In December 2020. I posted the following blog. Little did we all know then, that even though another 525,600 minutes have elapsed, we are still in a pandemic facing a new variant- Omicron.
The Broadway musical, “Rent” has a song entitled “Seasons of Love” which starts off by asking:
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes.
Five hundred twenty five thousand moments so dear.
five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes.
How do you measure,
Measure a year?
In cups of coffee?
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife?
In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes.
How do you measure a year in a life?
(If you do the math, it turns out to be a year (525,600/60 minutes/24 hours= 365 days.)
Unlike the fall of 2020, this past fall (2021), I went back into the classroom to teach ADR Ethics. While I applaud the University of Southern California for implementing strict protocols to keep us all safe, it was not easy lecturing 50 students with a mask on for 100 minutes a week. My biggest concern was that the students could understand what I was saying despite my muffled voice.
Like last year, I used a discussion board and found that I was being heard and understood. In their postings, many students were mentioning points I raised in class. For the last posting, I asked my students to reflect on three things they learned in class. Surprisingly, and despite teaching 50 students with a mask on, my students’ posts were illuminating: They had learned some very valuable and critical things about ethics! I was quite surprised!
This discussion post along with the lyrics of the song got me thinking: What three things have I learned in the last 2 x 525,600 minutes. Although the pandemic has now lasted 21 months and seems to be spiking once again thanks to the Omicron and Delta variants, it seems that the time has flown by. When I see someone now that I have not seen lately, I suddenly realize it has been close to two years since we last met, thanks to lockdowns and other protocols.
So, what has the last 21 months taught me? The same things I learned last year but even more so: flexibility, patience (lots and lots of this!), persistence, forgiveness and understanding to the nth degree!
First, I learned to be even more flexible than I even thought possible last year! This year has brought quite a multitude of challenges and the only way to survive was to be very flexible. Teaching with a mask on is no easy task as well as always remembering to have a mask with me and to use it whenever I go anywhere. And closely related to this would be resilience: especially this year, I have definitely needed the ability to “bounce back” and not stay stuck in a rut. (This quality has been the subject of many an online seminar on mental health both this year and last for good reason!)
The second quality – also closely related and two in number- are patience and persistence. Things have not quite turned out the way we all expected or wanted. With the advent of the vaccines in the early part of 2021, no one thought that we would still be in a pandemic facing another surge thanks to the Omicron and Delta variants. (Will this pandemic ever end?) While state and local authorities are hesitant to impose another lockdown, they are imposing mask and vaccine mandates. As a consequence, I am still working from my dining room table, with no thought of conducting in person mediations anytime soon. So… lots of patience is called for and staying persistent in doing what is necessary to “stay safe.”
And finally, but certainly not the least is to “be forgiving and understanding.” Each of us is trying the best we can under the most difficult circumstances and so we need to bring forgiveness and understanding to things that happen; mistakes and goofs will happen. We should not beat up ourselves or each other over them. As Thomas Paine wrote in “The Crisis” on December 19, 1776,
“These are the times that try men’s [women’s] souls; the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
And so, too, understanding that this pandemic is quite a trying time for all of us especially as it has dragged on for close to two years with no end in sight. We should end this year and start the next with flexibility, patience, persistence, forgiveness and understanding. “This too shall pass” so that hopefully and finally, by this time next year, this pandemic will be only a very dim memory.
I want to thank each of you for sustaining my mediation practice through this most difficult year and for being a loyal reader of my blog. Without you, the year would have been even more difficult than it was.
I want to wish each of you a very happy holiday and a most wonderful new year. My most fervent wish for you and your family is that you stay safe and healthy and have a much happier 2022! I sincerely hope that the next 525,600 minutes will be much much better for all of us than the last 21 months!
As in the past, I will be taking a “staycation” until the end of the year. I will resume my blog again in January 2022! Stay safe and healthy!
… Just something to think about.