(This photo is by the phenomenal Becky Wright. Becky, who pivoted her photography business during Covid to doing remote photoshoots from her home in the UK. This was an early shot, on my crappy old iPhone and before she got new software…but I love how it captures the feeling of life in lockdown. I’ve scheduled another session with Becky and you can too.)
This is my last post before I take some time off for the holidays. In July, before I took my annual summer hiatus, I recorded a wrap up of how the first phase of Covid had gone for me. I thought I would do something similar here and wrap up my Covid fall. I adored the responses I got to that post from many of you, so if you feel inclined, write me back with your own fall update.
2020 Wrap Up
From Physical to Intellectual Exhaustion
First, I’m not as exhausted and depleted as I usually am by December 15th because I haven’t spent the last three months on airplanes, changing time zones, and facilitating offsites that make for 18-hour days. But without the excuse of all the travel, I’m realizing that some of the normal December exhaustion is intellectual exhaustion. I’m out of fresh ideas and need a break to refill the gas tank. (This is analogous to when I stopped drinking alcohol 25 years ago and realized that some of how crappy I felt the morning after couldn’t be blamed on the alcohol at all and was, instead, a function of staying up too late and straining my voice yelling over loud music.)
From Running the Rat Race to Choosing my Own Race
The cost of this pandemic in human lives and all-around suffering has been overwhelming. I have the privilege (with good health, gainful employment, and plentiful food on the table) of being able to benefit from the disruption rather than suffering through it. (Just wrestling with that disparity has been an important part of my Covid fall.)
On the whole, the pandemic has been incredibly valuable for me. It has forced me to slow down, reconnect with what matters most, and decide how I want to fill the space in my life from now on. It’s been enlightening to learn what I miss terribly (sitting for hours chatting across a café table from a friend, turning business trips into mini adventures with Craig) and also what I don’t miss at all (talking to many friends at a time, spending longer traveling than I spend in the meeting).
While many people can’t wait for life to go back to how it was before, I’m adamant that mine won’t.
From Quiet and Kind to Bold and Optimistic
In the spring, I took a very deliberate position of trying to meet audiences where they were at. I wore casual clothes, eschewed makeup, went live from my desk with my kitchen in the background. I even spoke more softly and closer to the microphone as a way of being gentle and channeling empathy with people who were on a rollercoaster of emotions. This fall, it’s been a different story. We needed to get back to productivity and even creativity. As a result, I tried to look a little more put together. I invested in a professional backdrop. My tone was more geared to enthusiasm and optimism. Phase 2 felt very different than phase 1 of Covid.
From Full-body Live Me to Head-and-shoulders Digital Me
I’m a facilitator and a speaker, an in-person, in-the-moment kinda’ gal. I’m a full-body talker (which is why I so often have food in my eyebrows—I just wave my arms about, even when I’m eating—I’m so indelicate). Now I’m trapped in a little box. In the spring I felt a little like a mime. This fall I realized that I could still be me in that box. Now I just channel all that kinetic energy into my face and voice. Truly, if you’ve seen one of the webinars I’ve done, such as the WBECS event I did last week, you’ll know that I’ve become a whole body in a face. I am sticking with my mantra, “never underestimate my willingness to embarrass myself for your benefit.”
Now that I’m in the box, I decided to capitalize on digital me and codify twenty years of ideas and programs into a series of online programs. Well, to be fair, I built grand plans to create a fully online, on-demand version of all of my programs, and I fully executed on two-and-a-half… Each program has hours of video lessons, application tools, manager scripts, associated research articles, so one doesn’t simply whap them together. But rest assured, I’ll get there!
From Others Dictating my Schedule to Me Enforcing Boundaries
Given that I had a huge amount of work to do to build many new programs and to modify others for a virtual format, I started paying attention to my daily rhythms. I’ve always known myself to be a morning thinker, but I have finally had the opportunity to build a wall around my mornings. About six weeks ago, I changed the parameters in my Calendly scheduling app so that meetings with clients are, by default, restricted to 1-5pm. Calls with interesting people are further restricted with the amount of available time varying based on the time of the week (I give myself a little more room for delightful, if not immediately productive, conversations on Thursdays and Fridays). It took a little while for the new discipline to show up, but I’ve now had three weeks in a row of no meetings before 1.
This schedule doesn’t always work. I have a bunch of upcoming morning keynote speeches. Next week I have two days of facilitation from 10:30-3:30. Now I know that those activities need to be special and can’t be too frequent. When a big part of your job is to be a thinker and writer, you need time to think and write. Yup, I was today years old when I really internalized that one.
From Manufacturing Moments to Relishing Spontaneity
In the first phase of the pandemic, I was trying to create a structure for my teenagers to give them something to make up for lost birthday celebrations (18 and 14), a canceled prom, the loss of one high school and one middle school graduation, and most painfully, no summer camp. But having your 48-year-old playing camp counselor is completely lame. This fall, I tried to just find the magic that already existed in the moments that come as part of life. I walked up to meet Mac on her way home from school to get hot chocolate and buy bread at the bakery. I mastered FaceTime and Google Doc sharing so I could help Kira edit her essays. I feel closer to her now, hundreds of miles away at university than I did in the spring when we were in the same house 24/7. And sometimes it wasn’t any event at all…it was just a spontaneous chat for 15 minutes (or 45) when that’s what they felt like doing.
From Sour Dough to Christmas Cookies
I fell hard for the early-pandemic baking trend. To be fair, I didn’t have far to fall because I’ve always been an avid baker. The only shift from phase 1 to phase 2 of Covid was the shift from making bread (faster than my family could eat it) to now making hundreds and hundreds of Christmas cookies for the boxes I give each year. Craig ran 2,500km this year just burning off my baking (and no, that’s not an exaggeration).
From Chloe Ting to Hip Hop
My fitness regime has changed a lot since phase 1. In phase 1, we had very little work for a while, so I found exercise religion in the videos of Chloe Ting. I was working out intensely, five days a week. In September, I became really busy, with a fairly normal fall workload. I fell off the exercise wagon (more like rolled off). So, when my daughter’s dance studio offered the parents a virtual introduction to hip hop class, I was game to give it a try. Oh, my goodness, I am terrible!!! And it’s so much fun!
From Me to You
That’s how my fall has gone. I’m happier than ever. More connected to my family than ever. More engaged in my work than ever. I know that’s not the case for everyone. As I said, I’m hugely privileged to be in this position.
Enough about me. How are you? What are the from’s and to’s of your Covid fall? I would really love to hear.
Wishing you all the best of the holiday season. We’ll be at home in Toronto without family this year. It will be different, but we’ll make the best of it. I hope you can to.