I knit, creating something of substance and use from a strand of yarn and two wooden sticks.
I knit, settling into a moment when there is just this – the soothing, repetitive motions, the feel of the yarn, and the melody of Chopin’s Mazurka #18.
I knit these modest little scrubbies because there are so many ways to use them, and I have a small stash of the needed yarn.
I knit because it helps me turn inward, which is one of the keys to coping with where are now — in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic and of confronting our country’s history of racist oppression and violence. And all this is happening under the non-leadership of an Oval Office occupant who is utterly unqualified for his role. We’re in uncharted territory.
At The Edge of The Chasm
It’s as though these rapid, pervasive changes have brought us to the edge of a chasm. We can’t turn back, because what was no longer exists. We can’t move forward, because we don’t yet have a way to get across the chasm. Nor can we see far enough to know what lies on the other side.
In time, we will find the way forward, and what’s on the other side of the chasm will come into view. It’s natural to want to do that right now, but it’s too soon. As difficult as it is, this is a time to accept not knowing.
It’s hard, though. It feels so disorienting to be unable to make any real plans for even the near future! Yet there are some things that can help us handle this time of not knowing. Those things can prepare us for moving forward when the time is right.
One of these is to intentionally center and ground ourselves by looking inward.
Turning inward is the key to eventually moving forward. This is time of taking care of ourselves, seeking insight and hearing the clarity of our inner voice is time well spent, allowing us to find a wisdom that will guide us into and through what lies ahead.
Another task is to create even a little structure to stabilize ourselves as we stand in this temporary time of not knowing.
A third is to find and act on meaning and purpose. This includes recognizing our deepest beliefs and values, identifying a realistic vision of the better world that could emerge from the turbulent change we’re living through, and perhaps taking steps, however small, toward that vision.
I’m not saying you must do all or any of these things. These are among the things that can be helpful for centering, grounding, and supporting emotional well-being in a time of great uncertainty.
Turning Inward, Creating Structure
John Hovanesian MD offers 6 ways to turn inward and to create some structure during these uncertain times:
- Plan what you can, focusing on short term activities unlikely to be changed by current circumstances. That could be tonight’s dinner, or perhaps a safe and short local outing. We’re considering a bike overnight trip, out and back in one day. The Great Allegheny Passage is open, so it’s currently a possibility.
- Organize and beautify your surroundings, perhaps clearing clutter or otherwise creating order and serenity. This is something I’ve been tackling throughout the house, and now need to do for my desk!
- Invest in your physical health. When our bodies feel better, so do our minds and spirit. What is one thing you are doing that supports good physical health? Maybe there’s something you’d like to add. I just took a break and spent 20 minutes weeding a garden bed. I enjoyed the scents and sounds surrounding me as I pulled out some invasive vines. And I brought in some wildflowers we’ve grown to brighten the kitchen.
- Spend some time expressing gratitude. We can shift our attention to those things we’re grateful for, even during a time when it’s right and natural to experience challenging feelings. It’s important to first accept and acknowledge difficult feelings. Then shift your focus by writing in your journal about what you’re grateful for and why, or by sending a note or letter of gratitude to someone who is important to you.
- Get creative! Express yourself in ways that use your strengths, or try out something new, even if you think you’re not good at it. Do what young children love so much and play with some finger paints! I consistently get new ideas, perspective and insights when I do this. Your creativity can be very practical, like those knitted scrubbies, or as fanciful as you like.
- Stay connected. Reach out to those you care about. Let them know you’re thinking of them. Share how you are doing. Our connections with others provide important structure to our lives.
Here are some previous posts that offer other ways of turning inward and gaining insight:
Meaning and Purpose
Finally, here are some suggestions for taking meaningful action. Joining protest marches is one option though not everyone chooses to take action in this way. There are lots of other things you can do.
These flow from my most strongly held values. This post will help you explore your own.
Channel your deep need to make a difference into actions that make sense during this time of not knowing. Here are some of the things I’m doing:
- Support local black-owned businesses. I know of quite a few, and I’ve found lists of others in my area circulated on Instagram.
- Donate food. I just learned that a nearby emergency assistance agency accepts donations of garden produce, so I’ll be contributing some of ours.
- Contribute to a bail fund for those jailed while protesting. I gave to Act Blue’s but you can also donate to one that’s local.
- Support a fund for local artists, hospitality workers or others who are out of work. This one serves Baltimore area restaurants and workers. You can probably contribute to such funds in your area.
- Make things that others need. I find a surprising number of people who still need masks, so when I have time I sew up a few to give to others, using the world’s easiest instructions. These aren’t medical grade but are considered as effective as disposable non-medical masks. Just make sure they’re washed after each use!
These ideas aren’t meant distract from the need to turn inward. But in addition to doing that, we also can find positive, meaningful ways to put our deepest beliefs and values into useful action. And perhaps taking action for the collective good is how we begin building the bridge that will take us across the chasm.
An Expression of Gratitude
My gratitude to Carol McClelland Fields for her pioneering work in creating the Seasons of Change model, which uses nature as a powerful and readily understood model for understanding life’s inevitable change. I have studied with her and her colleague Karin Marcus, and use her model with clients who are navigating challenging changes in their personal and professional lives. Like me, they find it grounding and clarifying to identify where they are in the on the Seasons of Change Spiral and to see where they are going next. More recently, Carol has deepened the model by articulating how it applies to chaotic change for which there’s no “road map” because it’s unprecedented.
I took one of Carol’s newest courses, Coaching Change in Uncertain Times, when she piloted it a few years ago. It’s now offered through the Institute for Life Coach Training, incorporating what she’s observing as we live through our current challenges. The discussions in that class inspired much of this post.
Thank you, Carol and Karin, for the deep-hearted and thoughtful work you share with the world.
The updated course has been invaluable in guiding myself and my clients during this time. Contact me if you’d like hear more about this. As always, I offer a free, no-obligation call, just to share information, get to know each other a bit, and consider if we’d like to work together.
For a way to connect with others and be guided in turning inward, join my upcoming online mini-retreat.
For as long as the pandemic affects so many peoples’ income and job security, my services are pay-what-you-wish. That means you can pay my full fee if it’s within your means, or you can name your own fee that takes your situation into account. It’s that simple. No one should have to handle a hard situation alone, and it’s my honor to be able make my creative and time-tested approaches as accessible as possible.
Photo: NL Seibel, 2000