Eliminate the guilt. You’re doing your best.

God, it’s such a weird time, isn’t it? Most of the world is under a ‘stay at home’ order. Normal routines have been tossed to the wind — in a mandated sort of way. And we’re all left feeling a bit — I don’t know — out of sorts. 

For the first time in (who knows) decades, maybe far longer, we’re in something together. We have a common purpose. Preserving life is taking precedence. It doesn’t mean we aren’t concerned about our livelihoods, the world economy, how to pay the bills. We are. But it’s #2 on the list. Maybe further down. Our common enemy, COVID-19, is tearing through our cities and countries, like an invisible wave. It lurks around corners and hides in unknown places. In some cases, it finds us. Or it finds a loved one. At its worst, it takes someone from us. In the blink of an eye, EVERYTHING has changed.

Take it down a level.

If we let our minds wander too much, we can miss the opportunity we have today. We can hover in that anxious state — just above the higher meaning that waits, patiently, below.

What the hell are you talking about, Nikki? If I’m honest, I may be full of shit. But stick with me for a minute. I have a feeling. A feeling rooted in what I experience in the moments I let go.

Let’s back up a bit. Not far. Just a week or so. I’m stressed. I’ve been working from home for a couple of weeks. This is not foreign to me. Pre-coronavirus, I did my best to work from home at least a day or two each week. In my hodgepodge position as a writer/editor/content lead/semi-strategy, sometimes client-facing role, I can get by with a laptop and a phone. This, I know, makes me very lucky. For two reasons:

  1. I still have my job.
  2. I can still pay my bills.

For these reasons, especially, I was feeling grateful. But I was also feeling really guilty. On top of the general buzz of pandemic anxiety, my work hours were (still are) long, busy, seemingly never-ending at times. Constantly bombarded with messages of “taking advantage of the ability to reconnect at this time,” I was connecting less. But what right did I have to say anything…to feel anything less than grateful? I still have a job. When so many others do not.

The thing is — this guilt was keeping me from taking a step back. My drive to help secure clients, crank out deliverables, keep my job…it was consuming me. It was steering my attention away from what really matters. And in my quest to prove how grateful I was — to show that I understand how lucky I am — I was becoming even more disconnected. Truthfully, I was being selfish.

Letting go.

Proving how grateful I was — well, that wasn’t working for me. And more importantly, it was keeping me from getting the hell outside myself, to search for the higher meaning. If I’m really honest, I wasn’t so much feeling guilty for having a job. I was feeling guilty because I was letting my obsession to hold onto it keep me from connecting with, and helping others.

So, this week, I started to let go. It’s a work in progress, people, but it’s happening. The thing is, we can’t control:

  • If we have a job
  • If we can keep our job
  • When we can hug our loved ones again
  • If our elected officials will make the right decisions
  • When the virus will subside
  • If we have tomorrow 

But we can control how we prioritize what matters. We can get out of our own heads, give ourselves a break and think about how even the smallest acts of kindness can make a difference — to those giving, and those receiving. 

I’m stuck at home. What can I do?

Plenty. Or just a little. And by the way, either path is perfectly fine. Do what works for you. If you need to step away from the computer and watch Ozark for 5 hours straight. Do it. And don’t feel guilty about it. It’s helping you to recharge. It might lead you to think of an idea (that hopefully doesn’t include laundering money) that will help others. Or make them laugh. Or maybe it just entertains you for a bit. That’s okay, too. Put the guilt away. It frees up space in your head. Space that just might get you thinking, “I’m gonna…”:

  • Call my Mom/Dad/sister/friend
  • Keep paying my dog walker — even though she can’t walk our little scraggle-muffin
  • Shop for my elderly neighbor
  • Sleep
  • Write a post on my sorely-neglected blog (shout out to the late Bill Scruggs)
  • Not feel guilty for not posting earlier on my sorely-neglected blog
  • Bake homemade bread
  • Eat all the bread
  • Sing
  • Set up a weekly FaceTime happy hour with my childhood friends
  • Let my kids (and me) skip a day of “home school” and play games instead. Or sleep.
  • Put down my damn phone and read (or listen to) that book I keep hearing about
  • Go outside and watch caterpillars turn to butterflies
  • Order takeout from a struggling local restaurant
  • Hold my husband’s hand on a (socially-distance conscious) walk
  • Sleep
  • Close my eyes, take a breath, focus on a favorite childhood memory
  • Embrace help from others
  • Try a new exercise
  • Adopt an animal from a local shelter

It’s a rare moment…

…when we’re all together. When we realize that protecting lives and displaying humanity — it’s really all that matters. So, if nothing else, take advantage of this moment to sit back and reflect on what life means to you. And if you had a choice, what would you do different? What would you do next? Maybe today, you can take that first tiny step…

And if you’re in trouble. If you need help, assistance, a (virtual) shoulder to cry on, take advantage of the many people, and organizations out there, clamoring to help you. You are not in this alone. You never were.

Also, if you have a shitty day, give yourself a break. It’s happening to all of us. I still feel guilty at times. Like maybe I should be editing those multiple web pages for work, instead of writing this post. Maybe I shouldn’t yell at the dog when he barks in my ear at the point my guilt is peaking.

We are human. Today, we are limited in our movement and our choices. Get some sleep. Forgive yourself when the kids put your over the edge. Give thanks when you have that special moment with family that only this damn virus could have given you.

Yes, it’s a really weird time. The world is gonna change because of it. I’m pretty sure we’re being given an opportunity to reassess, remember and regain what’s been set aside. Let’s use some part of our brains (and our hearts) to help increase the chance that any changes we’re involved in, are ones we can be proud of.

Thank you.

To the many brave souls taking care of the sick, keeping us safe, keeping us fed, and providing much-needed services and funds to those who have lost jobs and to businesses trying to weather the storm. Finally, we see ALL the true heroes among us. May the good continue to shine, long after COVID-19 fades away.

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