Endurance

It’s 6:30 on an October morning and it’s dark in Edinburgh. I’m walking the dog, wrapped up like it is already deep December: hat, scarf, jacket under rain coat. The rain beats down, the wind whistles along the Union Canal and the pup, whilst still wagging her tail, shakes the water off her back and looks at me like: “Run this whole “morning walk” idea past me again?”

I’m thinking the clocks haven’t changed yet. 

I’m thinking it’s going to get darker and colder for a long time yet.

I’m thinking of the looming second wave of an invisible force and the impact it is already having and I’m wondering… how the hell do we do this?

How do we do this?

How do we look after ourselves, our loved ones, those around us who are anxious or skint or lonely or in peril right now and in the months ahead?

How do we hold on to our sanity, our goodness, our kindness, our humanity when we are knackered and disconnect and confused by changing rules? When there is so much uncertainty? When you wake up and the rules of social conduct are supposed to be different to yesterday? When so many people seem furious about everything and Social Media bubbles with outrage and accusations and half-truths…When Facebook or Insta isn’t awash with weddings, birthday celebrations, folk meeting up for concerts or festivals…..

Because we are in this for the long-haul, right? It’s not going to be “over” any time soon and when it is “over” (and that won’t be on a specific date.. there’s not going to be an annual CE (Covid End) Day celebration) the effects will be felt for a generation or maybe more. 

So How? What is required right now?

The word that came up was endurance.

“the ability to keep doing something difficult, unpleasant, or painful for a long time”

“the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions; stamina”

The obvious analogy for endurance is a marathon, not a sprint… but folk who run marathons typically train for hours, run for hundreds of miles… So what happens if we ask someone with little or no readiness to do the distance? What would they need to get through?

Maybe the right kit. Certainly food/sustenance. Mental & emotional support – People to cheer them on, support them, notice if they are falling behind. A focus on getting through, not on getting fast…

I can’t help thinking that there is a calling right now for those who have done emotional and mental marathons. Those who have done “the Work” and can already function and endure in this type of odd-liminal/ half-life where things are restricted, yet not. Where we are alone, together. Where things shift without due warning. Where there is so much fatigue and fear and fury…

They might be coaches, therapists, psychologists, scientists, people of faith, they might be people who have lived with long-term illness or deep personal pain or addiction and overcome it… it might be the very people who have been seen as being Hippy-tree-hugging-touchy-feely outsiders… but those who can articulate and sit in amongst all this confusion with a modicum of calm, patience, empathy and understanding…these are the very resources and leaders we need right now… because those who have run paths of long-term uncertainty and have sat with grief and loss and confusion… they have something in them.  

Resource, wisdom…an antidote to fear and anxiety.

They are out there. They are in your life somewhere.

They may help us endure.

—–

And, without intention of smugness or rightness, my endurance pledge to myself runs something like this & in no particular order

I will begin… or continue to begin.

I will get up every day, determined to make things better…Determined I can.

I will approach each conversation as if I can be helpful and useful.

I will call out BS kindly. 

I’ll bring my view.

I will acknowledge my own fears and sadness, and commit not to infect others with them.

I will work with my negative stuff first – reflect, reconsider, adjust – and where I find myself struggling, I’ll ask for help with someone who can help me dissipate it effectively.

I will write, walk, run, meditate, stretch, drink water, look after the pup, tidy my house, pay my bills, try not to mainline chocolate or booze, be outside, pay attention to the weather and beauty where I find it… these things resource me, so I am available to resource others.

I will be thoughtful about what I post on Social Media.

I will shop locally or ethically and support someone’s income where I can. 

I will try to laugh and make others too.

I will check in with my elderly neighbour who is fearful and frail.

I will text love to friends and call people.

I will endeavour to receive love and care back, with grace, when it’s offered.

I will sometimes make myself unavailable – I will rest up, get cozy, sleep, feed myself and find space to breathe – I will try to see this, not as an act of indulgence, but as an act of restoration and readiness.

When someone shows up knackered or vibrating with anxiety or overwhelm, I’ll endeavour to be present and be with them.

The Change Effect

Recently I have had the joy of working with a not-for-profit team who are working to inspire and catalyze leadership for a low carbon future that is smarter, better and more prosperous.

Part of the day was re-connecting the team to their purpose through a series of talks by people working in areas such as Climate Science; promoting and researching “green” business practices in large commercial entities and Social Entrepreneurship.

Suffice to say, I’ve had my eyes opened.

Much of the discussion was about the realities being imagined if the Earth warms by 1°, 2° or the disastrous scenarios (unimaginable, from my perspective) of a 4° future.

And I found myself profoundly humbled, disturbed and also… kind of energised. I realised I was in the room with people who are dedicated and committed to generate the conversations and actions needed to… well… DO SOMETHING about the current situation…. And I began to start asking more about what part I can play in that.

I had a conversation with one of the team and was saying:

“It’s all so big. There is SO much to think about. I take out my bottles and recycle everything I can. We run a woodburner and I’m an extra-jumper-no-heating girl… is that enough? Does it make a difference? At all?”

And of course, the answers were not fully yes or no.

And what I’m noticing is this:

Firstly my spectacular ability to not pay attention to something that disturbs, perturbs and alarms me (Climate Change and all that means for our sustainable future). I am astonished at just how little attention I can actually pay to something because it seems unbearable to consider– tuning out information until it’s a low-level hum that I barely notice anymore… and I’m noticing I’m not alone in that.

Secondly that I have to believe my contribution matters and behave as if I can make some sort of impact. Just as I would say to anyone within an organisation: the responsibility for what goes on around here is partly with you – you can’t opt out if you are in this system. Pretending you don’t matter or have no effect in itself absolutely has an effect.

Thirdly, The day was, for me, a massive re-affirmation of the complexity of change. Climate Change doesn’t happen in a neat and tidy way. It is unpredictable and messy. Some will argue it isn’t happening. Some will be deeply skeptical about what the authorities are offering to be “true”. Some believe it won’t affect them…. Or won’t happen on their shift, at least. Some won’t care until it directly affects their pockets or lifestyles.

And then there are the some who embrace that something is happening and fight to ensure the future is a better one, despite or maybe even because of, the changes that are afoot. Some people are positive, relentlessly active, striving to be creative and inventive to adapt and respond to their circumstances.

As a Consultant working in organisations, I can’t help seeing the parallels, that this global experience is so clearly also our local one.

I guess I’m left with the same sense about the global situation as I have about working with people and organisations. I believe small actions can make a big difference. I believe conversations and connections allow new possibilities to open up. I believe change doesn’t happen in huge conferences or across Board tables, but the need for change gets highlighted here. I believe that the voices of skeptics are vital to spur on the actions of the advocates. I believe apathy is dangerous and also inevitable.

I believe one afternoon, listening to 3 different perspectives in a room filled with committed and action-oriented people has made me read more carefully and pay more attention to what is actually happening around me.

The Change Effect? It’s that simple…