John Bennett/ April 5, 2020/ Change, Development/ 3 comments

Where I was born and where and

how I have lived is unimportant.

It is what I have done with where I 

have been that should be of interest….

– Georgia O’Keefe (1976) 

I’ve been working at home and practicing social distancing for over three weeks. Like most of you, the phrase “social distancing” wasn’t even part of my vocabulary until recently. I’ve concluded though, that during the current COVID-19 crisis, it is actually more accurate to practice physical distancing while social connecting. For my (and all of our) physical health, physical distancing is critical. For my mental, emotional and spiritual well-being, it is equally important to find ways to connect socially. The above quote from artist Georgia O’Keefe reminded me to consider how I can productively spend time in a place that is not my normal working environment.

As I take time to reflect on current events, here are some questions I’ve been thinking about, and my initial thoughts:

  • What will I do in my physical place? Can I be productive here? I plan to clean my home office by purging files and organizing books (I have about 2,000 in my home office). I’ve accepted the fact that the current distancing guidelines and requirements are likely to continue for several months, so I want to make this space more comfortable and conducive to the work I’m doing here. This will include setting up a mini-studio for teaching classes virtually.
  • What do I notice that has been out of sight? I’ve noticed how much time I don’t spend physically moving from meeting to meeting. Working virtually, all of the meetings seem to “just appear”. I’ve noticed neighbors that I’ve never seen or met walking on my street. I’ve noticed the flowers, leaves, birds, colors and smells of spring in a more vivid brilliance. I’ve noticed myself thinking I need to be extra hyper-busy and hyper-productive. And, I’ve noticed how much I want to be in touch with the people I care deeply about.
  • How can I improve my environment? I’m a pile-er, not a file-er. I’ve noticed how messy my home office is (see first bullet). Again, it is at the top of my list of projects (perhaps feeding my need to be extra hyper-productive). Additionally, I’ve ordered adapters, ethernet cables, and all kinds of gadgets to improve my internet connection.
  • What place am I in spiritually, mentally, and emotionally? I am taking the time that I don’t normally take to consider my spiritual, mental and emotional well-being. In the past, I’ve had various practices to support my well-being. During this crisis, I’ve found myself wanting to be intentional about these things, realizing how truly important they are. 
  • How can this moment, during these events, provide me with the opportunity to look at myself in different ways? What will I discover? I am a sense-making machine. I want to make sense of events, experiences, emotions, etc. At this point, I am trying to be present with what is happening and to know that much of what is happening doesn’t make sense to me at this moment. I’m reminded of Karl Weick’s work on retrospective sense-making. I need to have these experiences in order to make sense of them. In the future, I believe each of us will find ways to process and make sense of the experiences we are having during this crisis.
  • What can I appreciate? I appreciate a loving spouse, health, safety, access to essential services, ability to work at home, a job that pays, friends, family and a community who care, and a faith that things will get better.
  • What will I do with where I am? For those who know me, it’s no surprise that I have an extensive “to-do list” or that I’m looking at ways to reframe this experience and leverage it. In addition to my work, I’m cooking, catching up on movies and TV shows, reading, writing, walking, reflecting, relaxing, connecting (virtually), planning, and trying to create a new and evolving pattern of normal.

How are you making the most of your time, environment and circumstances you are finding yourself in? What are you considering? I’d love to know your thoughts, so please leave your comments below.

Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash

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© 2020, John L. Bennett. All Rights Reserved.

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3 Comments

  1. John,
    Knowing you for the past 40 years you have always been a thoughtful and compassionate person. Your thought process is right on. Do not forget your fiends and those who are least among us. Keep in touch with people. We are in this together.
    All our best to you
    Bill & Martha

  2. thanks, john.
    part of our/everyone’s job is to practice self-leadership (on the order of putting one’s own mask on first) so we can be there and lead/follow/support others along the way. choosing where to put our attention, marshal our energy and place our focus, depending on what matters most to you (your priorities), can keep us grounded, connected, relevant and contributing.
    please continue to lead. you model how we can be and do.
    best, john

  3. Like many friends and colleagues, I find myself being very reflective and trying to find a pace for living and working that feels right. When I have 9 hours of back-to-back Zoom meetings, I just want to lay on the couch all night and stare at an old NCIS or Schitt’s Creek episode. When I have open days, I want to write, sleep, walk, and read. I find myself procrastinating on the big projects: fixing broken jewelry, cleaning out the garage, reorganizing holiday decorations that I bought for 75% off, switching my winter clothes for my summer clothes. I don’t want quick fixes. After four weeks of sheltering in place, a rainy day like today makes me long for my Pure Barre classes, sunshine, visiting with neighbors at Starbuck’s, and throwing the stick for the dog down at Ramsey Creek.

    You inspired me, John, to take this time, right now, to look at myself in different ways – to discover something, and to write about what I found. When I go back and look at this period ten years from now, what might I see in these challenges of being locked up in the house or the long-overdue call with an old friend? As you said, Karl Weick’s work on retrospective sense-making allows us to realize later that it is times like this that laid the pipes for something pivotal in our lives. It’s like a well-worn book that you underlined or wrote in the margins about your reflections while you were reading. I like rereading those books because those post-it notes remind me what I was thinking about at different points in my life. By then, it is easier to apprehend and integrate the ideas into what I already know or think I know about life or my career.

    Paraphrasing, John, I need to have this experience to realize that this could be the genesis of something important that could only have happened because I am having this experience during this crisis right now. I guess the net-net for me is just to write. Journal. Don’t take the time to reread it. Just write. Later on, when this is all past, and I am sorting boxes for yet another reorganization of the garage, I might find this 2020 journal. And looking back at the pages for March and April of 2020, it will all make sense.

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