Between Stimulus and Response, You Have a Choice

Mother Earth has spoken (or God…or whatever you call your version of a higher power). We have been sent a message that cannot be ignored. Here is what it sounds like to me:

Hey, people of the world, you’ve gotten too big for your britches. Too complacent. Too full of yourself. Too busy consuming. You’ve taken for granted, or worse, consciously embarked on a destructive path for this planet you call home, for other species, and even for yourselves. Make no mistake about it—you are my guest. Act like one.

Mother Earth Speaks During COVID-19 PandemicIn one way or another, we are all being stopped in our tracks with a message. But what does this message exactly mean to me? That is a question each of us needs to ask ourselves. I’ve needed to find a way to be still to help answer the question, so I’ve been meditating daily. Fifteen minutes—not exactly the stuff of gurus—but I’m trying. This idea that the earth has called for a major time out came to me during one of my sits, so did the reality that most people seem to be choosing a singular mindset when thinking about the COVID-19 conundrum.

You’ve probably been bombarded with all kinds of beautifully optimistic videos, representing a singular mindset. All we seem to see are families spending time together, binging tv shows, doing puzzles, and the like. Those videos are, what my friend Tanya Monsef named on a recent call: toxic optimism. Others might call videos like these tone-deaf.

Whatever you call them, the truth is that while we are all suffering at a global level, we can not deny the greater suffering of those who are disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Just a few factoids:

Women who already face an uphill battle in escaping domestic violence situations are now, at greater risk for more frequent, severe, and dangerous violence. In some areas, domestic violence calls have decreased. As I write this I have a sick feeling—these women can’t get to a phone!
Across the world, hospitals are being forced to turn family members away. We are now falling prey to one of our biggest fears as humans, dying alone.
Over 22 million people in the U.S. are furloughed or unemployed and many states have a staggering one-fifth of their workforce now unemployed.
These are the facts. And they are frightening. We ignore them at our peril. And yet, I recognized the importance of acknowledging that darkness does yield to light. We must choose a realistic–not an overly optimistic or pessimistic mindset in trying to understand what is happening. So while those optimistic videos drive me nuts, I choose to live in the complicated duality that exists.

There is darkness; there are also tremendous rays of light:

Crime, in general, has plummeted since the pandemic started.
Cleaner air and waters are becoming a reality across the globe, including in notoriously polluted areas like Los Angeles and cities across Europe.
Generosity has risen to the forefront, from philanthropists making major contributions to hospitals and other organizations to everyday people campaigning across social media on behalf of others with immediate needs.
Herein lies the rub: we are living in a time ridden with polarities, negatives and positives, and everything in between. On one side is optimism, the other pessimism, both portrayed as mutually exclusive and unequivocally dichotomous. The videos that drive me crazy are those that are solely focusing on the polarity of optimism. It’s toxic. The truth is, and it’s often hard to grasp in the middle of a crisis, that a realistic view of current circumstances is equally as important as an optimistic outlook of the future. I call it realistic optimism. This kind of realistic optimism is so well portrayed in the video below, The Sky Is Clearing. I also want to share a quote and a question with you. The quote was written by Viktor Frankl during the Holocaust (a time of unyielding stress):

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

In gratitude,

Middlescence Life Stage Expert Barbara Waxman
Viktor Frankl Quote by Barbara Waxman
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