“It looked like a Chernobyl scene. Everything was exactly as we had left it, but with a layer of dust.” I’ve heard a variation of this story every time someone goes back to their old office to retrieve something after an extended period of working from home. It is an eerie feeling. Often people will note that it looks sad or that life looks like it is on hold.
Many of us are living our lives and careers as if they are on hold. We are waiting for life to return to normal, and this waiting is taking a toll unlike any other we’ve experienced. We’re waiting to experience life again. Of course, we’re all doing what demands our attention and checking off the box in front of us, but we’re doing it with our breath held and hoping to live again when some ambiguous marker occurs and says OKAY – GO.
The Waiting Game
This waiting game is leaching our lives. We keep thinking that this shouldn’t be happening, and the more we think about what shouldn’t be, the less we see what is happening. I am not making a case for some sort of sappy, happy-go-lucky, smile anyway, kind of approach. What I am making the case for is being present for what is happening, no matter how you feel about it. Presence is simply noticing and bringing your mind to what is happening now. The richness in this historic time is living through it. The richness is in knowing how we get to the other side and being one of the few who understands how we get from this moment to a future moment. The richness is that you get to live your whole life, instead of being in a mental holding pattern waiting for life to start. So what if it is horrible right now? So what if it is wonderful? That is part of the tapestry of your story, and the more you are present for it, the more of the story you begin to appreciate because it is all interwoven.
As your sense of appreciation expands, you will begin to notice what you truly are enjoying, what it is that you actually are grateful for. You begin to see that gratitude cannot and should never be an obligation, but instead it is a realization of what brings you a feeling of full connection. It feels rich, deep and brings warmth to your soul. We often shame ourselves by noting that we should feel more grateful for our jobs, our families, our health, etc. Real gratitude cannot be experienced as an obligation. As you become present in what is actually happening, you shift to seeing the full scope, which includes the hard parts, but also includes the beautiful parts. You start to see it all in real time. Your presence not only shifts you, but shifts your team and your leaders. You see more and can affect more.
Before the pandemic, many of us were looking for change. We were looking to make life less hectic, to finagle a working-from-home deal or to spend more time with our families. And here it sits, but it seems to not have come in the package we were hoping to receive. It seems to have arrived all wrong, backward and damaged. It sometimes looks like a cruel joke of our expectation or hope. Again, we keep waiting for something to change and make it right. We find ourselves saying, “I wanted this, but not like this.”
Again, it is time to bring our presence to it. To find the appreciation in it, not by “sucking it up,” but by sifting through the rubble and finding the gems that do ignite gratitude. It might not seem like much, but staying present with all of it means you will see beauty too. No need to wait, just look at what works and doesn’t work now. That’s all it takes to start living again and release the holding pattern. You’ll shift and change. You’ll keep what works and shape a new day, but first you’ll just be in this one.