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Beware the Boxes

How are things going for you this week, my friends? Here in my little spot in the world, everything seems to be waking up and people are slowly coming out of their homes a bit more to see each other again. Our Vermont Spring is tentatively tip-toeing into May, as is the norm for a northern mountain state such as ours. The pale pink Magnolia flowers are blooming as the lawns receive their first fresh mow of the year. As we move into the cautious reopening stage of this pandemic here in Vermont, it seems that local friends are drawing back the shades a bit and starting to emerge from their homes more. We are meeting each other for walks and reuniting our children so they can once again run and play together, sharing their secrets and laughter. As a community, we are working on what positive opportunities can arise from all of this sudden change. We are looking at what the new challenges are, remembering the older ones, and considering how we can creatively and innovatively solve problems now. It seems that we are at a crossroads now. How will we move forward as individuals, as communities, as a country, and as the world, from the havoc this pandemic has wreaked on the way we all do things?

Together, we have been through a social and biological earthquake that affects every aspect of our society including even the literal air we breathe. In an earthquake, the seismic waves transmit the energy released. Being a very visual kind of person, this is what comes to my mind as I try to wrap my head around all the ways this pandemic has affected everything in our world. I am a problem solver. I tend to not spend too much time dwelling on the “what happened” part and get right down to business focusing on the “how can we repair this” part, or “how do we rise from this” part. Personal experience this week has revealed to me yet again that I need to be very careful to not go the easy route and put problems in nice, neat boxes. The more I use my little boxes, the less I understand the problem and other people, and the more I shut down and put up walls. Contradictory to my end goals of working through issues, right?

I also know many other people struggling with personal stuff, just trying to survive and heal and find our version of success, so I know I am not alone in this processing. We have to dig deeper and broader to fully understand something, just like learning a new skill, science or art. Nothing is black and white as they say. In my social circle, I know of 4 different women who are pregnant and they are each working through that knowledge and state of body in different ways, from different visions of their lives and what they want. People around them have tended to immediately yell out “Congratulations!”, “I’m so happy for you!” “That’s fantastic!” That’s what all women want to hear when they are pregnant, right? No, not always, sometimes yes of course, sometimes not at all. Again, it is not black and white. All women do not live and breathe becoming mothers and women also have other goals in life. Just because a woman can become pregnant, doesn’t always mean they are super happy when they find out they are. Each of these 4 women I know have very different circumstances, very different family goals. Each of them has an entire range of emotions about their current state of body. Listening to each of them and hearing their experiences reminds me how very much we must not put people in boxes if we are ever going to truly understand and support each other. We need to be wary of assumptions and reach more for understanding the complexities of things.

As we work through our problems that existed before the pandemic, and the ones that arose during and because of the pandemic, we need to accept that things are far more complex than we want them to be. People are far more complex than we want them to be. We need to take a step back, breath, fight the urge to wrap things up neatly in a bow, and really look at what is in front of us. Then, we take it one step at a time to listen, to learn, to heal and to grow in positive ways. And we do this all with patience and compassion, knowing we can’t always see all the parts, and taking our time to work through it all as we are able to.

We have had some time to sit and think about what is really important to us, for ourselves, our families, and our society. As the world slowly gets to work again and life returns to some resemblance of “normal”, will we remember our lessons and our reflections from our quarantined time and truly implement new ways of doing things, new ways of living in the world? Hoping alone that we will hold on to and integrate our fresh insights will not be enough. We need to actively work to rewire the way we do things and that begins with each of us individually. It is easy to slip into a despondent state of mind, getting overwhelmed with the task of solving big social problems, changing laws, raising new leadership to the top, and the overwhelming task of shifting the societal mindset. It’s easy to feel like you don’t have much influence. But change has never really happened from the top down folks. Change is a very grassroots kind of thing where people just like you and I, work among our families, friends, and local communities to put in place fresh vision with creativity and action.

Here is the challenge this week my friends: As you emerge from your quarantine shells, remember to include in your metaphorical baggage the positive realizations, the creativity you learned and put into action, the ideas and visions you came up with and would like to see implemented – for yourselves and beyond. Take all of these things along with you and now – hold them out in front of you and look them over and take some action. What small piece of this can you take and begin to chisel away at in your own individual kind of way? What small piece can you pick up and move to where it can begin to affect change in your life, in your family’s life, in your community’s life?

This last week my 102-year-old grandmother was interviewed by her local newspaper along with another 102-year-old woman. These two women have lived through some of the most significant events of the past century, including the Great Depression, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the September 11 terrorist attacks. Their advice for all of us? Ms. Roush says: “Suck it up…(We) didn’t sit around and ponder, you just went ahead. You got up and did what you had to do that day. You just go with the flow.” And my grandmother? She says, “You can’t be scared. You can’t be afraid.” I say, let’s acknowledge our fears but not let them dominate us, let’s get up and do what we have to do. Let’s continue to support each other and reach out to each other, keep working on trying to understand each other, and begin to take action to make this world the better place we all want to live in.

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