You’ll see if you look at my banner on this site: Nothing we do can change the past, but everything we do changes the future. Tru dat! We are definitely in the midst of a change cycle with this pandemic. I keep hearing that people are anxious to return to “normal,” and all I can think is that I don’t want to go back. As hard as it is, we can only go forward.
The Change Cycle
The Change Cycle is a real thing. It is a 6-stage model for responding to changes that go on all the time. For each stage, the model identifies probable feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. It looks like this.
I could spend all day explaining it to you, but I really want to do is give you a quickie example of how I am experiencing the current Covid-19 pandemic in relation to this model. In future posts, I will relate how specific activities (such as The Art of Napping and watching movies with Closed Captions) or my daily meal times have been affected (beer bread, anyone?). For now, it is my aim that if you are struggling with all the changes in your life due to this virus, you will find some hope in support of the idea that there can be (and definitely is) a benefit to us in these trying times. And that there is a way forward.
As you can see, the cycle starts with the event of the loss (our normal routines, a new virus), that leads us into doubt (about the sudden impact, the resistance to the change), which shows up as discomfort (too much to deal with, too many unknowns), until we start discovering it’s not forever (we’re going to reopen the restaurants and hair salons), which brings about a new level of understanding and acceptance of the situation (we seek opportunities and get busy again), so that we can integrate the changes and create a new normal (work and leisure reprioritized).
The kind of change isn’t important. Sure, some changes hurt more than others. Some changes require us to spend more time in some stages than others. Even changes that we court and wish for still end up having up move through these stages but likely on a different time table or with differing levels of anxiety, for example. The arrival of a baby and a loss of a job are completely different changes, but both are changes nonetheless.
No change is unimportant. But all change ends up being for good. It can be incredibly difficult and mystifying to figure out how some changes are beneficial; many times we wish we could go back in time and have a Do Over. Science, psychology, and experience all show, though, that ultimately, we grow or evolve in our thinking and our being when we go through a change of any kind. That’s a point of view that takes some getting used to; it really is a mindset.
That can be a big pill to swallow, I know. I have had some painful things happen in my life, things I’d rather forget or pretend never happened. This isn’t going to be a litany of the uphill climb I’ve had – I know I’m not the only one who has ever gone through some of what I’ve gone through. But ultimately – every single time – I have changed. I respond to the same or similar new things differently, I think differently, I act differently. Because I learned a different way to a better outcome. I can’t un-know something, or as a friend of mine likes to say, I can’t unring that bell. So I am who I am now because of all those changes. And so are you changed because of what has happened in your life.
Even a change like death. As you know, my husband died a bit over 5 years ago. Can I say it was “all good?” That seems harsh, insensitive, unloving. And I surely did grieve, get angry, get depressed, and want by old dreams back. Then. But with death, there is no going back. It’s not just about looking for a silver lining. Dealing with change is about actively processing what we are going through, and accepting that forward movement is preferable to getting stuck and staying down for the count. It doesn’t mean we don’t feel bad, or that we don’t hate what has happened, or that we are glad something happened. It means we have moved on.
Stage 1, Loss
With the pandemic, I admit I got scared. I cried and felt fearful. I live alone, and I worried that if I got sick, no one would know; those who might help (kids, sibs) were too far away; what would happen to my dogs; I don’t have a bedroom on my first floor and how can I climb stairs if I have trouble breathing? Yeah, I felt real fear, and it had a tight grip. This was Stage 1, Loss. This was the thing that started it all. I was behind the Eight Ball and not liking it at all.
Stage 2, Doubt
I started to resent those who were supposed to give us hope, calm us down, provide us with information and support. Leadership failed me. I became skeptical of everything I heard. I felt angry. I doubted there was a light at the end of the tunnel, so I decided to stay the hell away from the tunnel at all. I rejected the ideas of the so-called experts. Classic Stage 2, doubting everything. Asking WHY????
Stage 3, Discomfort
But that was not sustainable for me. I am normally an optimistic person, and my professional experience told me that there was more to the story than we were being told, more options than we were being given. I was now at Stage 3, full of questions, spending a lot of time doing nothing, going in circles, looking for an easy way out. I was uncomfortable with the way things were and could not accept the status quo. I was anxious but saw no clear way out. If that is not your nature, you still can be confused, anxious, and unable to get much done.
It is at this point I could have resigned myself to being a couch potato, waiting for a savior to make it all go away, letting negativity take over and turning possibilities into poisons. That is the danger zone. I am aware that engaging in all the drama sucks energy right out, so I pushed through to get away from it. I stopped watching the news several times a day and started watching romantic happy-ending Hallmark movies. I cut down my Facebook feed to weed out the divisive posts, and I took to weeding my garden instead. My diet of chewy licorice, jelly beans, and chocolate became crunchy green salad, turkey for several days on end, and experimental biscotti and beer bread. Of course, you do you.
Stage 4, Discovery
I wanted Stage 4, that of discovery. I was sick and tired of being sick (disgusted) and tired (same old-same old). I got resourceful, sewing my own masks, moving around some plants in the yard, and attending an e-treat (online retreat) based on a book When Everything Changes, Change Everything. I caught myself looking forward to ways I could outsmart the system, or at least create a healthier life on my own so I wouldn’t have to rely on the health care system and politicians to save me. I wasn’t going to wait for what I thought I “deserved,” I was going after what I wanted.
Stage 5, Understanding
With the generous help of Verizon and their free gigs of data for my cell phone, I have initiated more contact with long-distance friends and family. More than just talking, now I can video-chat and see them. It’s not the same as being at same table, but it is kinda cool to do our own Brady Bunch reunion. I got more active, as in walking the dogs twice a day instead of once, and for twice the distance each time. I haven’t lost any weight (see licorice comment above), but I do think my belly jiggle has toned down. I gained confidence that I was over the hump of heavy fear, evidenced by my successes at the oven and in the garden, as Spring finally arrived. Being productive made me recognize my prior unproductivity, and I was able to understand that no one really knew how to deal with this pandemic and they were probably doing the best they could, given the many obstacles in their way. I could understand that while some jobs or industries were declared essential or non-essential, we as individuals are all essential to humanity. An unemployed neighbor is still essential to my daily spirit, waving as I walk by. A closed business is essential to Mother Earth by reducing the number of people on the road, resulting in an essential cleansing of the air. Yes, Stage 5 is where I am. I am understanding the situation and responding with a more holistic approach.
Stage 6, Integration
The integration of all this evolution in my feelings, thoughts, and actions is yet to come. That’s Stage 6. With some businesses starting to re-open and people going back to work outside of their homes, things will change slightly. I’ve been enjoying the peace and quiet of my neighborhood streets and seeing my neighbors throughout the day. People will be on a time clock or trying to fit in more errands in a day, so they’ll be picking up the pace. I will do my best to support that, because the economic impact on my retirement accounts has pinched me some, too, and because I know some people are needing the social stimulation and ability to contribute as much as to bring in a paycheck. That doesn’t mean that I have to hustle, or fill my schedule, or let the weeds take over my yard. I know I have been able to push my own reset button, to reprioritize how I spend my time, and to more fully appreciate my slice of heaven on Earth. If I can continue that lifestyle, I will have achieved integration. The cycle is complete.
If I declare that these are all good things, for me, then I have to say that the pandemic did for me what no amount of reading prophets and gurus and experts has been able to do. All that theory I have been consuming has finally been applied in real time by me, in my world. I don’t want to go back to whatever I thought was normal a month ago. I want to stay here in New Normal, at least for a while, until the next change event comes along and propels me into another cycle. Until then, I am making plans for a slower re-entry to the local life, wishing for some kind of camper travel this summer, and expecting to continue building my inner strength, solidifying my ideal life and letting go of some old expectations.
It’s because I have gone through so many changes (big ones, trust me) that I have developed some quicker response times to some changes. I move through the 6 stages quickly for some changes due to my collection of experiences and the resilience I have cultivated.
As its been said, all beginnings start with an ending of something else.
How has this pandemic affected you? What Stage are you in? What do you do differently from a month ago? What will you do differently a month from now? What do you hope still happens? What is next for you? I’d really like to have this conversation with you, so feel free to comment below…or private message me…or call. I’ve lots of time.