A girl in her late teens walked past our home in tears at the weekend. Crying into her phone I heard her say, “I can’t go out to see my friends and have a drink with them. All I do is stay at home and study.” I felt the personal suffering behind her words.
For some, adapting to the current social-distancing measures has been relatively easy. The opportunity to focus on valued areas of life such as wellness, enhanced productivity and time with family has been a happy outcome. However, for others like the girl on the phone, it’s a tough gig. A tough gig too, for leaders at every level, as they prioritise human health and safety by enforcing social-distancing; juxtaposed against the unknown quantity of individual distress, isolation and poor mental-health.
And when isolation and distancing rules leaves us bereft of choice, living and working in a contented, productive manner becomes a matter of personal choice — both to survive and to thrive.
I for one, have not found these past weeks easy. I have missed a lot of my freedoms and social connection points with people and am learning more about myself in the space of five short weeks than I have for years. I have had wonderfully productive days, emotionally “wobbly” days and times of wanting to go to sleep and wake-up when the world has recovered. My greatest happiness professionally has been working remotely with business-owners nationwide. Day by day, with each conversation, I am discovering the value of connection, albeit at a distance—and just how much can be accomplished by phone and teleconference.
Personally, a walk at day’s end along the beach with my fiancée Michelle has become a therapeutic routine along with a post-dinner driveway dance party where Michelle is teaching me to dance the tango.
In the early days, I found myself resistant to the distancing constraints and Michelle said: “give into it and allow space for the difficult emotions to fully dwell within you; then see what happens — sometimes the difficulty evaporates when you grant it space, but you have to allow it to be first.” That was the starting place, and I have indeed found that “giving in to it” has helped me. I’m also learning that the decisions I make and the actions I take, in the midst of this enforced enclosure, set a powerful context for either personal anxiety and despondency or happiness and productivity. About his experience of living three years in a concentration camp, Viktor Frankl said, “…everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
I mention my own journey because I know that for some, a journey shared can be a journey helped. I also mention it to help heighten awareness of reaching out to others who perhaps are doing it tougher than others. For those of you who have staff, some will be doing well in the present climate while others may be struggling.
Whether man or woman, having a good offload or cry into the phone, like the girl who walked past our home, can make all the difference. Afterwards, it’s the mainstay of the decisions we make and the actions we take that can either liberate us to move forward or keep us locked in personal confinement.