As I face another day juggling working from home with childcare, without a clear end line in sight, I am reflecting on how time itself behaves differently in times of crisis and upheaval.
In some ways, time has slowed down. Days stretch ahead of me without the familiar forced transition points of childcare drop-offs, commutes and plans outside the home. I’ve been working from home three weeks but it feels like three months.
And in other ways time continues to race past me. The days blur into one another. Trying to get things done at work seems to be taking longer. I keep thinking I’m nearly there with something, only to have it drag out into another day, and another.
Part of me responded to the crisis by being productive – maybe too productive. Churning out ideas for disaster-mitigation at work, cooking, cleaning, limited large grocery shopping trips, exercise at home, schoolwork, volunteering, checking in on neighbours. It all crashed yesterday.
I hit a big snag on something at work. A rather big setback. And I’m still not able to resolve it. This would be frustrating under normal circumstances, but it is yet another situation outside of my control – a microcosm of the global situation as we lose control to a virus.
What can we do when something is beyond our control?
Resign ourselves to it.
This does not mean giving up entirely, or letting the powerlessness overwhelm us. But fighting only works for so long. Fighting against something outside of my control will take its toll. I realise that if I look the demon in the face and resign myself to it, I can let go of a lot of the tension between myself and my reality.
Once we have resigned ourselves to the uncontrollable, we can move forward to the next step.
Identify the need / problem.
My need in my work situation is to find income. The uncontrollable factor was some misquoted figures that led me to make certain decisions and recommendations that now seem mistaken, as apparently the figures were inflated.
I have been going down a rabbit hole of trying to right the wrongs that have happened, which inevitably leads to blaming/shifting blame, dread, or circular conversations with myself where I try to logic a way out of the problem that started in the past – obviously far beyond my control in this moment.
But actually, it’s far easier once I’ve resigned myself to the uncontrollable (the initial figures appear to be wrong and inflated) to identify the problem or need (I need to find other ways to reach the target I’ve set).
Now that I’ve left the uncontrollable behind and refocused on the problem before me, I can move forward to step three.
Create a new plan that is in my control.
Now I’m clear on the problem, I can be creative again in finding ways to solve it. Instead of rehashing past data and past decisions, most of which I cannot not change, I am back in control and able to think laterally.
Resigning to isolation
I write this blog because I need to read this blog. I hit a real low yesterday, and whilst it was triggered by mundane work stuff, I genuinely believe it was the culmination of, well, everything that is beyond my control right now.
When will we be able to end this isolation? Will anyone I know and love get this thing and not survive it? Will my husband and I have jobs on the other side of this?
It’s easy to spiral. But all those questions are largely beyond my control. So instead, I’m learning to resign myself to this new reality. I thought I had done so weeks ago, but I’ve realised I have still been holding on tight to a false sense of control.
And I can now refocus – what is the need? Marshall Rosenberg, a leader of Non-Violent Communication, has said that needs are never in conflict. Strategies to meet those needs might be, but the needs themselves do not create or necessitate conflict.
I have been in conflict with reality. So now, I’m trying to re-centre on what my needs are, so I can think of coronavirus-compatible ways to meet those needs.
I can’t do __________ because of __________.
If _____________ was not fixed, then I could try or learn _______.
I need ________.
Some strategies that might help meet this need are _______.