As the wind pushes the clouds aside to reveal a clear blue sky and a radiant sun this first morning of Spring feels so profoundly different than any first day of Spring I have ever encountered. Like most people in the 170 countries affected deeply by the Coronavirus I am isolating in my home, and have been for nearly a week. My life, as so many others’ lives, feels already deeply changed. I long for so many of the things I complained about. As a board and executive coach in London, my daily routine is usually donning a pair of comfortable shoes and walking crisscross around the City and Central London visiting my clients for one to one sessions or leading one day workshops on Confidence, Impact and other areas of important leadership skills I love. I will never again complain that I am tired, busy, overworked. A highlight of my day is meeting the receptionists and security guards at my clients’ offices and smiling familiarly or waving or calling their names or them mine. I miss that deeply and never realised before what a highlight that was. Normalcy has changed.
It is less than a week in and I am aware that the new normal is daunting in its uncertainty. How long will it last? How long will I get up to read my street’s WhatsApp group for the latest on who needs what or which local retailer has joined the list to deliver? How long will I check in with my friends who are older or living alone in this quarantine? How long will I ring my elderly father who lives alone in London to make sure he is ok and that the neighbours next door are indeed checking in and delivering food to him? How long will I keep devising ways of ensuring my clients are doing alright and remaining a good coach to them even if we are socially isolating? When did “socially isolating” become common parlance?
I am mindful that my brain, just as all human brains, is switched to certainty, it craves certainty and seeks it, especially in the most uncertain of times. I teach this, I coach this. I know a variety of change models and draw them on flipcharts or on pads of papers in countless client offices, and have done for over thirty years. Yet the only certainty my brain seems to calibrate is doom: economic collapse globally, lots more deaths, people I know and love dying, living in my house like this with my beloved for months learning a new normal and forgetting how to do my old life, getting very fat because I can no longer be bothered doing the live stream yoga classes on Instagram, ennui setting in and forgetting my daily routine of social-media, reaching out to clients, phoning around to fellow isolators—collapsing into a morass of obese, ineffective, unproductive numbness. Certainty is, in and of itself, mythology.
I am, in this time of the pandemic, learning more about myself, that my deepest desire for certainty is probably the self-same thing in so many others that has created mad panic purchasing and the over consumption of loo roll. I am aware of the fantastic nightmare stories I have told myself in this time that have led me to mad rehearsals, in my imagination, of some dark terrible things, including my own demise. I know I am not alone. I can see that in the socials as I watch the massive amount of photographs of empty shelves, and long supermarket ques, and NHS doctors and nurses weeping after 48 hour shifts followed by unsuccessful shopping attempts because there is nothing to buy for their families.
My challenge to myself is to keep awake to the stories I tell myself at this time. As I write this the first morning of Spring unfolds the clear blue sky. It is inviting me to see that Nature is undaunted by this virus. There are buds on the trees outside my window, and blossoms coming up and along the entire street, birds are feeding and chirping and singing out for mates. My neighbour across the street has just opened her curtains and I have stood to call her attention and share a smile and a wave. And the certainty is this: we are here, and the earth will continue to spin. At the end of this we will know how treasured we are by those whom we love, we will get to know those with whom we live more deeply, we will be profoundly and more deeply connected to all whom we love because we will have had the time to talk to them for the hours we have not, until now, had, we will go back to work and work differently, more smartly, enhanced by what we have learned in this time. We will carry with us the one certainty we will gain from this: we are human, we are vulnerable, and we are strong.