I have been in frequent contact with family, friends, and clients. I had three almost identical conversations with them today about “What now?” One said, “You are always a few steps ahead. So help me. I’m doing my best, but I know I’m not doing all that would be good right now. Where are you? How do I get there?” I thought about it, and then I shared this story…
This morning, my daughter had her first big moment. It wasn’t watching the news or reading about COVID. It wasn’t as we talked about shelter in place or what the food options in our house are likely to be for the next few weeks.
It was cleaning. She slipped on a wet floor and stubbed her toe. She cried. Very hard.
I went into medical mode, and checked her toe and knee. I assessed if there was an injury that would require more serious medical attention than I could provide at home. I ran through four scenarios of how I could handle a fractured bone at home.
And then I stopped. “Sweetie? Are the tears about physical pain? Can you check in and let me know?” I sat on the wet and dirty floor and invited her into my arms. She came.
“Mommy. I’m not hurt. But I can’t quit crying!”
Guess what? It’s ok. I held her. We talked about how she has made such big adjustments the last few weeks. When she was still in school, she led a group of kids in sanitizing classrooms twice a day, and insisted that she would do the infant and toddler rooms since she understood how important this was. Then, she gracefully gave up Girl Scout meetings and Cookie Booths when others around us were still participating and wondering why we weren’t. She was part of conversations weeks ago about how this was impacting our Italian family, friends, business. She has been a team player in negotiating space, love, and kindness in my house and in our world. She understood when I pulled her from school before it was closed. She has embraced e-learning, and helped us all maintain a semi-normal schedule. She has done so much that an eleven year old doesn’t normally have to do. And she has done it with love.
So, I held her. And she cried. And I suggested that maybe the not-physical tears were all the other tears that seem inappropriate, too early, or too much to share right now. And we talked about embracing the opportunity of a stubbed toe to cry out what she could. Because there is more, and it’s too big. But a stubbed toe means 5 minutes of sobbing in Mommy’s arms in a safe way, and that’s 5 minutes of release that we all need.
I am not on the front lines in a hospital or clinic right now. I have been resisting sharing my credentials, expertise, and medicine because we are already flooded with experts telling us what is happening, and yet, we still aren’t listening. How can my voice make a difference? I have found myself distancing from my work, and sinking into depression. And then something happens where I remember that I am powerful, and so are all of you. And doubts, and tears, and hard moments are part of that process. I need my clients. I need to be able to help. I need to see light, and growth, and change, or I despair.
I am not on the front lines in the public, but I am on the front line for my clients. I am the voice on the phone helping them decide the steps they need to take to care for themselves, their families, their communities. I am the checkpoint before they call for testing. I am the calm as they wait for results. I am the checkpoint as they ask for mental health resources. I am the calm as they wait for return phone calls. I am the checkpoint as they worry about whether ordering food or cooking it at home is safer. I am the calm as they make whatever choice is possible in that moment. I am the checkpoint when they don’t know what to do and don’t know who else to reach out to. I am the calm they can sit in until the clouds part and they see a path.
Today, I know that my town in Italy is experiencing their first deaths from COVID 19. Today, I know that at least one very close friend, a handful of acquaintances, and two clients have been tested and are awaiting results. I know that it may not be what you are experiencing today, but I know that it will be what you are experiencing soon. So what now?
Love harder – start with yourself. Do you need food? Water? Tea? A walk? A friend?
Love harder – Who around you needs a silly meme? Who can you text a heart to? What can you do to contribute to a greater good?
Love harder – When was the last time you let yourself ask for help? Reach out – in love – and someone will reach back.
I am here. I am always here. I have an amazing family. They understand my work. And in all the important ways, they know I am needed by so many more people than just them. Right now, my husband and daughter are in the garage working on some kind of project so I can write, and so I can be on the phone with a few more clients today who have called with “I mean, I guess it’s not urgent, but I was just wondering if you could help me?”
Yes. I am here. And I am laughing at things that aren’t funny. And crying at things that don’t really hurt. And doing my best to love harder every step of the way. Please let me know if I can help you, because that also helps me.