It’s funny (insert another word here, but what?) how the pandemic has upended so many previously held norms and values. What we thought was “normal” once doesn’t exist any more. “New normal” is a catch-all phrase for everything that we deal with now that was never on the radar. Face masks, social distancing, massive protests, joblessness, political gridlock. Covid itself sounds like a word that the non-grammatician-in-chief might have accidentally twittered.
What’s harder to get a hold of is how the very traits and skills that once helped us succeed in life are fairly meaningless, and what previously might have been classified as character defects are actually needed now, in spades.
For years, I struggled with the first-world problem of never feeling like I measured up. People in less privileged circumstances spend too much time on pure survival to deal with this kind of head game. Growing up and living much of my adult life in the white bread conservative suburb of Lake Highlands in Dallas, Texas, there was always an invisible yardstick of social mores. And I never quite got them or measured up to them. Clothes, hair, clubs, kids’ sports teams and Talented & Gifted programs, ad nauseum. I once tried out a garden club only to have to fake a hot flash to get out of there, pronto.
Then, like a rubber band stretching too wide only to spring back too tight, I boomeranged back the other way. Suddenly, I was too much. Too loud, too pushy, too direct, too heavy on masculine energy, too critical, too-too-too. My adult children reverted to rolling their eyes when we were in public, such as in movie lines back when there were movies and lines where people crowded together. “Mom,” one son or the other would warn, “Don’t talk so loud!” Or I would just get the lowered down hand-motion. Keep it down.
My Mexican handyman, who ordered me around in my own apartment in Oaxaca as though I were his personal tool helper and who left horrid messes for me to clean up, confided in another gringa client that I was “too bossy.” Nils, my life coach also in Oaxaca who I still see by Skype, suggested diplomatically that I work a little on my manifestations of feminine yin energy to masculine yang (described as “hot, bright energy.”) We discussed my bouts of “spectacular” anger – at everything from current politics (understandable) to throwing an orange on the floor because its peel was too thick (I ascribe that one to a fit of menopausal rage).
Too much, not enough. But what if – in these weird, upside-down Corona Times – we do have to do a 180-degree turn on what’s too much or not enough to get through this?
What if before, you were:
- Too outside the box, the kind of square peg that never fit in a round-holed world. That made you uncomfortably different before; what if you suddenly now have the right kind of perspective that solves problems we never had before, much less even knew existed? This suddenly square-holed world needs some square pegs, fast.
- Too outspoken, the kind of person that can’t hold their tongue and put a lid on it. Believe me, I have some experience with this. We can’t get the lid back on the pressure cooker that is the Post-Covid and post-George Floyd world, so we’d better get comfortable with a lidless model. Speaking truth to power from the bottom up, that’s lidless. Speaking up where it’s way more comfortable to stay quiet, that’s lidless. It’s all pretty much lidless now and we can’t be quiet about any of it any more.
- Too passionate. Sometimes we call these people crazy, the ones who burn on a particular issue and can’t let it go. We give no credence to “conspiracy theorists” who go against the flow of popular thinking, and sometimes forget that many great inventions and ideas came from go-against-the-grainers. We need those passionate people to burn through and solve the complex problems that now ensnare our world.
Or conversely, what if you didn’t have enough:
- Traditional social skills, the kind where you agilely navigate company holiday parties and golf with the boss. Like, exactly what good are those now to cozy up to a social level that hardly exists any more? Wouldn’t our Brave New World be better served if you are an authentic person who is theirself (politically but not grammatically correct) with every person across the board and therefore able to cut to the new chase?
- Money. Suddenly a whole lot of people who used to have money, don’t. And even more who never had any cash margin suddenly have no margin at all. And those who had no money anyway are still out on the street, but now starving as well. Cash flow is needed to solve so many economic problems caused by Covid 19, but money itself is not enough. If we don’t have the leadership and direction to wisely use our economic resources, straight-up money isn’t going to solve anything.
- Status. Maybe it used to count for a lot, but now it’s another of those registers that became antiquated overnight, like the skills for making horseshoes or candlesticks. A few billionaires still have some status by virtue of their fortunes not being erased by economic freefall from the pandemic. As in the Great Depression, most everyone else has leveled out at the same degree of non-viability, at least the former fairly comfortable middle class. One of my finer moments in Dallas was turning down an invitation to join the Junior League, an action that had no process as no one had ever done it before. That was 30 years ago and I still don’t regret it.
What if we threw away all the measuring sticks that we used to hold up to judge success? They didn’t work that well then; they sure as hell don’t work now. What if we left it to the free thinkers to think freely about how to solve this broken world, to the passionate to care so deeply that they inspire others to take action, to the status-challenged who are martialing support through their sheer authenticity and compassion?
What if too much and not enough were exactly what we need right now?
Susan Bean Aycock, Embracingthechaos, June 13, 2020