by Dianna Flett

Boys in a football huddle

We all need a pep talk.

It feels like half time at a high school football game. We’re down by three touchdowns and heading into the locker room so coach can pull us together, rebuild our spirits and lift us all to go out and fight for the win. We need and want those words of inspiration, and we need to know we can do this. We desire to move forward and get back to that crazy state we call “normal.”

But this isn’t football. This is reality and reality has become like one recurring day in a terribly directed movie. We are circling, doing everything in a different way than we used to, but having it all feel the same while unbearably more difficult. So, let’s be quite blatant here—this sucks. That’s it. It really sucks. The hard part now is to embrace the suck and bend it to our needs. In psychological terms, we have reached our surge capacity.  Ann Masten, PhD defines surge capacity as our adaptive systems, mental and physical, that humans draw on to survive acutely stressful situations like natural disasters.  This has been one long surge of our adaption to the unknown and there is a sense of loss for our routine. We are exhausted. While there is a lot we can control, and a lot we cannot, there are just a few things to consider in the coming months:

You have the right to feel exactly how you are feeling. If you are overwhelmed, embrace that feeling. Process it for what it is and know that even though you’re overwhelmed, you’re doing what you need to do to support your family. That’s kind of a big deal.  Many of you are parents with young children and you are working from home while trying to support their education. The combined impact of that effort is not something we ever imagined. But you are doing it. Maybe you’re not rocking it right now, but you’re doing it. If you have children in middle school and high school and you’re dealing with their missed opportunities and missed first experiences, you know how hard this is on your entire family. They’re anxious, you’re anxious, and it may not be going as smoothly as you’d hoped. That’s okay. You’re safe, they’re safe, and we’ll do better as we know better. Experience the feelings, the moments, the ups and the downs and know this is all going into your, and your children’s, life time kit bag. It’ll shape you in terms of your ability to handle emotions, manage emergencies and live life in the future.

Remember: you’re someone’s hero. Your spouse, your children, your family members look to you for your heart and strength and leadership. Keep trying your best to do what you know to be right and if you cannot see the long-term success right now, focus on the short-term win, even if that isn’t a very big win. How you react to all of this is one of the greatest life lessons you’ll give to your children.

I’m so lifted by our teachers and their amazing enthusiasm to respond to change after change, challenge after challenge, and shift after shift of the how’s, when’s, and why’s. They too have families who are being shifted right along with them and together they’re making it happen.

I’m amazed by our first responders and the hospital professionals moving in and around ground zero with little more than guts and sweat to get them to the next day.

I’m humbled by the small business owners who are on the brink of collapse and yet work tirelessly to come up with new ways to support their business models, provide employment for others, offer their services and support without knowing when things will open up or perhaps shut down.

I’m inspired by the images of those with elderly family members who push forward to connect through windows and down hallways using hand gestures or written signs to communicate just so they can keep loved ones close and lifted in spirit.  Even without physical touch they are finding ways to show their compassion and love.

I’m so thankful for all of us who continue to do things even though the effort is ten-fold what it used to be. Simple things like shopping in masks, following arrows, and sanitizing hands, food, and shopping carts. Those signs of determination are what will win the day for all of us. They don’t have to be big things; they just have to be recognized and appreciated for what they are—a win.

Take a moment to flip your perspective where you can. For years I’ve sat in the same rocker on my front porch. Lately, instead of enjoying the view, I was only seeing the flaws. The weeds and cracks in the driveway started screaming at me. I saw the dead limbs on trees that looked like they were about to fall. The multiple spider webs and spots of dirt took away from my absolute love of my front porch time.

One morning, my husband was in my chair, so I took his. It was such a moment for me. Instead of seeing what I’d been looking at so critically, my new seat opened a whole new view. I saw the lanterns that would soon hold the flickering candles we put out in the fall. I saw the full length of the porch that was green and beautiful and teeming with summer life. I gazed at the rockers where my husband shares an occasional cigar with our young men and the chair my son made in his high school shop class. If I had not changed my perspective, I wouldn’t have seen those things and reawakened to the beauty of that space. If you can change your perspective, do it. Take a different way home, play musical chairs before dinner and have everyone change up their seat, have burgers for breakfast and eggs and toast for dinner. In many ways, this time is a gift. While it may not be the same experience, it is an experience and we are strong enough to grow through this and wring out any positives it may hold.

Finally, be kind to one another. This is such a tumultuous season of rift and diversity in our nation. When you can be kind, be kind. I was in Blacksburg recently unloading my groceries at the same time a gentleman next to me was unloading his. As we finished, I asked if I could take his cart back for him.

“Well sure. Or, I can take yours back,” he said.

I smiled, and said, “Next time it’s on you.”

When I got back to my car that man was sitting in his car. He rolled down the window and called out, “You know, you don’t see that much anymore. People doing what you just did.”

I smiled behind my mask. “It feels extra good to be kind right now doesn’t it?”

There are no answers right now but doing what you can to make this better for others will also make it better for you. So, keep rising. Keep working this and keep looking forward; always forward. Feel the feelings, be the hero, and be kind.

We need you now more than ever.