Social graces might be thought of as something extra right now, but I think they could save us.
In this time, what we really need to do is set aside all agenda and be human with each other. Or, as one wise gentleman said to me recently, “Be delightful with each other.”
Let’s return to the behaviors that really make us feel connected to each other as humans, small kindnesses, thoughtful things, things that feel as good to the doer as to the receiver. Everybody wins.
I know this to be true: When I go for too long without asking people how they are, without doing something kind for someone else, my mind starts to circle — it’s like a hawk circling in on its prey. I can see my mind spiraling down, I start to feel really victimized by what’s happening around me. I feel resentful. I make other people wrong. I feel scared.
And sometimes when my mind is racing about the current state of our country and government, I’ll turn to the internet, scanning the news and social media for something, anything, that might make me feel better. I go foraging, in search of hope and encouragement, but really, I know better.
“Maybe today, the news is different,” I think to myself. I am an eternal optimist. But it always turns out, it’s the same fear-machine-onslaught as the day before.
When I go to the news for comfort, I’m putting my inner child at risk.
Right now, we (and our inner children) are all more vulnerable than ever. The stress of the pandemic is triggering a very primal fear of getting sick and dying.
Enter my rebellious adolescent. She doesn’t like to be controlled. By anyone. “I don’t want to wear a mask! I’m healthy!” she says. But then I catch myself (or rather, us). I don’t want to threaten people. I want people to feel safe around me. I will wear a mask.
Covid-19 is activating all of these various parts of our inner selves.
The main thing I have to remember, as soon as I start to spiral down into resentment, fear, lack, scarcity, is that this is the sign; this spiral is my indication that I am disconnected from myself.
This is the time for me to call someone and offer them support, or to write a letter, or even simply go onto social media with the intention of offering love and attention.
With the near-constant notifications from social media platforms encouraging us to wish everyone we barely know “Happy Birthday,” I’ll admit I’ve started ignoring these prompts. Saying “Happy Birthday” online doesn’t feel special anymore.
But then I remember it’s up to me to create the intention. I can make it feel meaningful. I put my energy and attention on each person (that I actually know), and focus on sending love; and then I write them a birthday message that is specific and unique.
This past month on my social media feeds, Instagram in particular, I’ve started highlighting members of my beloved staff with words of gratitude and appreciation. Because as everything has slowed down, I have space and time to truly let them know how much I love them, how valuable they are to me personally — and to our team.
Basically there is no better time to share this kind of positive energy than right now.
One day, we will look back and ask ourselves, what did we do in this time of Covid? Did we only go down the spiral of everything is bad and wrong/perpetually scared/life sucks/humanity is doomed…?
Or did we also use the imposed “time off” to alchemize the fear, worry, and concern into gold — uplifting ourselves and others; becoming that version of ourselves that we knew that we always could be, but were moving too fast to have the time for?
Here is what I’m doing (which you are welcome to use as inspiration as desired) to create shifts in my mood, energy level, and optimism: Walk in nature. Reach out to people. Be kind. Be loving. Find the joy. Meditate. Sit in the sunshine. Let miracles find me. Be surprised by the Universe and allow it to delight me.
Let’s delight in each other as much as we can. As this will help all of us.
Starting this week, certain businesses are being greenlit to begin work again. As construction resumes and thus our work ramps up with our design-build clients, I hope for myself and all of us that we hang on to these lessons.
Of course, Shelter-in-Place isn’t over. And at any time, how we design our interiors, both our homes, and our interior lives, is always a choice. It’s an inside job. And, it’s always up to us to come home to our Selves, through attention, self-reflection, kindness, gratitude, and love.
A version of this article appeared in the Piedmont Post
Photos: All photo credits, Laura Martin Bovard