I was just texting with a young friend who’s stuck at home in Panama. He’s an active young man, works out hard, but now he’s stuck at home. And, he says, he just wants to stay in bed all day.
When I responded that I’m having the opposite reaction, I can’t work enough, he said, “For me, home is a place to rest, not work. I do everything outside (so) when I get home it’s time to relax.”
He says he’s fighting it or he’d become a slob. And that’s where we are now, slowly coming to the realization that we can’t keep doing things the way we’ve always done them. If everything is really changing with COVID-19 – and it is, and will much more in coming weeks and months – then it’s incumbent on all of us to change along with it.
Businesses are finding that – it’s retool or die, think creativity or lose it all. Relationships are changing, too; some growing stronger, some showing their weaknesses and collapsing.
So it is with us, and our “personalities.” I put that in quotes because we aren’t really the “personality” that we create in response to events, to our situations, to other people’s judgments or expectations. We are something more, and something much, much more flexible than we think.
It’s comforting to think that we “just are” a certain way. But who we are is a construct. Sure, it’s based in some characteristics that we brought with us into this world, and some things about us will never change. But we are far, far more fluid than we think we are – or than we’d like to be.
Change is a constant, but a lot of people don’t like it. I’m fortunate in that change is a feature, not a bug, of my life; I change my location frequently, I change my social circles, and I certainly change my mind. I thrive on it. But a lot of people, probably most people, don’t. They find change undesirable at best, terrifying at worst.
Thus, our culture often rewards people who don’t change; for instance, if there’s one common thread in my Bernie Sanders-loving friends’ admiration of their man, it’s that he hasn’t changed his position in 50 years. Being fixed is considered being strong, steadfast, dependable. To stay with the politician analogy, what is the worst thing you can say about a politician? She changed her position. She flip-flopped. She wasn’t her any more.
People who change are considered suspicious, untrustworthy, two-faced. I once had a lover attempt to explain my shortcomings by accusing me with two words: “You change.” Now, my shortcomings are many, and I could of course have been a better partner; but saying I change, well…yes, I did, I do – but we all can, if we’re receptive to circumstances and new information.
Change is a constant in everything (except house music). Why is going with that considered a bad thing? Perhaps because it reminds us that we’re not in control; certainly, this isn’t a change I wanted, it doesn’t fit my lifestyle at all. Ironically, this change is forcing me to slow down, settle down, focus.
But I’m embracing that because I have no choice. And I can see how it might be the best thing for me, it’s already being good for me, even as I chafe against it and long for my old life. Having practiced change habitually – change I’ve wanted – is allowing me to embrace even the changes I don’t want.
Now, a huge change is upon is, a change that we really haven’t yet grasped. It’s a change that looks likely to dwarf 9/11. It’s a change we can only just see the emerging contours of, like a tidal wave just breaking through a fog bank as it barrels towards the shore. We see the projected numbers, but we simply can’t comprehend what that’s going to feel like.
It’s going to feel bad. This is a big wave coming at us, and none of us are prepared for this extreme a change, this quickly – and I include myself. The horrors of it are still an abstraction for most of us; we just can’t really imagine what is coming. But they’re not going to be abstract for long, and it’s not going to be good.
But it’s going to be what is, what we have to work with, and if we’re lucky, all we’ll really have to change is our approach to normal things. If we’re not so lucky, we’re going to have to deal with a lot of abnormal things, things no one wants to deal with.
But being prepared for these changes is going to help us adjust. I say this, of course, with only a vague sense myself of what’s coming. This could be a bad couple of months, and then a return to something like normal, but I don’t think so. I think we’re looking at many new considerations we’d not thought about before, for at least a year, perhaps longer. And that’s uncomfortable – it’s uncomfortable for me, Mister Embrace Change.
I wish it weren’t happening.
But it is. There’s no choice, only change. Only new ways of doing things we used to take for granted. New habits, new normals, new considerations.
My young friend in Panama is not a slob, so home for him is going not going to be where he goes to relax; it’s going to be a place where he works at maintaining his old life in a new reality, where he works at keeping himself in shape, and perhaps where he works to be a new self, a better self than he might otherwise have been. That’s going to be the case for a lot of us, and it will be challenging. Whether it’s working out with a laptop open, finding new inspirations for work, figuring out how to make money, or make love – things aren’t going to be done the way we’re used to. And it pretty much sucks.
But for most of us, there is no other place now beyond home and the screen. I’m still getting out, as are others, moving my body and maintaining a good distance from others, getting nature and exercise and sunshine – when it’s not raining all day, really? But that could change; we could be more limited than we’ve ever been before. Many are already isolating and barely leaving the house as though it’s the end of the world; many others are still hitting markets and stores as though nothing has changed.
Such a weird, weird time.
But one thing’s for sure: Change is here, and it’s not going to stop. Those who can embrace it and even run toward it are going to be on a better footing than those who resist. Resistance to change is natural, and in normal times it is the way many would react; but these are not normal times. Normal times are over. Best to start facing the new reality and see where it leads.
Because there’s no going back now.