Today I meant to head back to the office. My plan was to start slowly with actual in-office time, working in person on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Like many parents, my schedule is dictated by the school system, and my son started a two-day-a-week, in-person plan this week. But there’s a reason God laughs when humans make plans. So, no. My morning didn’t culminate with me excitedly buzzing into the office. Once again, I’m working from my couch.
Instead of hearing the buzz of colleagues and the office espresso machine, I hear Zoom lessons and the washing machine. And I felt a keen sense of disappointment. Disappointment in myself. Disappointment in this week. Disappointment that things aren’t back to normal.
I realized again, as I did last March, that normal is entirely relative and ever mutable. And I found myself wondering, thanks to my philosophy degree, if normal is actually real. [I’m fairly certain I’m not alone in this!] So I spent some time meditating to get my head back in the game, and I was struck by how much our lives have changed. I recognized that the ways I’m coping with the impact of COVID-19 parallel the ways I’ve learned to maintain my sobriety.
One Day at a Time
The phrase every newcomer hears in every meeting without fail, is to take things one day at a time. It’s the way most newbies make it through the early months of sobriety. Sometimes, the newly sober have to break it down even further, whether it’s one hour at a time or one minute at a time. Why does this help? It reminds us to stay present in the moment.
The cycle of addiction and shame is powerful and painful. Unpleasant thoughts and feelings overwhelm us, leading to destructive behaviors we hope will wipe away or quiet those thoughts and feelings. Most people seek a form of mindless escape from time to time, but addicts amp it up. Maybe you binge with Netflix or a long session in the gym or escape into a book. Maybe for you it’s procrastination or a glass of wine. Whatever your poison, the desire to turn off and disconnect is universal.
The desire to disconnect has been true for me during this pandemic. Like you, I’ve been overwhelmed with trying to educate a preschooler, an 8th grader, and attend Zoom meetings with colleagues and clients. I’ve been trying to juggle getting dinner on the table and running out to yet another store for toilet paper and antiseptic wipes. And I’ve been overwhelmed as I realize the degree to which our global hospitality clients are being impacted.
And through it all, the single best thing I can do is take it a day at a time. Let’s face it, you and I have little influence over government and health policy. We have no influence over a virus. But when I stay mindful and present in the moment, I can make a difference. I can feed my family. I can help my clients achieve their goals.
Easy Does It
When someone first gets sober, the group reminds them to watch out for HALT, an acronym warning against becoming overly hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. While many who struggle with addiction also struggle with other issues, the call to take it easy is universally good advice.
Striving for perfection, to achieve unattainable goals right now is not just limited to addicts. I know I’m not alone, in the middle of a global pandemic, trying to rush this crisis along, trying to manage everything as if things were “normal.” I’m impatient that it’s not “over yet.” And I find myself expecting the same (or better) productivity from myself, my colleagues, our clients, and everyone else just like it was before. Hey, when my youngest asks, “Are we there yet?” I find myself asking the same question of that darn virus. Have we reached the end of this? And the answer is no, we’re not done yet. Because no matter what we wish, the universe only moves forward in one direction.
So let me say it a little louder for the people in the back: It’s ok to relax your expectations. It’s ok to do a little less, to triage what’s most important. For me, this means relearning to treat the weekend as a weekend, not as an extension of Friday. It means taking time for positive affirmations. It means taking a break and walking outside. I’m finding that ensuring I’m not too hungry, angry, lonely or tired helps me stay in the moment. So I urge you to find whatever recharges you and do that. And do it as often as you need to so you can stay productive at a reasonable level.
Progress, Not Perfection
I restarted therapy a couple months ago, because I felt my personal and professional life were threatening to overwhelm me. I felt a little out of control, scared, and constantly stressed. In one of my early sessions, I told my therapist that I had quit smoking (my last great vice, c’mon), and I’d also cut carbs to almost Keto levels. He did not applaud, which is what I sorta expected and wanted. He cocked his head and crossed his legs.
“Are you insane?” he asked.
“It’s too much, isn’t it?” I said, even as I realized the level of my absurdity. But the realization gave me hope.
In the midst of a global pandemic, I decided that in addition to my work (mentally taxing) and my role as a wife and mother (mentally, physically, and emotionally taxing), I’d go cold turkey on Marlboros and pasta.
But that moment led to real change. I’m working on making progress every day in a healthier way. I set timers for work and for breaks. I stretch without fail. I stop midday to eat and to meditate. Some days, I watch too much Supernatural. And some nights, I throw a hot dog in the microwave for dinner, and call it “supper.” My kids are happy. And I’m reminding myself that perfection can be the enemy of good.
It’s been 90+ days, and I’m happy to report I’m still not smoking. I do, however, eat about the equivalent of a baguette a day.
Sara Hinson – VP, Content Strategy