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Uncertainty and Turning Setbacks into Stepping Stones
One theme (of many) that I’ve noticed that has shown up as I have been writing these Daily Anchors is the theme of setbacks. I would imagine that over the last couple of months (during this time of COVID-19) that setbacks have daunted many of you, as well. Our daily lives have been turned upside down; it’s as if the very ground beneath our feet is shifting. Finding our footing on this new path has been a challenge. And, as soon as we start to feel a bit more steady in our new “normal,” something else changes and the vertigo is back. If you’ve been reading these Daily Anchors for at least a few weeks now you know that I very much share with you that sense of unease and disquiet and uncertainty and fear and unsettledness. I can think of only a few other times in my life (during Charlie’s deployment to Iraq and my reset period) when I’ve felt so much shifting around me; a prolonged period of the roller coaster of emotions that comes with a reality that your mind and heart are having trouble syncing with your day-to-day.
The Illusion of Certainty
Hand in hand with these setbacks is that many of us have realized that the certainty we thought we had was really an illusion. Some of us already thought this or knew this before COVID happened, and others of us have been hit square in the face with it. Ouch! I know for myself the tighter I try to grasp certainty the more elusive it becomes. Yes, there are absolutely habits and routines that I rely on and those certainty anchors (h/t Jonathan Fields) have been my saving grace during this time. My tea time, meditation, writing practice, hot-tub time, yoga, and hiking have been my anchors. The truth is that so much of the certainty that we try to hitch our rope to is an illusion. It always has been, but we’re understanding that in a deeper way than we may have before.
Setbacks into Stepping Stones
So, besides these certainty anchors that we can each cultivate for ourselves, how else might we be able to come through this time (and other challenging times we will face in our lives) feeling a bit more sure-footed and empowered? Here are a few examples of people in my life turning setbacks into stepping stones during COVID:
A friend (we’ll call her Andrea) who has seen clients for years in a space that she didn’t really love took this time when she wasn’t able to meet in person with her clients to create an online version of her practice that is actually working better for both her clients and herself.
She didn’t realize that her office space wasn’t just not working for her, but for her clients, as well. Her clients are actually loving doing Zoom sessions with her and she has set up a sacred space in her home that feels much more comfortable for her and her work than her office ever did. She has also given notice and will no longer be paying rent on a space that was never really working for her.
Andrea has let me know that she will more than likely have an in-person practice again, but that for now COVID finally pushed her to take seriously that she could have a thriving practice online that served her and her clients. For now she is focused on making her online practice a success and will take time at a later date to find an office that is a better fit.
Friends of mine (let’s call them Jane & Sonia) were struggling big time in the first few weeks after COVID had them and their two young children both at home all day every day. Both Jane and Sonia were used to working in offices outside the home while one of their kids was in pre-school and the other was in elementary school.
They had definite routines in place prior to COVID, some that worked well for them, and others that they didn’t realize were incredibly unhelpful until they were met head on with changes to them.
One setback that happened during this tumultuous period was that bedtime routines got way out of whack for a while. During their work to get back to a healthy bedtime routine for their kids they also realized that the nightly habits they had started separately with their children were actually much better for all four of them when they started to do them together. They have now gotten into a new habit that has the four of them spending more quality time together before the children go to sleep, and everyone seems happier and more connected for it.
The last example I’ll share is one of my own setbacks that has turned into one of my biggest stepping stones of all during this time. Due to social distancing and mandatory closings, the yoga studio where I have practiced for nearly a decade closed back in March. They have done a wonderful job of setting up an online community of practice now and it has become a new anchor for me.
I would imagine that for many of us there have been one or two anchors that we typically used prior to COVID that have felt even harder to come to terms with losing or not having at the moment. For me, the sanctuary that I found in the beautiful studio where I practiced was one of those things.
Through a series of linkages that would be challenging to try to explain in detail here, it is actually through my not being able to drive to practice at my yoga studio that I have taken my writing practice more seriously and found that it is an integral part of who I am.
I started to practice yoga in my backyard when the weather was nice enough for it, which led me to finding that writing outside is where I get my best and most flowful writing done. Again, there are many more links that happened before getting to that stepping stone, but I will always be grateful for that setback, as I have found my voice again and also the location where it comes most naturally to me.
By turning our setbacks into stepping stones (or more likely giving our setbacks time to turn into stepping stones) we can gain traction and feel a bit more confident in ourselves. Just like one step leads to the next and gets us to our destination, it’s by creating stepping stones from our challenges that we can reach our goals and create our best life, even if the path did meander in ways we could never have imagined.
Is there a setback that has led to a beautiful stepping stone for you?
What is it?
What has it done for you?
Could you have imagined at the time that it would help you and lead you forward?
If you’re not sure if you’ve had a setback that turned into a stepping stone for you, or your answer is no, I encourage you to stay open and be willing to allow gifts to arrive in your life in ways you may not have expected or asked for them.