Today, I was speaking with a dear friend and she confessed to having a tearful weekend, There were many strong reasons why she felt down, just like there are so many reasons why all of us are having bad days during these uncertain times. My friend shared with me the reasons for her feeling overwhelmed and in turn I shared with her that everyone I know friends, family, colleagues, have confessed to having at least one sad day in the last few weeks. My friend said that she was worried that spending a day in tears meant that she needed coaching to develop her resilience.
I beseeched her, ‘Please don’t think you have to be glad!’
She was a little puzzled until I explained why I am philosophically allergic to feeling the need to be glad, no matter what is happening.
When I am invited to give speeches, often sharing stories about how to overcome crisis and catastrophe, I always mention the respect I have for someone who feels ‘glad’ they’ve endured cancer, trauma, abuse and any other disadvantage. While I can admire their attitude, in every speech I send out a huge ‘high-five’ to everyone who is not ‘glad’ that they had cancer, endured catastrophe and in our current situation, are caught up in a pandemic.
Personally, I’m not glad I had cancer. I’m not glad a psychopath invaded my home, beat me and threatened my children. I’m not glad I lost my corporate career due to ill health and equally I am not glad to be in the middle of a pandemic. Am I angry about these events? No Because to be angry with the situation would mean it takes control of me and my feelings. And if I let that happen, I know I am in danger of losing myself, which is far worse than any external event.
I shared with my friend that first, spending a day crying was definitely okay and secondly not feeling glad about a pandemic was even more than okay! Through my research, coaching and writing my soon to be released book, ‘Feeling Forwards’, I’ve discovered that finding a meaning and purpose to carry you through unwanted circumstances, is far more positively impactful than feeling glad.
Right now? I am in awe of everyone around me – family, friend, colleague, stranger as they adapt to the many layers of uncertainty and out of control events affecting all our lives.
Is everyone coping well with the new restrictions imposed on our daily lives? Of course not. But I believe we are all doing the best we can, with the circumstances in which we find ourselves. When my friend gently chided herself for feeling down when so many other people are in a worse situation (I think she was being charitable) I reflected that our own stories always contain the most pain. You can’t possibly experience someone else’s trauma with the same intensity as your own, and that’s okay too.
It is not a character flaw if you’re not glad about the unwanted U-turn your life has taken in the last three months. Even on a good day, I’m still feeling a little frayed around the edges and my family and friends have shared their own fears and frustrations. Instead of worrying, my strategy is to focus on is Feeling Forwards.
I can’t tell how and when we will return to a consistent version of normal. But in six months I want to look back and feel proud about how I navigated my way through 2020.
And I know I will feel okay with not being glad I had to go through it.