Today I opened up my Facebook feed, and this was the first thing I saw…
It hit me like a ton of bricks. I’ve been feeling pretty guilty about the fact that I haven’t been super productive. When I first heard rumblings that I could end up working from home, I thought “Wow – that would really give me the chance to accomplish a lot!” Trying to look on the bright side of things, I tried to focus on all the free time I would have. I could exercise every day, get back to some of those projects that I shelved because I didn’t have time, organize my closets, maybe even take up guitar or painting, which I’ve always wanted to do. I was going to make lemonade out of the lemons we have been handed, and come out of this a better person!
Well….. I’ve binged watched 3 seasons of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”. I’ve eaten a lot of cookies. That about sums up the list of my recent accomplishments.
But that meme this morning hit me like a ton of bricks. Here, I’ve been sitting here feeling like a big loser – not having any willpower or perhaps just being lazy. How ironic that in my work, I’m a big believer that there is no such thing as lazy or unmotivated people – that there are just people trying to do the best they can to meet their needs. It’s been my experience that what looks like laziness always turns out to be people working really hard, and largely ineffectively, to get their needs met. Happy and healthy people are productive. Unproductive people are struggling to meet their needs.
So what’s my problem? When I look at what’s going on through the lens of our basic needs, it seems pretty obvious:
Survival – I’m worried about getting sick – this sounds like a terrible virus to experience. I’m worried about my family getting sick. I wonder who I know that isn’t going to survive this pandemic. And these are the thoughts that haunt me at night, so that I can’t sleep. And then all day I’m dragging my butt because I’m in a constant state of exhaustion.
Belonging –It goes without saying that I’m missing all the people who bring so much joy to my life.
Power – Working from home is hard. It’s very important to me to feel like I’m doing meaningful work that is making a difference in the world. It’s pretty hard to feel a sense of accomplishment when this is a pretty accurate representation of how my days have been going:
Freedom – I can’t go where I want to go, see who I want to see, do what I want to do.
Fun – So many of the things I do for fun have been shut down and are unavailable to me now.
And I wonder why I’m not thriving?
It’s so easy to slide into thinking that our behaviour is a sign of a lack of moral character. It’s so easy to beat ourselves up. I’m seeing it all around me – parents who feel like failures because they don’t feel they are doing a good job at home schooling their kids – employees who feel like they are not succeeding at embracing and figuring out the technology that they need to work remotely – people who feel like they are letting down their partners for being grumpy and hard to live with. I see the news of people who have lost loved ones, who live in hot spot areas, who are struggling to pay the bills, who are living with an abusive partner, and I think about how petty I’m being about my situation when there are so many things I should feel grateful for. Life could be so much worse.
So why don’t I feel grateful? I realize now that my thoughts and actions have not been very effective at getting my needs met. Understandable under the circumstances – but I also know that there are some things I cannot change and some things I can. And I’ve largely been putting my energy into the things I can’t. No wonder I’m tired and grumpy.
So how can I change my thoughts and actions to better get my needs met? Here’s some of what I discovered when I started thinking about how to meet my needs more effectively:
Survival – I do the best I can to take the steps I can to protect myself and the people I love. I’m staying at home as much as I can, and taking the suggested sanitizing and cleaning steps. I remind myself that even before this pandemic, all of us have a time-limit on our time in this world, and that we need to focus on making the most of whatever time we have.
Belonging – I make an effort to connect using technology with the people I usually see in person to get this need met. We participated in a parade to join in celebrating the birthday of a kid in our community. That felt pretty awesome.
Power – I don’t minimize the impact that my reaching out and connecting with my students is making. We may not be making much progress on the goals we were working on pre-pandemic, but I know that there is nothing in this world that is more important than being connected to other people, and I can be a part of that for my kids.
Freedom – Instead of thinking about the freedom I’ve lost, I’m focusing on the freedom I have. I have much more control over when I start and end my work day. I have a lot more freedom to design my day. I can sleep when I want, and get up when I want. I can’t remember the last time I filled my car with gas – and that’s a win for me, because I hate driving.
Fun – I’ve been trying out some “fun” things that I don’t normally do. We’ve been playing more board games and I’ve been experimenting with making new recipes. I have to say, though, that I gave it a shot, but I still hate puzzles!
It’s not easy. But thinking about each day in terms of what I can do to get my needs met is helpful. Thriving might still be an overstatement, but I do feel like I’m doing a bit better than simply surviving.
How has the pursuit of your needs been going? I’d love to hear from you what strategies you’ve found to help navigate the challenges you are experiencing at this crazy time. I hope that perhaps sharing our struggles and ideas may help spark a thought for someone else out there to help them take some control and make their day a little brighter.
Take care, my friends.