I always feel like I’m incredibly lucky. Living a lucky life. But I have a strange feeling that I feel lucky because I know darkness. Because I’ve swum in seriously stormy seas.
When you know darkness, (and I think most of us do) you can see the light and perspective and possibility and hope, even when it’s really stormy.
You can be brave, because you know what you can survive.
You can bruise, because you know you heal.
The backstory – a bit about me
There are two backstories about me. The first is a bit gritty (apologies in advance) and the second is more fun, but ironically might not exist if not for that gritty piece.
It doesn’t come up in the first five minutes of meeting me, but I know a fair bit about grief. My father was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia when I was eight years old, and very sadly passed away three days after that diagnosis. He was 34. I was 8, my sister 6, my brother 3 and my Mum just 30. I remember saying to my Mum years later when our own three children were almost the same ages – “How on earth did you cope on your own?”. Mum looked momentarily perplexed before returning to her usual pragmatism and answered, “What else was I to do? Someone had to make dinner”.
Then, I had an even more monstrous event happen when I was a grown-up. When my little boy was just nine years old, he had the simplest of accidents and passed away two days later, as I held him in my arms, on what would have been my Dad’s birthday. His two sisters were 11 and 13. It was desperately unfair that they had to deal with that as kids.
There’s no sugar coating either of those events. And I don’t try. I’m not 100% confident of the stats, but I do know I’m not alone. 1 in 18 kids lose a parent before they reach their 18th birthday. I don’t know the stats for parents who lose children, but I do know there’s no words for parents or siblings in that situation.
So, I get grief. Up close and personal. Firsthand. But there’s much more to me.
I laugh really easily. If you make a joke, I’m your go-to audience. Out loud often snorting.
I love music, and easily move from Green Day (my favourite band) to show tunes (Greatest Showman is THE best!) and back to country and across to rap, with some Hozier thrown in.
I have zero interest in shoes and handbags, but love restaurants (artists who live to make food for others).
I’m generous. If you need help, I’ll find a way to be there.
I cry when I’m happy and I cry just as much when you are.
I like Rom-Coms and Psychological Thrillers, equally.
I love forests, but I love the ocean more.
Another backstory – A bit about all of us
I think we all deal with big stuff. And I think we’re all a bit crazy.
My grief is not bigger and worse than yours. My story is not more unfair or tougher or even more interesting. In fact, I’d love to hear your story, in your own oddly ordered, roller-coastery way of telling it.
I even bet that your own eclectic tastes in music – declaring or not declaring that you know every word of that Nickleback song How You Remind Me and – are probably just as mad as mine. I’d love to hear who you love to sing out loud to when no one can hear you in your car.
In the times of a pandemic – a bit about right now
So, what has all this got to do with anything? Well, it’s got everything to do with everything.
Let’s quickly mention the pandemic (although I promise not to dwell on it). We are right now becoming the generation that in one hundred years will be described as those people who lived through the pandemic. Our grandkids will ask what it was like to go months without seeing our own grandparents, or months without hugging our neighbours, or seeing a band, or trying on clothes we have no intention of buying.
Some cool person who right now is keeping super fit and avoiding the alcohol excesses of most, will outlive us all and in doing so, become that one person who still lives and remembers these times. They’ll be interviewed on some new form of media talking about what it was like when, and I hope they choose good stories to tell.
The reality is that living through this pandemic is not easy or much fun. It is sort of the worst of times. Lives being lost, lots of people losing their jobs, whole industries closed, businesses shutting down, kids not going to school with their friends, no one seeing family for ages (and when we do its sans hugging and two metres apart), and dire predictions of everything for our shared future. I’m almost always optimistic, but geez it’s been hard to hold that position lately.
Belonging and why it matters, especially right now
That brings us to Belonging. This crazy space where we feel we’re right where we’re meant to be, alongside those we’re meant to be next to. Where we’re accepted, welcomed, even needed. Where we are relaxed and comfy to turn up as we really are. We don’t need a ‘toxic positivity speech bubble’ above our heads 24/7. We can be lost, confused and where necessary, we can lean on others and know they’ll catch us. Just like we catch them.
Why does all of this matter? Because when we feel like that – when we feel like we truly belong – we are at our most confident. We rely on others, we openly collaborate, we support others, we ask for help when we need it and offer it when others do. We trust and we’re trustworthy. We thrive and we cheer others on as they thrive alongside us.
And how do we find this in the time of pandemic? By doing the things that always create Belonging.
Finding ways to align our collective purpose and sense of possibility.
Knowing each other and getting along well. Having the freedom to be ourselves. By being accountable to each other and right there when we need each other.
While Belonging is always important to every one of us, it matters more than ever, right now. In the worst of times, we need to be our best. With the highest ever levels of ambiguity and uncertainty, the hardest issues to solve, zero instruction books, with the stormiest of seas to swim, we need to find momentum and hope. For the generations behind us, we need every scrap of confidence and every possible ounce of trust, and a gazillion opportunities to collaborate on ideas and possibilities.
And that is always built on a foundation of Belonging.
To a family. A team. A community. A business. A future.
What I’m looking forward to
Knowing we were brave enough.
Knowing our bruises healed.
Hearing the stories of those who lived through the pandemic – that ‘special generation’, which will of course be all of us.
Hearing how those stories changed the world in strange and interesting ways.
How we found optimism and possibility and relied on each other to find it.
I’m equally looking forward to my team at work, being ribbed about my taste in music and knowing all the words to Love Cats, laughing at bad jokes, singing karaoke loudly, and sharing poignantly real stories of moments of pain that we survived as kids or grown-ups.
It’s in that sense of Belonging, of acceptance, of expecting me to show up, that I’ll find my confidence and the best me to help us find our momentum, our hope and our little role in the future.
I know we’re brave. And bruised.
But we’ve got this.
(Note: This is best read listening to Keala Settle’s gorgeous voice belting out This Is Me)
Copyright mwah. 2020