During a pandemic, it’s easy to see that we are in this for the long-haul. But what this time can reveal is that our entire life is the true meaning of long-haul. Though it was too distracting to really acknowledge that before this “hell must’ve frozen over” and “pigs must be flying” moment in the earth’s history lasting at least a couple of birthdays now for many.
I don’t know how you have been coping with this time nor do I don’t know how you’ve been feeling through this. And I don’t know what you’ve been missing or desiring that has made this time feel difficult, but I imagine that the feelings have been experienced as more prominent than in the past.
To speak of my own experience is to say that it has been a time of engaging with a certain unfamiliar wilderness inside of myself as I simultaneously witness events and pain that range from sad to devastating. And of course there’s been everything in between. Moments of love, kindness, joy. Frustration, annoyance and celebrations of life in ways that have all required a new etiquette in human interaction to meet our needs with those we care for near and far whether we know them personally or not.
It has been a time that is both trying as well as an honour to be human. The effects will be revealed for decades to come whatever your personal experience has been within the context of the collective. This has been a time of intensity in emotions and trying to put words to things that are new experiences that unpack some old and familiar feelings. Whatever your experience, we are each going about our day as human. Which is what frustrates us most about being human. Especially when very little might feel or look or sound ideal.
When it was the past, perhaps you found yourself wanting something different. And now that the past is the past and the future looks like more of this same (for at least a little while), you might find yourself wishing for the past. This is human. And so is the ability to see this state for the opportunity that it is. As a witness to a deep human need for satisfaction without an accurate way to acknowledge what is satisfying unless and until a time is firmly in the past.
To feel satisfaction lies in how we make meaning out of all of the experiences that we have without dwelling and ruminating in ways that encourage a negative bias. In a way that is with an almost remote perspective that we feel deeply connected to. Because the funny thing about meaning is that it’s pretty invisible to the naked eye of any onlooker. It’s a deeply personal experience.
As much as anyone wants to make everything or at least some thing feel better right now, there is too much for any one of us. However it remains that the feeling of actually making or leaving something at least a bit better than you found it or creating something of meaning is the intrinsic reward of being human. We feel good when we do, no matter how small what we do is. The bigger issue at this time is to count the little in the face of so much going on. To call upon the best of what it means to be “only human” during trying times.
This call to be human though does require something of you. And that something is the cultivation of compassion. Because this time is cultivating compassion as much as it is cultivating anything else.
It is abundantly apparent at a time when everyone wants more than any one person can give that no one person can do everything. And it doesn’t cultivate compassion to focus on how you can’t do what you used to do or what you know you would be capable of in different circumstances. Remember, that’s not now. But what we can do is our part and stretch to leverage doing more with less. Like doing a little bit more for ourselves while refraining from acting unless we can do something with compassion both for ourselves an another. This means looking for things to do that you’re happy to offer that may change up, rather than eradicate what you’re currently doing now.
What you require may not necessarily be a good night’s sleep per se, but rather a heart with compassion to give. Doesn’t sound so terrible, does it? But as a practice, we humans find this very hard because we were given to from martyrs and victims of guilt who didn’t understand that this is what diminishes love rather than cultivates it. So there is a collective unlearning happening since the status quo of how we gave is brought to its knees by this time.
We have to be allowed to admit that we got how we give wrong so that we can make it right.
Compassion is only human so it is possible to give. But what is it and how can it exist in our daily life? Here are some of my ideas:
Compassion is cultivated for starters. And it has to begin with yourself. Otherwise what you give will undermine or overpower what you seek to help. Like a sun scorched or drowned plant that cannot possibly thrive.
Compassion is the willingness and ability to observe the results of your actions, rather than just being focused on what and how you want to give. This is because people really are unique. To give truly from a place of your own love with insight into your own motives. As we cannot control how others receive. And noticing whether your own actions are meeting your own needs or tinged with resentment or expectation. It’s not uncommon to want to give more to someone that would benefit from less and to undergive to another that would benefit from more. Or to consider trading what you give to whom with someone else that’s a much better match.
Compassion is a ceasing of the diminishment of the tasks of the day. A shower is not less than a meal prepared. A dog walk is not less than a floor that is swept. An email completed is not more than a table that is wiped down. Do what you’re doing that needs to be done. Stay with the task and respect the effort. If you can’t, ask yourself why.
Compassion is a rising up of willingness to listen to your own pain and to console yourself without placating. “What is” is just “what is.” It’s not better to be happy than angry. If you’re angry accept that you feel angry. Anger is not what you are. There is no need to feel guilty when you are content and in the presence of someone having a completely different experience of the same event. Be with you yourself and you’ll be there for another.
Compassion is a way of making this moment feel fully accepted so that true change can sprout and take root. Returning again and again as needed to fully accept this moment in order for clarity to set in. And then again as needed. Repeat until your last breath.
Compassion is at the very least how we stop things from getting or feeling worse.
If misery loves company, what compassion heals is suffering. With compassion, we’ll all feel and do better because we’re all human. Even when that feels like the hardest thing to do some days. It’s only human to learn to go deep, rise up, let go, and love. It’s part of any career journey worth your while.
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