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Are We There Yet….Are We There Yet?!

When you read that title, did you chuckle some or have a great laugh because it either brought back memories of you and your kids going on a trip or you were the kid many years ago when travel wasn’t as expeditious and you were the one yelling that at your parents? Many – I’m sure, as it did for me when I thought about my family trips from Charleston, SC, to Waycross, GA, as a kid.

What does that have to do with today? I believe that it is extremely relevant to the many issues that we’re facing and what I’ve been hearing from family, friends and clients at the beginning of 2021. Let me set the backdrop first and then I’ll bring us back to the start of 2021 and connect the dots.

In 1988 I was training to become a competitive cyclist. I entered a race in Tucson that was advertised as a century ride. There were other distances as well, but most people had signed up for the 100-mile ride. I started that day having not ridden more than about 60 miles in the recent run-up of my personal training. 100 miles was going to be a challenge, but I set my mind’s eye on the prize (finish!) and took off at the sound of the start horn. It was a struggle, but I was hanging in there. Finally the feedback from my cyclometer said I had completed 90 miles….then 95, and then 100. I was struggling near the 100-mile mark, but pushing through as the finish was so close……or so I thought! Either my cyclometer was off, which is quite possible in 1988, or the race organizers didn’t measure right, but in either case I arrived at the 100-mile mark according to my cyclometer, and the finish line was nowhere in sight. I was devastated to say the least. I had dug really deep to get to that point only to realize something…I couldn’t see a finish line and had no idea where it was or how much longer the real finish line was. I wasn’t sure that I could keep turning the pedals over with the lactic acid flaming in my quads and my lower back feeling as if it was on fire too! I did finally make it to the finish line, and according to my feedback mechanism, I had ridden an extra 7 miles. It had seemed like another 70!

It was truly an incredibly tough experience. All of the energy and focus that I had mustered to get to 100 miles just went out of me like the air in a needle stuck, fully blown-up balloon when I realized that I still had to keep pedaling. Even now, with so many years separating the event, I’m having flash backs. I remember it seeming as if I had ridden my bike into a brick wall. I honestly don’t remember the speed drop, but this is close enough – I was riding at an 18 mph pace. and I believe that I was barely able to maintain a 10mph pace.

The analogy of my cycling experience is spot-on for where we are right now. 2021 has arrived and it’s the story I’m hearing over and over. So many of us either consciously or non-consciously set the turning of the calendar as that moment when circumstances just might be different from the past 9 months.

We had the holidays in some form, the promise of the vaccine, and just the mental and emotional anticipation that we were about to turn the corner and could get back to some form of our previous existence.
Not so fast, sports fan, to quote Lee Corso! The calendar turned and not only did nothing magical happen and we were able to go back to doing whatever and however we wanted, it seemed to get worse! For us, in the span of 3 days we had a friend pass away from Covid, a dear friend’s sister pass-away and a friend’s husband die. And, one of my great friends called to tell me how much he and his family were struggling. It was a painful reminder that we still have a long way to go and that the temperature of emotions and concern was actually going up not down since some of the experts are saying “we haven’t seen anything yet.” Even with the promise of the vaccine spurring our hopes the reality has quickly set in it that it’s not the panacea some of us thought it would be and that we are probably facing most, if not all of 2021 in the same boat we’ve been in since last March. Yes, we may be on the right track, but it’s a steam train moving at 15 mph, not a levitating magnetic rail train speeding at 300 mph! It’s as if we’ve driven our train into that same wall I rode my bike into so many years ago!

What are we to do at this point and time if we embrace either willingly or reluctantly that we can’t see the finish line, but we have to keep pedaling no matter what? Here’s some thoughts for your consideration:

1) The Serenity prayer might be in order for some of us – here’s the short version –
God, grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And Wisdom to know the difference.

2) Clarity – every one of us is a leader if you embrace self-leadership. So, whether you’re leading just you and/or your family or if you are a leader of others in an organization clarity is essential. Where are you going? What do you stand for? I find getting those things out of my head and down on paper allows me to see what’s going on with much more clarity.

3) Connection – without clarity of purpose and direction, then connection might be hard to develop and/or maintain. I believe, like Howard Ross in his book Our Search for Belonging, that Maslow may have had it wrong. He had “love and belonging” as the third step; but I believe, and especially with Covid, that love and belonging is at the very core and is foundational to our needs as humans. I just heard from someone who is in isolation due to a severe lockdown in their country. They are not doing well right now. We need connection!

4) Understanding – then we need to understand that each of us is on a different path and a different mindset right now and that we should embrace people where they are. Some people are doing just fine and have been able to make adjustments quickly and effectively. Others….not so much. That’s ok.

5) Communications – I could have included this together in either or both points 3 and 4, but I believe that it is important enough to call out on its own. If you are struggling, make sure there are people that you can talk to and that will hear your voice and will embrace you for where you are. If you are doing good and able to function at some level of productivity, then think about people that might need to hear your voice and check in with them.

As I finish up this blog the week of January 18, 2021 none of us can know when we can put this Covid situation behind us. Our mindset is critical to maintaining and driving our acceptance of the situation and making progress “one day at a time” versus wishing and hoping for this to end. Use the bike ride example and don’t put an artificial date on when you believe that things might be back to some semblance of normal. Control what you can control, focus on what is important (self-care and care of others) and possibly embrace a mantra that has gotten me through some tough times – “this too shall pass!”

Onward & Upward!

Ed Chaffin

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