Society points the finger at the individual—to raise a good kid, to be healthy, to recycle, to reduce carbon emissions, to succeed financially—but it’s a deflection to keep us engaged in our own personal choices rather than hold the society at large—our leaders, our institutions our policies—responsible for creating a culture that supports us to thrive.
Aedín is a small black six-year-old quarter horse mare who was saved from the kill pens last year. When she arrived three months ago to live at our ranch she had not been trained or ridden. In horsemanship terms, you would say she hadn’t been ‘broken’. Broken––such an incisively appropriate term for what we do to horses (and people I would add). In order to feel safe on the back of one thousand pounds of wild horse muscle, trainers notoriously intimidate, bully and manipulate their four-legged companions into submission, rendering them emotionally numb and spiritually bereft. Cowboys call these horses proudly ‘yes ma’am-ers’. I call them a tragedy.
“People talk about getting back to normal,” said a colleague the other day, a senior executive who has been working from home for a large health care organization since the lockdown. “Well, I don’t want to go back to normal! Normal was insane!”
She’s right. Normal American life was insane.
We need each other. We always have, but now in the times of lockdown our need for support and camaraderie is probably more important than ever. If you’ve never been a part of an intentional circle or support group of some kind, you are in for a treat.
Scott and I are currently in week four of our lockdown. Our New Mexico governor wisely called a state of emergency well ahead of the others. So in an effort to do our part in flattening the curve, and shortening the duration of this crisis, we shut our doors socially and professionally (i.e., to seeing clients in person). Fortunately, a portion of our work––coaching, online courses and Wisdom Circles has always been done virtually, so our days are still engaged and fulfilling. But that doesn’t make the lockdown any less challenging.
Last night I received a call from a loved one in Seattle. She and her roommates were self-quarantined in their home, at least one of them had COVID-19. They are young and vital, yet with Seattle melting down around them, their workplaces closed, graduation postponed, and their college classes abruptly shifted online, the household was becoming a veritable titanic of emotion. She was leaving Seattle, she said, along with her roommate, to take refuge at her roommate’s family home across the country.
I fall in love with people. This is a strange thing for an introvert to confess, because for the most part I prefer my own company in solitude, or alongside a four-legged companion. But when I do spend time with people, I do it deliberately and only among those with whom I really want to spend time…people I’m in love with.
Let’s face it, the holidays can be really intense. December is filled with lots of opportunities to be triggered: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ōmisoka, Christmas, Winter Solstice, and New Year’s Eve. Something about the combination of family, obligations, politics, secrets, loyalties, gift buying expense and stress, alcohol, and unresolved tension creates a toxic cocktail for drama. And most of the time we are dealing with folks who don’t know how to relate skillfully or consciously.
I have a small square card placed on my desk. On it are these words, written in frank, block letters “Opt out of consensus reality”. This simple instruction has become my north star, a compass setting inside the maelstrom of narratives that exist in our collective mind. These stories can feel deeply personal, such as “I’m not enough”, “I’ll go broke”, or “I should have done that differently”. Or civilizational, such as “homework makes better students”, “drink more water”, “we need a growth economy” or “humanity is bad”.