March, 2020. In the US many people live well. We jet around for winter holidays and travel regularly for parties, conferences and other events that benefit our standard of living. That very standard of living has, to some extent, come home to roost. As the coronavirus spreads around the world and within our nation at lightning speed, we find ourselves grounded and worrying for family members. There’s more to the matter of how we got here than that, though.
There are people who are deeply aware of the way they spend time and energy, avoiding decisions that are out of step with their considered values. They live off the grid, thrift shop, join CSAs or grow food, carpool, avoid flying — they live within their values in a way that is introspective and inconvenient. Most of us are somewhere in the middle, though — we believe in compassion, but do not meditate or prioritize compassion practice. Or we are deeply concerned about climate change, but we fly from here to there for vacation or work.
Pausing to take stock of where we are and where we are going has always been a recommendation from the wisest among us. Now seems a particularly good time to do that.
Human beings are adaptive. It’s so deeply ensconced in our DNA to adapt that we don’t even notice ourselves doing it. We take care of things — our relationships, finances, homes, professional images, schoolwork, important administrivia like credit scores, insurance, beneficiary designations, and commuter passes. We honor social contracts and memberships, look out for children and pets…and more than that. We get up every day and we carry on.
Yay for us.
Somewhere in all of that activity we should add one more thing — a pause. I don’t mean to meditate, though I think we should do that, too. I mean just pause and take stock of what’s on your mind, in your calendar, on your to-do list and even what you’re cancelling, and ask yourself: Is this the life I want?
My good friend works a very stressful job and worries about paying for college for her two teenagers. She told me recently that even with her years of saving and working (nonstop since she was a teen herself) she can’t afford to send them to state university. They were accepted — not easy to achieve — and the family is looking at community colleges and living at home instead of going away to school.
That job she’s working — I would lay wages she won’t keep the pace and strain she’s been shouldering in order to pay for college. And she’s asking herself whether that time might be better spent with her family. She seems aware that the only real resource she needs to manage, ultimately, is her time.
So that’s the message. If we’re lucky, what we have is time, and health. Pausing every so often to notice whether we are still living in line with our values is a lot like balancing our books; each of us has to live our truth and make the most of the time we have.
So what’s true and real for you?
Looking for more?