Change is the natural order of the universe. Whether you believe in evolution theory or that God just does stuff, change happens.
In the unremitting updates, opinions, panic, hope, confusion, denial, despair, speculation, faith, defiance, futility, impatience, esprit de corps and anger over the sudden realities of 2020, we’re experiencing the esoteric equivalent of a meteor strike on the Yucatan—to the sorry detriment of the dinosaurs. And the advantage of new life forms whose time has come. Whether 2020 turns out to be an epochal apocalypse will be determined by our individual point of view about it. And how we choose to act. Or react.
In 2020, our point of view about change is the key to our individual survival, from the world as we knew it to the world as we know it, and will want to be alive to know it. Sure, use the word “reset” if that works better for you.
Words, as we know all too well, have power so indelible that in the Twitterscape of 2020 they can qualify as a weapon of mass destruction, or a unifying, healing pulpit. Words for the changes of 2020 can be as pragmatic as Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” or as prosaic as Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water. We can be brutal and self-serving, or we can be compassionate and self-sacrificing. We can freak out, or we can be still. We can be opportunists or optimists—and we can also be both.
Change is not a crisis. Crisis is a point of view about change.
So is opportunity—the appearance and blossoming of new ways of life, which turn out to be not so much strange as inevitable, even right. The opportunity, or crisis, is the judgment we make about change. There is always opportunity in change if we choose to just observe it as change, without setting ourselves up for dread and defeat by defaulting to it as a crisis.
In the familiar way, this has been proven in the past several months by the behavior of the financial markets. No need to scratch our heads in bafflement about why the Dow Jones and other indices have defied this spring’s COVID-19, economic crash and political chaos. In the markets, change is opportunity. Traders make money by taking advantage of mass perception and gambling with uncertainty. This spring, they grabbed opportunity by investing on the cheap as entire industries suddenly flailed. Today, the Dow dropped a spectacular -1,861.82 points overnight, in a wild profit-taking rush after science said that, exactly as predicted, COVID-19 is back in a second wave.
Which is predicted to get even worse—because too many people have chosen—chosen—to reject the changes of 2020 as stupid or spurious, and crowded back to Jurassic Park because they’re bored and Donald Trump shrugs it all off. But where it’s now personal for me is that for the first time, ever, I apologetically pulled back from a happy yes to a reality-check no for a close friend to get away from Los Angeles and come visit me for the weekend. I anguished whether I could actually lose precious friendships over my silly insistence on social distancing, self-isolation and masks in public, a new thought. She said, “No worries.” As true friends do. Yes, I look weird to myself wearing big black and yellow daisies on most of my face with elastic around my ears. My sunglasses fog up, but I sure save on lipstick. But in that, no worries. Just saying.
Here’s the thing about change. Change feels like crisis when we haven’t chosen it. Unwanted change, we fear.
Think about seeing the sign taped to the front door of your employer as you show up for work: “To Team Members at this location: We regret to inform you that this location has been closed permanently. Please see the visiting manager for Exit Paperwork…” Or, “[magazine] made the painful but necessary decision to reduce our staff today… Approximately 10% of our payroll was affected, distributed across departments.” Or the pre-sunrise call you didn’t expect from an emergency room. Or anything that feels like a life-changing ambush. If we didn’t choose it, we feel displaced. Or disabled.
When we choose change, it’s a completely different experience. Choosing to relocate, as opposed to being evicted. Choosing a restaurant, instead of a food bank. Choosing to end something, or create something, because we want to, not because we have to. Again, it’s point of view about change and whether it’s forced on us, or designed (chosen) by us.
It’s a very fine line between choosing how to think about unwanted change and feeling like a victim. A victim, by definition, has no choice. The real victims of 2020 are those who actually have no choice as to which strangers, loved ones, reckless co-workers or foolish politicians show up asymptomatic or uncaring.
The conscious awareness of our simple power to choose how we view and handle the sudden changes of 2020 is more than empowering. It’s a lifesaving measure, beginning with our own, and an unprecedented opportunity to see the good that can come of it. Starting with recognizing that what is showing up today as a crisis of rage, and outrage, in our streets is a primal scream for love.