Yesterday Jim and I took a walk around the neighborhood. It was a quick fifteen-minute spin, but it counted.
Breathing in some fresh air was nice, but what I loved the most from our jaunt was an interaction with another couple. We saw them walking our direction on the sidewalk, so we detoured to the street. The four of us waved to each other and laughed, calling hello and shrugging slightly as if to say: “I know it’s weird, but what are you going to do?”
Jim and I squeezed hands and smiled, and I started to tear up a little. I felt connected to that couple, like we were telling each other we’ll get through this! We’re going to be OK! Smiling, waving, and laughing as we put several yards between us. Protecting ourselves. Protecting each other.
I pictured what a pre-COVID interaction would have been. We would have smiled, said hello, and done that little nod you do when passing a stranger on the sidewalk or the trail. It would have been pleasant, but it wouldn’t have felt like we’d bonded in any meaningful way. There wouldn’t have been that connection.
It was a silver lining.
When we got home I’d planned on getting some work done, but I couldn’t. I had been up and down and up and down, and most of the downs happened when I would get on Facebook. I’d see the absolutely awful interactions, the name calling, the publication of lies, the gaslighting, and it ate into my soul.
I needed kitchen therapy.
For the next several hours, I cooked, serenaded by Billie, Louis, and Ella. I made vegetable broth from the scraps I’d been storing in the freezer. I made egg roll wrappers, and then egg roll filling, and then, finally, egg rolls and egg roll dipping sauce. I cooked rice in some of the veggie broth, and added the rest of the egg roll filling with some peas and onions to the rice. DoubleTree released their chocolate chip cookie recipe, so I made those, too. I cooked, and cleaned, and cooked, and cleaned, and baked, and sang along, and when I woke up this morning, I felt good. Optimistic. Happy.
Spending several uninterrupted hours creating delicious food while listening to passionate, soulful musicians is my happy place, whether I came to it by planning or out of self-preservation.
That complete immersion in my own world and the exclusion of the outside turmoil was a silver lining. It was a respite that let me think and plan, two things that have been spectacularly challenging.
Knowing that people aren’t going to be traveling any time soon and that Chicago is pretty much shut down for months has caused intermittent mental paralysis. I couldn’t see the way out. This morning, when I woke up, I thought about the Facebook group I’d created. Since I began inviting people on April 3, there have been 1,600 interactions from 256 members.
One thousand, six hundred posts, comments, and reactions in nine days. All of them happy.
I had fostered a community. I’d created a happy space where people could share great memories and dream of creating more.
For years I’d put off creating a group because it would be too much work, I didn’t have the time, what would it even be? I have a Chicago group, but even though it has over 1,500 members, there’s little interaction. Why would I bother with a second one?
Because this week I took myself out of the equation and thought about what people need.
It’s funny. I’ve been doing this for eighteen years, twelve of them full time, and it took a few weeks of isolation to figure out how to make this really work.
That’s a silver lining.
I articulated something I’ve inherently known: people don’t love to travel for travel’s sake; they love to travel because of what it does for them. Awe, learning, connection, memories, the gift of being completely present in a moment. Same for Chicago. It’s not loving Chicago. It’s loving what the city means to them.
Like so many people, I am now forced to take a step back and reevaluate my life, to discover what is working and what isn’t, and I’m making some surprising discoveries.
For one, running a Facebook group is fun and rewarding. That’s something I never thought I’d say or feel.
Another is the realization I’ve had about the events calendar on the Chicago site. For years, it’s been the bane of my existence. If there’s a technical problem, it’s always with the calendar. It’s the most time consuming and the most expensive aspect of what I do. It causes me more headaches and aggravation than trying to get my parents to stay home. (Just kidding. They’re behaving, and calling me every few days to let me know.)
BUT, last year when I moved the site from one platform to another and completely overhauled things, I was lamenting the time, effort, and money running the calendar costs and considered getting rid of it altogether.
Jim, who is always my devil’s advocate go-to, asked me what free options were available for people to post events. Grumble frackle dangit. There simply weren’t that many, so I kept it.
And continued complaining.
But now, when all of the events are canceled, when I’m not inundated with requests or issues, I realize and have internalized that having that calendar was a service I provided. It’s what people needed.
With all of the virtual events and classes happening, people need it now, too, so when I make my big re-branding switch this week, that calendar will be front and center. And I’m happy about it.
Back up – did I just say re-branding?
Yes, yes I did! I’ll go into more details later, but for now, the Chicago site will no longer be TLT Chicago, but something more appropriate.
Besides the virus and its impact (of course), this has been the scariest and biggest change in my life right now. But, because life as we knew it is on hold, I’ve finally had the time and the freedom to take a good look at my business and who and how it serves. I will never have a better time to make this change.
It’s a silver lining.
Optimism has felt counter-intuitive and, therefore, it’s been counter-productive. What is wrong with me that I can find something good and happy out of something so terrible?
Nothing. Nothing is wrong with me. I have seen so much kindness, creativity, and community emerge during a time of fear. If we’re to come out of this in a better place, in a better world, then we need to look at what’s positive, and we need to be what’s positive.
We need to embrace any silver linings we find, no matter how big or how small they might seem.