Warm Greetings, Everyone!
We have come through some interesting months…quiet, reflective, bored, stir-crazy, productive, purging, hanging on to every newsfeed, wondering-when-do-things-get-back-to normal… if things ever get back to ‘normal’. This phase of the pandemic feels like waiting in a COVID19 purgatory; In between what we think life should look like and a cloudy mix of masked, shielded, zombie/alien figures waiting in lines and avoiding contact.
I know there are several levels of belief and compliance with the health recommendations and guidelines. It is not my intent to defend, debate or dispute wherever you land on this topic. At work, I have fielded many questions that begin with… “Is it okay to”… and to which my answer is usually the same: Use some common sense, people!
My favorite conversation since being back at work, has to be with the lovely human who was navigating some conflict with a landlord. What began as a cry for help, and likely just a safe way to vent, ended in a question from her, about me. She asked how I got to be so grounded and if there was a book or something that she could read to be more like me… HAHA!
Even though there IS a book, it was outside the scope of my professional ethics to actually suggest she read Finding HER Stuff. Although, it would be truly humbling and amazing if anyone does recommend my book to another human who is searching for some grounding!
Speaking of which, I am looking for a little grounding of my own today. So, let’s dive right in with a skill testing question:
WHO ARE YOU?
What is the first thing that pops into your mind? An important role you play in your family unit? A title you carry in the business world? A label that has stuck with you from a negative relationship or experience? A degree or accomplishment that has defined your passion?
Or does an inside voice pop up and ‘remind’ you of who you are not?
For many of us, how we define ourselves would change from minute to minute, as we move through our various daily responsibilities. As duties change with each role, and we adopt a new ‘hat’ to wear, I am wondering how this affects our identity, worth, and ultimate healthiness. And, because how we wear our ‘hats’ has been impacted by a society consumed with precaution, this may be a perfect time to dissect some of the stacking, tossing, flying, juggling, dropping, crushing, flinging and stealing… of hats.
WHO AM I?
I have been turning this question over and over for a few months. After grappling with finding gifts during isolation, then creating some balance in our new way of socially interacting, I am ready to face my next personal hurdle… a stolen identity.
And I am not the only one. Many of us have had roles stripped from us with a job loss, the death of a loved one, an industry closure, eliminated travelling, or restricted contact with others. These were not choices from a carefully crafted ‘option-board’… the kind that hubby and I often use when considering alternatives during a big decision.
Weighing the pro’s and con’s together can make tough outcomes feel a little easier, knowing we did our best to mitigate the risks and optimize the benefits. Even when the answer is not so clear, this process instills a feeling of confidence in the decisions we make.
COVID did not allow for this strategy to be implemented. Overnight, we saw our ‘hats’ falling to the ground, blowing in the winds of uncertainty, and trampled by the panic for safety… and we had no control over it. No voice. No chance to grasp at the hats before they were swooped into an unknown void without an expiration date.
I would like to say that this is how one of my major identities was taken. It feels easier, and less cruel, to explain it away as another casualty of the global germ crisis, but it would not be accurate. My identity was taken before isolation and COVID concerns hit North America, and I have attempted to disguise the scope of this loss behind the strangeness of these days… but I am losing ground.
When something is stolen, our trust takes a dive. This is most evident after a house break-and-enter. I have watched homeowners struggle with trust and security, to the point of often having to move away from a house to feel safe again. Some cannot get over that vulnerable feeling and invest in expensive security and monitoring systems, which only mildly alleviates the angst of another potential breach.
Even though logic dictates there is nothing personal or specific about a random home break-in, to a person losing trust, it feels very personal and very specific. When your private home security has been compromised, it is worse than discovering traces of rodent droppings in your kitchen drawer… which is cause enough for me to bleach or burn the whole place down!
But back to my original question…
On the advice of my doctor and physiotherapist, I will never again wear the ‘hat’ that for 15 years has grounded me in an identity of strength, courage, compassion and service. I have been decommissioned. Not fit for regular duty. Out of stock and service… permanently.
Can I be thankful for that first month of COVID19 isolation that saved me from going through the motions at work while I sorted out what this new information meant and how it would define my ability to be valuable? You bet. I was relieved to be home and head down in projects and ‘quarantinis’, while my heart and mind attempted to absorb the loss.
Do I still have my job? Yes. That in itself is a blessing, as my city has come through 2 major economic downturns in the past 5 years. “Lucky to be working” is a common phrase in our office.
Can I do the same job? No. My patrol and enforcement days are over, as I should not ask my lower back to support any extra weight around my hips, or attempt any fast, dynamic movement… OR the worst case scenario… both of these together, like in an arrest or rescue scenario.
Wait… what?! My superhero days are done? Driving fast, emergency adrenal, high alert, guts and glory… all of it ending before the rest of my body and mind are ready? THIS… is an identity black hole!
When I share my story in presentations and workshops, I am careful to credit my police training and career for giving me the confidence and resources to eventually gain freedom from an abusive relationship. Of course, there were other factors involved, but until I was able to support myself financially AND could acknowledge the destruction happening behind closed doors, my focus remained on keeping my vow, or die trying. Literally.
The uniform, the camaraderie, the dark humor required to stay sane while willingly engaging with whatever chaos is around each corner… that is the person I became, to save me from the person I was. Who am I without it?
This has been my struggle… against defeat… anger… weight gain… back pain… to gracefully become the front desk minder, the fender-bender report taker, the call-a-cop phone answer’er, and the guardian of all items lost or found.
I think I have been falling off this career cliff for a couple years, in a state of compliant limbo, which has just ended in a sudden impact of rock-hitting bottom. This is a place I recognize. Although it is not a comfortable setting, the bottom only has one way out, and that is oddly soothing as I calculate a strategy for an eventual ascent.
The first order of business is setting my pride straight and lovingly placing my identity and worth in things greater than a career label. The number of hours my ‘work hat’ gets worn in a day, is not an indicator of its placement in my priorities. Some of my smallest roles are the most important and getting hung up on pride, blurs my sense of what I believe is essential.
My second order of business is facing the fear of change and failure. I have to learn new systems and processes… am I too old for that? I will be changing locations and commute patterns… what will my routine be? New colleagues will be asking questions about my reassignment… how much do I tell them?
In a recent conversation with a daughter about her new summer job, she bravely admitted that not knowing whether she was going to be awesome in her role, was causing considerable stress. Hubby and I assured her that nobody is good the first time they try something, but she has the strength and positive mindset to crush whatever obstacles come across her path.
Point taken! Carry on, AJ.
The last, and maybe hardest order of business, is generating enough self compassion to guide me through to the other side of this maze. This is not like my junior high school report card, where all the focus is on who I am not or what I am not achieving. This is grown up AJ, being bold and full of hustle while gently allowing judgments and doubts to rise… be heard… and then sent on their way in good faith, that this is exactly where I am meant to be, doing exactly what I am meant to do.
Digging deep and living whole… This is who I am.