but it isn’t something that should be a temporary response to an emergency. Living with intention can be done in all aspects of our lives. It can be proactive instead of only reactive.
Living with more patience, understanding, and intention is something we, as human beings, are capable of. Some are better at it than others, but we all are capable. These are not innate abilities we either are or aren’t born with, but a skillset we can learn and hone in on for our entire lives. Each day, you can choose to practice one or more of these skills. Every single person we come into contact with will benefit from us acting with one or more of them. As we better ourselves by working on these individually, others immediately benefit. We can grow together, be better together. And it’s a choice. Our choice.
At the risk of sounding incredibly tacky/cheesy/fill-in-the-blank, here’s the phrase “Hindsight is 20/20.” We have a chance to make that mean something. We have a chance to learn from all this year has been throwing out and to be patient, understanding, and intentional. Most of us have been learning, so let’s make it a goal to keep learning and make sure to change what we can change. Forget what was normal. Let’s be better and create a normal so much better than before. An intentional normal. An understanding normal. A patient normal. Hindsight will be 2020.
Photo courtesy of Rick and Susie Graetz