Departing from the bullet train which the modern goal-oriented, destination-focused world puts us on.
What it’s been like socially isolated with three small kids.
Carl Jung said that every personal problem is actually a problem that thousands of people likely face every day and will face in future generations. So solving our personal issues is equivalent to solving the problems of the world. In this vein, I share my personal story.
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Setting goals, focusing on refining my daily routine and schedule, getting the most out of each day to stay on my “career trajectory,” these were very much a part of my daily life up until the second week of March.
Things were humming along. Now we are adopting three kids, ages three, four, and six. Yes, we are crazy. Yes, it’s insane. We opted for a sibling pair, we got a sibling triple.
I was keeping my dogs Scamps and Joey happy with our daily runs, getting in shape for running half marathons. I maintained an extremely busy schedule. I was building my growth plan through my Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program.
Then from out of nowhere: We must stay home. All businesses must close. Everyone must remain “locked down.” My rocket ship launch of my GS10K plan not only was delayed but 95% of my rocket fuel evaporated overnight.
Every day another two to three advertisers sent an email saying they needed to drop out. Then with restaurants, rec centers, libraries, coffee shops, breweries all closed, distribution of our free magazine was finished. All of my plans that I had worked on for months in my growth group were non-viable. The questions that became impossible to answer kept piling up:
- How long will restaurants/coffee shops and bars be closed?
- How long will social distancing laws remain? (if very long we need to cancel our festivals)
- How long will it take for a vaccine?
- What is the true mortality rate?
- Could COVID-19 ever be contained?
- Is this entire thing a bunch of BS?
One student in my Goldman group pointed out that likely 30 percent of the economy was completely decimated. I was in the 30 percent. So is Kiki who operates Butan House. So is Courtney who has a dance studio for kids. So is Jenn who plans outdoor events and rendezvous for ladies. So is another Jen who has yoga studios. Our business models are simply unviable in a “COVID shut-down economy.” The nine scariest words any small business owner can hear are: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” I didn’t want an EIDL loan, I didn’t want a PPP. I wanted to operate my business. Local journalism is needed, but how do I pay my writers? My editors? My artists? Ad designers? Account manager and assistant? My printer?
Anyhow, it became very easy to become completely absorbed and obsessed with the news and my individual problems. But then a simple realization came to me: Why worry? Why obsess? There is absolutely nothing I can do to change the reality of the situation. Stop watching the news, accept it.
So not long after the earthquake, I accepted the f****ed up nature of the world. (kind of). I decided I would continue running every morning. I would go to the mountains as often as possible. I would not watch the news every day. I would not try to “plan my way out of this.” I would focus as much as I could on the kids. I checked out.
By checking out I only concentrated on the things that I had the ability to change today. I realized I am too quick to anger with the kids. I’m way too impatient. I’m not very fun. I’m just telling them 90 percent of the time what they can’t do. Looking inward I realized I’m also not much of a leader. It doesn’t feel right to be a “business leader” at least in any traditional sense. It doesn’t feel right to decide I must be shooting my “career or business into outer space.” I’m a journalist, I’m a storyteller and I’m a seeker. I like to ask questions and find answers. I like to build things and grow a garden.
The train of my old life has left the station. That life with daily meetings, a rigid schedule, a hyper-focus on my time, efficiency, my plan of action. That train is gone. The new train is much slower: What are today’s challenges? How can I improve myself today? Right now? How can I make the kids sit and do some schoolwork or get our oldest to at least write the alphabet?
We are brand new parents. This is the greatest challenge of our lives. It’s the greatest opportunity of our lives to do something of meaning and value. I will focus on these kids, and I will focus on what I can do to make myself into a better version of myself. I can start by “cleaning my own room.” (Read Jordan Peterson’s “12 Rules For Life”).
Now six weeks in, I can say some days I’m depressed. Some days are tough. When I think back to the old life of a nearly thriving business with a magazine and events– that life now seems like an eternity away. Every day is a new challenge. Let’s focus on making the most of this new life.
Carl Jung also said:
People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, Page 99.
So I take Jung’s comment to heart in this way: nobody has a wonderful and easy life now. But we can all take this as an opportunity to face our own soul and now is the time that the seeds are sprouting and the trees are blooming. It’s time for new beginnings, new growth. Yes, I know how corny and trite that sounds, but get outside and watch how fast nature renews. That clear example must show us we can also renew and regenerate and very likely we will all emerge stronger by facing our own souls and making the darkness conscious.