I spoke to a dear friend last week. The first few minutes went in banalities. Where she was. How work progressed. Our new routines. When banalities couldn’t hold the conversation any further, silence stepped in. After a while, I thought I heard a sniffle. Then a weak sob. Then a series of sobs. “I am not ok”. She said. That was all she said. For the rest of the call.
I held on to the phone for a long while. My little words of comfort stayed in my dry throat. She didn’t need any.
She is awesome at her job and no she is not getting laid off. Family equations are all well. Like the rest of us, she too is dealing with losses that we haven’t come to terms with.
The loss of old routines
The first amongst our losses that we don’t speak of that much is those of our routines. Our routines are gone.
The much cursed commute to work, many of us discover, was the buffer time to transition from one home to work. And vice versa. Routines, some deliberately built and many others that had crept in and stayed on are all gone. New ones have taken their place with a tentative
Bereft of a place to go and needing to look into a screen to stay connected to the world, our worlds have shrunk. It is a difficult time. We are all trying to make meaning of all the information that is coming at us and happening around us. Every member of the family is finding a new equilibrium.
Only a few express it this way. It shows up in the lousy mood. Or in the grim face. The bickering. The nasty word. Plain indifference. Thats all become par for course along with a relentless to-do list. It is for other people to catch.
‘I am not ok’. She said. Those words wouldn’t have jumped out if the banalities satisfied us. I was so glad that we had held the silence for longer.
The company of uncertainty
My calendar has entries that lead well into October of 2020. Conferences to attend, meetings to lead, events to follow, people to meet and the like. Entries made in a different world. These days, every morning, I take a whimsical look at the now irrelevant plans and gauge what else might change. It gets on my nerve.
But it serves as less as a pointer to reinvent myself for the new world. Disruption, the cool word that pervaded the start-up world is an everyday reality to everyone around. It sure is not pleasant for anyone! From Olympians to business folks to artists, carefully laid out plans in disarray is one part of the problem. Not knowing how it will be on the other side of COVID19 is another!
Uncertainty stomps all over us. That is unsettling. Outside of the Sun, the moon and the seasons much has become unpredictable.
“The world order. Supplies of basic medicines and food. The pressures on the job. The home work from the kid’s school. Internet bandwidth. The health of my employer. Everything is uncertain. When will this damn thing end”, my friend asked me. We spoke the next day. And the next.
I still remember, how she said, ‘I am not ok.’ between sobs that barely reached me.
I am not ok. And thats ok.
Loneliness is all pervasive. I have so many friends who have privately acknowledged this in the last week.
“I have my work for company. The people who were good company are busy on Zoom calls”, she said. We spoke for a bit. “There is no time”, she said. To the point.
“I am not ok man. Is that OK?”
It struck me that here was the other battle that she was fighting. Over and beyond the ones that were obvious. A private one at that. Perhaps even private to herself. It was about coming to terms with the fact that she was feeling “not ok”.
Several business leaders I know have had vacillated between living in denial (we will be ok on 3rd May) and painting a picture of being in control. The whole world is under house arrest! To feel not ok in these times is ok.
Feeling lonely, overwhelmed, helpless, trapped with guilts of privilege and many such feelings are all possible. To see this oneself and to spot this in others and being kind is important.
So, what can you do?
Helping others works great in dispelling loneliness. That’s not some random do-gooder speaking. Research that was published in Feb 2020 points to this. Take a look. So, in these dire times, if there is one thing that you can do, it is helping others.
Often times, the help we can offer the other person is a patient ear. Look up your contact book on your phone and call someone who you haven’t spoken to in a while. Try going past the banalities. Please remember, it’s ok to be not ok.
Human ingenuity will help us wade through the virus and beyond. We will get through this too. Until then, let’s hang in there together.
This is Edition Number 55 of The OWL Despatch
As always, here is a selection of pieces that I read this week that made it to my list.
1. In line with my thoughts above remember to check this piece out from the Harvard Business Review titled “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief”. It is an important read. I will leave it at that.
2. The Economist carries a superb piece that makes a fine distinction between being alone and being lonely. I loved it quoted it above as well. Check it out.
3. Are you feeling bored? Well, there is a pathway to wisdom that you can head to, riding on the boredom. Fabulous piece this one.
4. A profile on Huawei’s big chief Ren Zhengfei. I wondered if it was posturing when I read this quote of his. “I’m just an old man. What’s the point of remembering me? People should think more about the future and the world,” the 75-year-old said in a recent interview. Check him out.
5. This is a perfect time to recall David Brooks. Resume virtues and eulogy virtues have always stayed with me ever since I read him. Take the time to read this one. Timeless in my view.
Thats that for this week. Wait. Last week was a busy time. I wrote for Founding Fuel on some life lessons from conversations with colleagues from China and the Far East. That got some fabulous response which lead to a tweetchat with a hashtag #KaapiWithKavi. Please let me know what you think.
The NIPM Kerala folks have been doing an awesome webinar series through the lockdown. I enjoyed my conversations with the team. Super evening it was.
Yes, and thats that. Stay safe. Do good. Spread kindness. Wash your hands. We’ll see this through.
Image credits Pixabay
May 6, 2020, 1:48 pm