Quiet Turmoil

Quiet Turmoil May 1, 2020

I haven’t posted as often lately. Sometimes common topics and themes seem insignificant in times like these. Sometimes words simply fail.

What’s so stunning about our current crisis is how quiet it is. Few cars on the road. Very few businesses open. I look out my window at the wooded area behind my condo and it’s a beautiful first day of May.

Everything looks so peaceful, but there’s a crisis raging all around. It’s not a crisis of bombs dropping, or panic in the streets, or strong winds and storm weather. Everything out my window appears calm, I can hear the birds sing.

 

Yet amid the quiet we’ve lost over 60,000 Americans. We’ve lost over 30,ooo,ooo jobs. We don’t even know how many businesses we’ve lost yet, but the number will likely be staggering.

Here in Michigan, non-essential services are shut down until May 28. That means another month of Staying at Home, working from home, social distancing, not seeing friends and loved ones, and dealing with the background anxiety of all this.

But as I’ve said before, crises also present opportunities. Despite the tragic circumstances, many of us have been given a rare gift of time. Time to do things we’ve been putting off. Time to pause and reflect on the direction of our lives. How are we using this gift of time?

Granted, not everyone has been given this gift. Also, there are many who are too anxious to focus on projects and goals. This is completely understandable.

When we are once again able to go out again, the world we return to is going to be very different.

Some of us won’t have a job to return to, for others, their favorite restaurant or store might be gone. We’re going to be dealing with restrictions, face masks, and social distancing until a vaccine is produced and reliable treatment options are found.

Vacations, business trips, conventions and conferences, are being reevaluated, canceled, and second-guessed. Given the economic uncertainty, many large purchases, updates, and home improvement projects are on hold.

None of us can predict the future, but it seems to me that two hallmarks will likely characterize our new normal going forward – increased simplicity and increased complexity. These two hallmarks stand in tension with one another, but I already see signs of their emergence.

Simplicity because many things we once used to do, many places we once used to go, will be gone. We’re going to be less likely to get on that plane and take that trip. Things will be a little slower. Many of us have returned to the joy of simple pleasures – baking, telephone conversations, reading, spending more time with family. During this time, many of us have come to see former activities and pleasures as distractions. I glimpsed a commercial the other day for a toothpaste that promises to make your smile sparkle and your teeth blazing white. It sounded trite and out of step with our current reality.

Complexity because many things will change. For millions, this will be related to their employment and financial situation. For others, it might be coping with the loss of a loved one. For others, it will be the necessary changes to routines. As a nation, we’re going to face much change as well. Do we really want to continue with health insurance being tied to our jobs when we’ve just seen 30 million jobs lost in a month? Will our colleges and universities be the same? How many of us might continue working from home on a regular basis? There will be changes few of us have even contemplated.

Looking out my window at the sun hitting the emerging leaves on the trees, hearing birdsong, everything seems so tranquil. But beneath the seeming tranquility change of all sorts is churning at an unprecedented rate. That change is going to strip away many things leaving a simpler world in place, while at the same time, those same changes will lead to complex challenges and the need to adjust to new realities.

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