Gently

We’re living through a period of inconvenient, dangerous, uncomfortable upheavals.

The variables shaping our lives are changing daily and many of us feel some combination of frustrated, scared, exhausted, and desperate for a semblance of clarity and control.

That’s how I’ve been feeling the past 18 months-ish, at least.

It’s been weird and discombobulating and at times strangely thrilling—in the same sense that being caught in a zombie apocalypse would in some ways be thrilling.

Heading into a new year, a symbolic chronological milestone that doesn’t have to mean anything, but can if I decide to make it mean something, I’m trying to remind myself to move forward gently.

To be optimistic and upbeat and open to whatever comes next, but to be gentle with myself in the process. Because I’ve been through a lot. Most of us have, for some value of “a lot.”

Although it’s tempting to feel emboldened by this symbolic transition—we’ve made it this far, so why not just go all out and use the last bit of fuel in the tank?—we’re running a marathon, not a sprint. It’s prudent to settle into a sustainable pace rather than wringing ourselves dry in a fit of bravado and reckless enthusiasm.

It’ll take time to settle into a new “normal,” whatever that word comes to mean these next few years.

It’ll take time to recover, physically and psychologically and economically, once we reestablish stable foundations.

We’ll need the time and space and social (and internal) permission to mourn; for the people, the expectations, the institutions and norms we’ve lost over the course of this collective tumult.

And we’ll need whatever energy we can muster to deal (and cope) with inevitable last-minute complications.

We should be visionary in how we imagine what comes next and our place in establishing that (hopefully) better-in-many-ways reality. We should invest ourselves in building lives and societies that align with our values and which are sturdy and humble enough to withstand and learn from inevitable future turmoil.

But we should be gentle, understanding, compassionate with ourselves as we adjust our stances, re-coil our springs, and set to work making it all happen.

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