For some of my keynote talks, I ask people in the audience to raise their hand if they are a control freak.
A hush of giggles and laughter predictably ensues and then A LOT of hands go up in the air.
Every. Single. Time.
Regardless of sector. Regardless of geography.
So if you are a control freak or, as I like to think of myself – a recovering control freak – I’m writing this newsletter especially for you.
Susan Jane, one of the faculty members for our fellowship, is also an expert in apocalypse studies. On our weekly zoom coffee hour, she’s been talking to us about how apocalypse is a Greek word meaning a “unveiling” and “reckoning.” That an apocalypse helps us see things that were hidden and creates momentum for justice.
One of the things the COVID-19 crisis has unveiled for me even more clearly is how deeply inter-connected we all are. Our physical, mental, emotional, spiritual well-being is bound up with one another. Not just across the street but all the way across the world, too.
The unveiling that comes with COVID-19 has also helped me see that a lot of things I thought I control, turns out I can’t. To the point of life and death.
I can take steps to minimize my risk right now – and minimize my risk of spreading it to others. And I am doing that. But even with all the precautions we are taking – many of them afforded to me and my family by our racial and socio-economic privilege – the virus could still find it’s way into my respiratory system.
If I get the virus, I may or may not be one of those people who needs a ventilator.
If I need a ventilator, I may or may not get one.
Ultimately, I may or may not survive this pandemic.
The gift of this moment, for me, is laying bare for all to see something that was always true anyways: there is no way I can ever know what will happen in the future.
There never was.
So I ask you to forget for a minute about your non-profit or your social change cause. Many of us who survive this will be engaged in the apocalyptic task of reckoning – of aligning our resources and our life energy with advancing and accelerating justice for all. We will get to that soon.
For now, I ask you to take a minute and be with the uncertainty. To look inside and be willing to be with yourself. And your fears. And what’s on the other side of that as well. The rest – your kids, your community, your team, your organization, your company – they will still be there waiting for you in a few minutes, I promise.
Here are a few of the practices I am doing regularly to align myself personally with all of the uncertainty that COVID-19 has unveiled in my life:
- Body check. Notice how your mind/body/spirit are oriented toward the uncertainty of the moment.
Are you bracing and fighting? Double-vigilant on the prepping? Hoarding more than your fair share of toilet paper?
Are you immobilized and stuck?
Are you going foggy and feeling sleepy? Experiencing a lot of confusion and unclear thinking?
Are you in denial, dismissing this as not such a big deal and hoping it will all just be over soon?
Are you feeling waves of anguish and grief over the suffering – whether it’s near or far?
Or maybe you’re feeling angry about how your leaders are responding. Or how the virus is not a great equalizer -how it is, in fact, impacting the black community more harshly. Or that people are still in detention or jail? Or that health care professionals lack personal protective equipment? Or that grocery workers don’t make enough money to afford a home. Or a million other systemic fault lines that have been exposed through this crisis. **we have lots of work to do.*
Whatever you are feeling, give yourself permission to actually feel it. I can go through all of these emotions in a single hour. And on my best days, I go with those feelings versus suppressing them in any way. If I feel sad, I allow myself to cry. If I am feeling angry, I shake my fists. If I am feeling scared, I do some Fear Melters.®
- Say something true out loud.“Today is Tuesday and I’m having a hard time concentrating.”
“Today is Tuesday and I really wish things were different.”
“Today is Tuesday and I feel angry that my sister’s hospital doesn’t have sufficient PPE.”
“Today is Tuesday and I appreciate the fact that we don’t have to get up early and rush our kids out of the house to be on time for school.”
Set a timer and allow yourself to blurt unconsciously for at least a minute about what’s going on for you on the inside. Keep going until you say something that lands as aligned and true for you.
- Move your body. Dance to your favorite song. Go for a walk around the block while you repeat your unarguable truth that emerged from step 2 above. However your body is capable of moving – do it. This won’t “fix” anything but it might get your body, mind and spirit aligned with what is so that you’re not putting energy into fighting with reality.
- Form good habits.Experts say it takes 66 days to form a new habit. I learned from my time in the Army how grounding it is to do some things every single day, rain or shine.Do something to feed your body, mind spirit every single day. Make time to exercise. Make time to be in nature. Make time to enjoy playing with your kids. Make time to connect with your significant other. Make time to learn something new. Make time to zoom with a neighbor or distant family member. Make time to clean your home – a little bit every day. Make time for whatever is important to you.
We are keeping a COVID log for our family. I fill it out over breakfast just to be sure we’re tending on a daily basis to the things that matter most to us. Feel free to download it and edit it for your family if it’s helpful.
- Get complete.My mentor, Katie Hendricks, talks about “living in a state of completion.” The idea is to live your life in such a way that there is nothing important unsaid or undone, period. My embrace of this way of being has prepared me well for the COVID-19 crisis. We’ve incorporated an exercise in getting complete into our fellowship and I’m happy to sharethe self-guided worksheet with you here. Scroll down on our “Tools” page to #5. One note: this isn’t meant to be a exhaustive and exhausting “you should do all this checklist.” This is meant to jog your consciousness if anything significant is unsaid or undone.
Ok – I think that’s enough introspection for this moment. If you have any practices that are supporting you in navigating this crisis, I invite you to share them with me.
Back to the outside world:
- I am assuming you are all set with resources for applying for Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and the Paycheck Protection Program. If you’re not – please talk to your accountant or finance team about it.
- If you’re able to get out and see it, tonight’s Pink Supermoon will be the brightest the moon will appear all year.
- Don’t forget to sign up for Solutions Journalism’s roll-up of COVID-19 solutions. Some extraordinary things are being done – you won’t want to miss this.
With tremendous love and affection,
Becky & Selena
p.s. If somebody sent you this email, sign-up here to receive weekly inspiration and practical pointers on leading large-scale change.
p.p.s. if you are experiencing a leadership dilemma and could benefit from some real-time coaching, we are offering half-hour pro-bono sessions through this crisis. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to get on our schedule.
Unleashing Social Change Podcast Season 2 is Out!
- Christine Margiotta, my wife and Executive Director of Social Venture Partners Los Angeles, on shifting their model from charity to justice.
- Dimitry Anselme with Facing History and Ourselves about teaching history as a way of bolstering our fragile democracy.
- Jason Marsh with the Greater Good Science Center on spreading research-based practices that advance happiness and well-being.
- Kate Hilton with the Institute for Health Care Improvement on getting out of your own way as a leader.
- Helen Smith, Forensic Psychiatrist with the National Health Service about taking the fear out of the system to unleash massive creativity.
- Gerry Balcazar and Hugo Ramirez from Vision y Compromiso on building movements of love and support around children
- Sasha Rabkin from Equal Opportunity Schools on bringing equity to AP/IB classes.
- Jake Maguire from Community Solutions on what happened after the 100k Homes Campaign ended. If you stick around til the very end you will get to hear him tell me a hilarious story that cracks me up to this day.
- Chris Chatmon from Kingmakers of Oakland on transforming schools to work for black and brown boys.
- Bruce Nilles from the Rocky Mountain Institute on climate change as an equity issue and why your natural gas appliances are no good.
- Peter O’Driscoll from the Equitable Food Initiative about how they’ve worked with the entire food production cycle to get healthy produce and fair wages for everyone.
- Arfon Williams, a General Practitioner in Rural Wales about how he responded to the crisis of being the only doctor around for hundreds of miles.
- Parvathi Santhoosh-Kumar, Vice-President of Equitable Results at StriveTogether, about how they’re working with dozens of communities to go from proof points to systems transformation on behalf of children everywhere.
- Tema Okun, Duke University, Facing into your own Racism with Courage and Love.