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On Personal Capacity

Life is like a 10-speed bicycle.  Most of us have gears we never use.  

                                                –Charles Shultz

 Viktor Frankl, writing from the madness of the Holocaust, reminded us that we don’t to get to choose our difficulties, but we do have the freedom to select our responses. Meaning, he argued, comes from three things:  the work we offer in times of crisis, the love we give and our ability to display courage in the face of suffering.   

                                                — David Brooks

On my better days I can go through my new, quiet sequence of moments and take them in as they “arrive.”  I’ve established some simple routines that add a teeny bit of structure to my days, and yet still there are large expanses of time.  I am acutely aware of how future-focused I am, and how I thrive on activity.  Both inclinations are capacities that are not quite that useful right now. 

What this extended shelter-in-place is teaching me is a capacity of a different sort. Observing.  Noticing.  Taking my “mental temperature.”  Connecting with friends and family in even deeper ways.  Realizing how much of my feelings of self-worth are related to my ability to get things accomplished well, and how much of that isn’t really relevant to my days right now.  

I’ve had many conversations about what life and work might be like when we get “back” (which in itself is ambiguous).   No one has the crystal ball on that, but it seems clear that it won’t just be back to what we were doing.  Holding that awareness and creating new space for determining what is needed from each of us will beimportant.  

Awareness and wonder to inform strategic action, clear eyes to see what needs to be transformed or discarded, compassion to be able to hold others’ fears and concerns as well as their hopes and joys.  Changes will be tried, some will work, others fail.  And all along the way, the trust we have engendered will make a huge difference in how we together embrace the uncertainty ahead.  

  • What capacities are you most actively using as you face COVID-19? 
  • What new ones have surfaced for you?  What did this require of you?
  • What personal capacity might you share with/offer to others during this time?
  • What is most meaningful to you these days?

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