3 Things to Learn About Life from Devastation
I can’t help but feel hopeful that this global pandemic will change us in a positive way.
I lost my mother five years ago rather suddenly. The experience, as you can imagine, has had a profound effect on my life. In so many ways I am constantly learning and becoming someone new every day that passes since that December night in 2014.
Why I feel hopeful during this pandemic is that five years ago I learned that devastation has the unique ability to stop you in your tracks and make you focus on your life, your values, your priorities. The loss of my mother helped me in three major ways; it helped me to see how out of whack my priorities were, it helped me to see what I truly valued, and it helped me to take action from those values.
We spend so much of our time numbing our feelings, staying busy, preoccupied with tasks and work etc., that we don’t slow down to look at our lives and ask: What are my values? Is the way I am living my life reflecting those values?
This pandemic is a devastation. A collective devastation. And devastation brings clarity.
How will you use this devastation?
I spent so much of what would end up being my mother’s last year on earth, too busy to see her. Too busy to spend time with my family, and too obsessed with productivity and self-worth in school. I have always been a person who said that family was my number one priority, but my life did not reflect that value. I even remember arguing with my mom over the phone about our family Christmas tree decorating, that it was the last week of the semester and I had soooo much work to do that I could only be there for a short time in the afternoon and they should be grateful for that (ouch right?)!
I reasoned with myself that the semester would be over in a couple of weeks and I would have the whole of winter break to spend at their house with them. I never got that time. She died the last day of the semester.
After my mom passed away I was faced with the brutal truth that what I wanted, truly wanted and valued in life, was not lining up with how I was living my life. It was a painful realization but it has changed my whole life.
It is so easy to be swept up in the business of our day to day lives and the ongoing hustle for worthiness that we can lose track of what we really need, want, and desire, for our one precious life.
That is what devastation makes clear. You are forced to stop. To grieve. To reflect:
Life is short. Are you living it the way you want to?
In a lot of ways this pandemic is like the time right after losing my mom: everything stopped. School, work, friends, socializing, everything. Just me, my family, our emotions, our grief.
We are all experiencing this now. We have had a forced stop to our normal bustling lives. And some of us may be awakening for the first time to the reality of what our lives actually look like.
Are you so busy at work you don’t have time to be present with your kids? Are you so caught up in your life that your parents never get a phone call or a visit? Are you so busy making sure your kids get to all their activities and sports and lessons that your family hasn’t paused to connect? Are you so worried about making the next sales quota that you haven’t stopped to ask yourself if you are happy with your career? Like me, are you so worried about getting straight A’s that you won’t go visit your mom?
Thanks to the collective devastation of the pandemic, we have been forced to stop.
Every moment of the day whether you are aware or not, you are making decisions about where you focus your time, energy, and attention. There are an infinite number of things you could be doing with your time, energy, and attention, and each moment you make a choice to focus on one thing over the thousands of others; you are making a value-laden decision.
I know that sounds extreme, but the truth is, our behavior follows our values and thus our values are reflected in the way we choose to spend our time, energy, and attention.
After my mom died, I began to see how trivial many of the things were in my life. I began to see what I really valued in life and not surprisingly it was not school, grades, or my career. I learned that what I valued most was being present.
Being present with myself, my family, the people I loved. I valued the moments we were just together, with no agenda, no plans, just being. I realized that, if I could have asked my mom on her death bed what was most important to her in her life it would not have been her career, or her accomplishments, it wouldn’t have been my accomplishments either. It probably would have come down to living her life from her values and passing that on to her children.
3. Living Your Values
Understanding and identifying your values is an important part of understanding yourself. Our values are extensions of ourselves, they define us. When we are disconnected from our values (or unaware of them), our beliefs and our ideas become disconnected from our actions and our emotions. Having clearly defined values creates a sense of purpose because values serve as a guide to decision making and provide the basis for fulfillment.
After losing my mom I realized that I was not living my life from my values and I made some gradual changes. It wasn’t until my daughter was born however, that I was really able to make the shift in my life. Her birth, just as my mother’s death, gave me a perspective on life that I had never had before:
Time is short.
Too short to be living a life that is not aligned with what I truly want and value. This perspective allowed me to make the no nonsense decision to listen to myself and make the choice to honor my values and to act from there.
This pandemic offers the same perspective:
You do not have the time to be living a life that is less than what you want.
Ask yourself: does your life look like what you want it to? Are you at least moving towards what you want it to look like? Does the way you spend your time reflect your priorities? What can you do right now to change that?
Those are hard questions I know. I have asked them myself and had to face some hard truths. But let me encourage you. Be Gutsy. This is your time, right now to slow down and get clear:
What are your values?
Are you living from those values?
How can you take action today to start living the life that lights you up and aligns with who you are?
Be Gutsy! I believe in you!