COVID Contemplations: Defensive, Anyone?

There are several things I have learned during this pandemic, and I will explore them over the next couple of posts. They tie into issues of sustainability and they reflect on deeper societal issues as well.

The first is really delving into the breakdown of our cultural niceties, our human-ness. From the absolute frustration I have with people who refuse to wear masks to the recognition that so many people are looking for someone to blame, all the time, I feel like we have lost our generosity, our grace, our compassion.

I am working very hard to not get my dander up before a thorough think these days.

A lite touch on the mask issue. We wear them not to protect ourselves, but to protect those in our community, and those that are “front line” workers, at grocery stores, food venues, and hospitals. Be giving and graceful and support your neighbor. It’s ridiculous that people are equating mask wearing to a truncation of our rights when it is only in an advanced society that individuals have the ability, even the luxury, to care for others. We claim to be a first world country, it’s time to act the part.

A good book, making grace accessible.

On to calm grace – I have lately seen lists of “tone deaf” pandemic tweets from celebrities, and yes, some were absolutely weirdly awkward, but most were just people (granted, famous people) speaking about things that work for them in their situation during this pandemic. Yes, they have money to burn, and yes maybe smoking a stogie in a jacuzzi while touting the stay-at-home message is hard for the average human with a home and a mortgage to swallow, and even harder for those living paycheck to paycheck, especially with no paycheck coming now. Sure, maybe drone shots of the huge “I’m sequestered here” yacht sparks resentment rather than camaraderie, I get that. But can’t we at least acknowledge that everyone’s life is radically different now than it was two months ago?! These people were filming their next movie, or rehearsing their first try at stagecraft, or editing/laying down tracks in the studio with an orchestra…none of which can happen right now. And why is it you admire these celebrities in good times, but not in bad times, you totally fickle friend? Unfollow them, don’t shame them. Every change is a fact to face, and everyone is facing hard facts at this time. They are not the same facts for you as for me, or for Arnie as for me, but they are hard facts of cling with an unprecedented pandemic.

We need to regenerate our compassion and our empathy, as well as our awareness of perspectives. Maybe give them, please, the benefit of the doubt …

Can’t we at least acknowledge that everyone’s life is radically different now than it was two months ago?!

A more personal example comes from a tweet I sent very early in in the pandemic, after the call in NY to restrict travel, but before the required work-from-home and full sequestration. I had enjoyed an evening with a neighbor, a good friend who I had rarely ever spent time with. We got take-out at a local restaurant a few blocks from our houses, maintaining the 6’ distance during pickup. We split a bottle of wine into glasses we each brought from home, and sat on my front porch, outside in our jackets (March) on a bright and chilly day. We sat 6’ apart and did not share our meals, just our conversation. I tweeted out that I enjoyed the opportunity, and that porches and time to visit with my friend are a gift during this crisis.

I got slammed hard by someone who called me privileged and said how dare I when others have no porch and when his family was facing several horrible pandemic-forced choices (wife leaving nursing to stay at home because of family health issues that made them high-risk). I can’t imagine having that burden. Yet I am very, very aware that I have it really good in my life. And I was truly sorry that my looking at the bright side of my experience in this moment hurt someone. I was, in turn, surprisingly hurt by the name calling. I was frustrated that even while I tried to make it clear that I am aware of the huge advantages In have in my life: a job, a safe home in a walkable community, good health, great husband and son, good neighbors, and more, I was verbally attacked for sharing a moment of joy, and a moment with some revelations in it. I posted what I did to highlight some good parts of my day AND to say what I realize can help make sequestration doable. And further, to point out what we should be working for in our communities and social safety nets going forward, so more people can have access to these things that make us more resilient, safe, happy, and healthy; local restaurants, good friends next door, and a front porch.

But the person berating me was hurting too much, and he continued to insult me, and then blocked me.

My question is really this; Why is it that we now automatically assume someone is being an asshole? Why are we all so defensive, all the time? What good does this do anyone? (spoiler – The answer is this does no good for anyone, ever.)

I have even struggled with this response/attitude from someone who assumes that I am intentionally keeping them out of meetings and undermining collaboration. My entire career and personal approach is about co-creation and collaboration, and I always work hard for inclusion of a wider pool of stakeholders. However, even in a collaborative process, there will be some meetings or moments that may happen between only a few people, for real reasons such as expediency, cost control, focus, or a need to develop another individual’s comfort with collaboration. So instead of assuming disrespect and intentional lack of inclusion, maybe ask “why” and how we can make collaboration more normal next time, even if that development needs to take some time. And maybe lead with trust. Trust that the intentions are truly good, and that there is some perspective and experience guiding the effort. Trust that you are valued, and the change in process is, itself, a process.

In summary, I am working very hard to not get my dander up before a thorough think these days. Because maybe it is the stress of this time that makes us so quick to be insulted. Maybe it is the example of the current potus that makes us think disrespect and derision and mistrust are perfectly ok. And maybe we have to be intentional, and pay invested attention to make sure that one of our “new” norms is not a defensive posture against our fellow man who is really going through the same situation we are, but in their own way.

Breathe, and be greener,

Jodi

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