Yes, for a year, as a nation, from March 2020 to March 21, we’ve been moving through difficult times. Now, the pandemic may be moving into a new phase. On a personal level, it’s been one messy life shift which completely challenged our “normal” patterns and routines. We have survived and we will survive, perhaps even creating a more conscious new normal for ourselves. Some of my aging friends are welcoming the new “slowness” and may want to embrace it ongoing.
At just the perfect time for reflecting on what has happened to us , Bruce Feiler’s new book LIFE is in the TRANSITIONS, Mastering Change at Any Age (2020) lands in my lap. Feiler’s thesis is that life should now be considered non-linear. The changes are happening so fast that we practically live our days from transition to transition, whether they be the smaller disruptions in our expectations and lived realities, or, the larger ones he calls, “lifequakes.”
For me, a major “lifequake” started at age 57 when I was diagnosed with MS, and it took me 17 years before I finally felt like I had come “home” to a new life. Many disruptions were included in those 17 years: A residential move to Massachusetts from Washington DC, a divorce, the letting go of my business and my identity as a businesswoman, a major healing after visiting John of God in Brazil, becoming a published writer and poet, selling the family property, and making a local move to a senior residence, to name a few.
Another major “disruption” started at 74 at the death of my brother. I finally accepted my own mortality, started planning for my remaining days, even helping others do the same. My new life shifted to that of a consciously aging being. It remains so. I’m still dealing with the messy residue of that disruption, getting older, breaking my addiction to productivity, and reflecting on the blessings, dilemmas and choices of life’s fourth chapter.
And then there’s been the pandemic.
Bottom line, at 81, it’s been illuminating to look back on life. At whatever age, we can harvest the lessons, determine to avoid the guilt of an unlived life, molt mind-sets, convictions, routines, and dreams, and convert our rich life experiences into wisdom. We can turn episodic memories into a meaningful life journey which matters.
A Bruce Feiler definition: A transition is a vital period of adjustment, creativity and rebirth that helps one find meaning after a major life disruption. I invite you to take this post-pandemic opportunity to make sense of your life and honor it. Enjoy! If any of you readers choose to reflect in this way, or in any way you have found yourself thinking about “the pandemic and you,” I’d love to hear about it (firstname.lastname@example.org.) Here’s a start!
First, make a list of the life changing disruptions and lifequakes you experienced over your lifetime. Then ask yourself questions about any or all of them.
- What were your losses? Consider people, places, relationships, beliefs, and ways of being.
- How did you adjust to, and ultimately honor and manage, each one?
- What parts of your personality served you? Did not serve you?
- What feelings emerged? Consider loneliness, anger, sadness, confusion, joy.
- How did you and your family become creative in dealing with the disruptions?
- What provided, and continues to provide nourishment and fulfillment?
- What did you learn about you, others, and your life?
- Are there lessons, growth, and new choices which could be unearthed?
- What questions do you want to ponder with more frequency and depth?
- If you were to create a “new normal” for yourself, what would it look like?
And so it goes…