finding the opportunity

2020 is not a lost cause. It is an opportunity.

As far as I’m concerned—and you can do you, this is just me—2020 is about finding the opportunity inherent in challenges.

Please, do not think that I am saying 2020 is an opportunity to look on the bright side, and start shitting glitter. Or, since I now live in Texas, I’ll share my favorite Texas saying, thus far: “Don’t go pissin’ on my shoes and tryin’a tell me it’s rainin’.”

2020 is freaking HARD. But here are just a few ways that I’m finding the opportunity inherent within difficulty:

Yes, America is having a powerful awakening around racism and oppression, and there has been fear and chaos and in some parts of the country, and yes it is sometimes shameful and hard to look at where we’ve been complicit.

Opportunity: We get to stop lying to ourselves. We get to see clearly. We get to do the necessary work of facing our own discomfort, that will save lives. And not just save lives, but also, treat every human life with value while our fellow humans are still living, rather than this ridiculous hindsight nonsense that the United States does over and over and over where yet another Black or Indigenous or Person of Color is killed and then everyone waxes poetic about how it’s “such a tragedy.” The opportunity here is that we get to stop freaking creating tragedies.

Yes, we are living through a pandemic and we are feeling isolated.

Opportunity: Truly understand that WE NEED EACH OTHER. This is an all-caps statement that deserves repeating: WE NEED EACH OTHER.

I’ll just put it on me, for an example of what I mean by this: How many times in the pre-COVID world, did I say, “I’m just too introverted to…” accept that invitation for that party, pause and really stop to listen and connect with someone talking to me at a store? How many times did I use introversion as a reason to text instead of actually get together for dinner?

Opportunity: How can I see, now, that that story about being “too introverted” was just b.s. and that even someone introverted still wants and craves actual in-person connection and that I wasn’t prioritizing it enough, pre-COVID? And how can I start prioritizing that, now, and then take what I learn with me into a post-COVID world? Will I go back into a post-COVID world and squander the opportunity that this learning has presented, and go back into old patterns?

And speaking of the pandemic—yes, it is painful and difficult to shelter-in-place, and the ricochet of loss through our economy is crazy, and people are without work.

And yet, here’s an opportunity: it is because so many people were home from work that so many of them decided to show up and demand more from our elected leaders. It is because so many people were home from work that our elected leaders actually had to listen, for once. We’ve now passed legislation in the House of Representatives that finally identifies lynching as a hate crime. (I mean, seriously, think about this: legislation to identify lynching as a hate crime has been introduced over and over and over for decades now, as early as freaking 1922! Now, this is still not over—because as I write this, Senator Rand Paul is currently intentionally holding up the bill so that it doesn’t become federal law. There is still work to do. But—after ONE HUNDRED FREAKING YEARS of trying to get this kind of legislation passed, it’s finally getting at least a bit of traction).

And, of course, we have a new opportunity—to apply pressure and really get everything going. And another opportunity? Notice which of our elected persons are opposing this kind of legislation, and get awareness out there so that those people don’t get re-elected.

Speaking of being without work: there is an opportunity here to decide to change careers, if your past career wasn’t working for you, if you weren’t being treated well, if you were on the fence anyway. When I opened enrollment for the Courageous Living Coach Certification, a number of people shared with us that they were joining our coach training program and pivoting to coaching precisely because COVID had forced them to look at other revenue streams.

I’m not saying it’s an easy opportunity, to have to confront losing a job and facing financial hardships. Personal growth circles often present opportunities as if they are only upsides, with no downsides, when the nuance in between is that actually, there is no perfect situation without pros and cons. For full context, I grew up poor and food insecure, as a child, with the threat of losing our home. We had utilities turned off. We ran out of gas and were stranded by the side of the road. I share that because I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t get what it really looks like to live your life on a thin financial margin. I’ve been there.

But how that experience of growing up that way shaped me was that now, I don’t take a material resource in my life for granted—ever, and that was true for me even pre-COVID. Not my house, not food, not a car, not electricity, not water. How that experience shaped me is that I genuinely see the suffering of others and that has motivated me to bake help for others into every financial gain I’ve made. I don’t look down on anyone because they don’t have a lot of money, because I’ve been that person whose family was looked down on, for not having a lot of money. The opportunity of financial adversity for me has been that now I’m grateful for every penny, and, I see it as my divine obligation to share every penny. I donate to not one, not two, but five different organizations every time I run a paycheck for myself. If you have ever bought anything from me, your money has gone to the support of not just me, but to others.

(As an aside? As someone who grew up poor, seeing wealthy people participate in charitable work as a sort of performance? I don’t often talk about the donations or volunteer work that I’ve been doing. What’s important to me is that I do it, not that I tell everyone else about it).

Another thing that’s been hard as we walk through the pandemic is managing childcare. My daughter is an only child. With shelter-in-place, that means she’s literally alone when my husband or I am working. Sometimes, that’s really upset her and she’s been incredibly lonely. Then I feel guilty because I’m either getting her in front of screens, or, telling her she just has to play on her own (of course, we are playing with her—but we can’t do it 24/7).

A friend recently pointed out the opportunity inherent in this, to me: boredom sparks imagination. The more bored and lonely she is, the more she’ll value human relationships later or find innovative ways to entertain herself. We will continue to spend time with our daughter (of course), but instead of feeling the pressure to sort of “save her” from her feelings of boredom or loneliness during this pandemic, we can also see that there are byproducts of resiliency that can develop.

Another thing that’s been hard since the pandemic is time management—for some of you, it was hard even before the pandemic. So what if the pandemic becomes your opportunity to double-down on time management, to truly get ruthless about weeding out the things you spend time on that don’t bring you joy or fulfillment?

Now, do I wish that I had more time than I currently have? Of course I do. But an opportunity that has arisen since the pandemic is that I now wake up at 5am most days, to get some much-needed time to myself and time to exercise before my workday begins. For years, I told myself I “wasn’t a morning person” because I had tried and tried to get up early and never made it stick. It turns out, I am a morning person and starting out the day with some time to myself is one habit I plan to take with me into the post-COVID world. I like getting up earlier, when the world is quiet, and going to bed earlier.

I’ve been giving several examples that are just some of the opportunities that I’m seeing. So now I turn the question over to you. What are the opportunities that you see?

The way I try to think of my life—and again, this is just me, and you can do you—is that rather than take the circumstances that come my way (circumstances like COVID) and say, “Gosh, gee, nothing much that can be done, here,” I try to accept them and then reframe them. So, I accept that what is happening, is happening, rather than deny that it’s happening or numb out to the fact that it is happening. Then, when I have touched into some space of acceptance that this is it, this is what is happening in this moment, I look for where I might want to create something new. Sometimes, creating something new means saying that I’m creating something new, entirely—like deciding to create an entirely new morning habit of getting up early. Other times, creating something new is a mental reframe—like deciding that instead of bemoaning COVID over and over, I’m going to look for opportunities.

I do this because it’s what builds resilience and what feels better (for me). I don’t know of anyone who has lived a life without experiencing adversity, so I choose to accept that challenges and adversity are part of everyone’s life. Then, having accepted the fact that they exist, I ask myself if I want to create something new—work to upend that adversity, perhaps? And/or, do I want to reframe how I think about that adversity? Typically, I consciously do both. At first, doing this felt weird and awkward and for years I dismissed that approach, lumping it in with the people who advocate sparkly affirmations and spiritual bypass.

What I’m actually doing, though, is not slapping an affirmation on something or trying to bypass negative feelings. I acknowledge and accept the reality of the situation, when it sucks. I own the fact that it feels hard, or painful, or that I wish it were different. I accept what I feel and I’m honest about it. Then I ask myself what I want to create or reframe. What do I have control over? As far as I can tell, I have control over my intentions and where I place my attention, so I choose to be as conscious and awake with both, as I can possibly be. And, I aim high with my intentions and aim high with where I place my attention, so yeah, I try to look for where I might play small by toeing the line of the status quo. I try to go big with what I create or reframe.

If this appeals to you at all, an exercise you could try is to sit down and write down the top 3 problems you currently face. Then ask yourself: Where do I need to accept that this problem exists? It’s important to fully accept that it is a current limitation, that it sucks, that it arouses pain, or that it triggers you in some way. If your mother-in-law is on the list, you need to accept that her way of being drives you nuts. If COVID is on the list, you need to accept that it’s difficult. If financial insecurity is on the list, you need to cry the tears of fear that are just under the surface.

Then, having gotten really real about the truth of what *is* and accepted that currently, it is what it is, ask yourself: Where would I like to shift this? Write down everything that comes to you. Perhaps what you will write down is a shift related to your behavior. Perhaps what you will write down is a belief system you’ve long held, that you’re committed to reframing until you no longer believe the old thing that hurts to believe, and can start to believe the newer thing that is more resonant.

What I believe is that when you start focusing on finding the opportunity, you…find the opportunity. You let go of old limitations. Something in you takes flight. And that? That’s everything. It doesn’t mean you’ll bypass pain. It means that the pain no longer stops you, completely. That gives you a fuller experience of this thing we call life.