Up until a few weeks ago, things were going along pretty well. Sure, there were roadblocks, as there always are in life, but generally things were flowing nicely. Everything was going according to plan. Life was routine. Manageable.
The wheel stops.
At first it didn’t feel that much different that normal life. I mean, you still went to work and did your normal grocery shopping. But then the schools closed. And work closed. And the mall. And movie theaters. And sports.
Then it hits you—life has changed.
But you’re sure it will only be temporary. Sorta like being confined to your home in a big snowstorm. You got this. Better grab some extra bread next time you’re at the store.
But then you start to see the deaths. First in Asia. Then across Europe. And now here.
My God, what about your mother?
You worry. A lot. About your job. About your family. About this virus. About all the information swirling around that has you glued to Twitter or CNN/FOX every waking moment.
About all of the plans you’ve had to change, postpone, or cancel.
But mostly, you worry about your lack of control.
Control, or lack of it, is the crux of all the emotions you’re feeling right now.
I could talk about man’s attempt to control nature as the foundation of this, but that’s going too far back. We’re here for right now. This moment, when you’re dealing with something you’ve not only never experienced, but never even considered—acceptance that you don’t control as much as you thought you did in life.
It’s tough. I know. And humbling af.
Shortly after the President announced a return to normal on Easter, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the lead doctor on the White House Coronavirus Response Team, said, “You don’t make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline.”
Even the President of the United States of America has no control right now. Despite the flailing.
But this isn’t about the President, it’s about you. And how you somehow manage to get through this thing with any semblance of sanity. So here it goes –
- Step one is to accept, truly accept, that you have no control over this virus. Or the economy. Or the government response to this pandemic. So say it with me, “I have no control over this virus, the economy, or the government.” There are lots of other things too, but baby steps.
- Step two is to determine what it is that you DO have control over right now, and prioritize those things. I know, it’s not easy these days. My mind is mush too. It’s hard to focus. But you can do this. Make a list of things you DO have control over. Then begin taking action on that list. One little thing at a time. You cannot get overwhelmed with trying to do too much right now. Baby steps. At the end of each day, if you’ve moved in the direction you feel most confidently about (which is to say to follow your heart), I promise you that you’ll feel better about life. And you will take good rest. (Btw two ways you have control with the spread of the virus is to practice social distancing and staying at home.)
- Step three is critical because, invariably, what will happen is that you will begin to bump into other things you have no control over (like the guy who runs the stop sign, for example). So the third step is identifying and evaluating things as you bump into them—to determine whether you have control over them, or not. I’m gonna bet that you’ll begin to identify a lot of things that suck your energy which you have zero control over.
At this point you will begin to experience serenity. And control.
I know. It’s crazy, right? And I’m not gonna lie, this stuff isn’t easy. Especially to Americans who map out every second of every day in an attempt to maintain an orderly life. A life with no surprises. A life where they give us a template and say, “Go get whatever it is you want.”
So when we’re forced into humble submission of the fact that we have no control, we panic. It’s normal.
But letting go is the way out. And it’s beautiful.
Now I know what you’re thinking—why listen to me? Who the fuck am I to dole out advice? Nope, it’s best to stay glued to the tv while the media feeds us the drama our souls desire as we happily spin out of control with the rest of the world—rather than listen to some random guy.
As most of my friends know, I’m an alcoholic. I had a spiritual epiphany in 1991 that changed my life. Hell, it continues to shape me. And it’s taken me all these years to learn to let things go. And yet I still fail at it. Almost daily. But deep down, I know that I can take back control of things the second I’m willing to let things go. It’s so ironic that it doesn’t even sound reasonable.
Early on in AA, I learned this Irish prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
They call it the “Serenity Prayer.” I call it a miracle. Through these 27 words, I’ve been able to stay sober for 28 years. What???
It’s true. I trust this mantra to keep me sane. And it might just be relevant for you as you traverse this tough patch in life that we’re all figuring out together.
- Accept the things you don’t control.
- Work to change the things you do control (which you’ll come to learn is mostly how you react to change when it’s thrust into your lap.)
- Aspire to identify these things as you go through your day.
Finally, please know that all this fear you’re dealing with is normal. And also that you are not alone. Far from it. We’re all dealing with this thing. And our reaction to it.
Your job right now is to take care of you. Because you are the only thing you truly control.