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After my husband, David Beynon Pena, died of pancreatic cancer in 2016, my experience of time became very fluid. I had little energy so I was not going out very much, connecting with fewer people and doing less activities. My life felt like an endless wasteland of grief, fear and anger where my future was no longer clear to me, now that I was a widow and alone. I also lacked focus and could not remember anything reliably. I had to find practical ways to anchor myself again.

Right now is like that too. The world has been turned upside down by circumstances beyond our control and many people are adrift, not sure what to do next. It is natural to take what has happened personally. These times require an unusual level of inner fortitude and resilience. I recovered from this experience of slippery time and a terrifying view of my future possibilities myself after David died. Perhaps the lessons I learned can help you too. Millions of people have been furloughed or have lost their jobs. There are protests for social justice which seek lasting solutions to systemic racial injustice issues like police brutality, voter discrimination and gerrymandering neighborhoods. Across the globe, especially in the U.S., countries are looking for solutions to the coronavirus pandemic, from guidelines for individuals about wearing masks, washing hands and 6-10 foot social distancing to medicines to help the infected recover faster, to COVID-19 and antibody tests, to contact tracing and, hopefully, to vaccines which can cure it.

First, it’s not your fault. You didn’t ask for this. You don’t deserve it. I define experiences of loss or transitional events as the death of a future imagined or co-created which will now never come to pass. There is no going back because, as the world will be forever changed so will we be. The question to ask right now is, “How do you choose to go forward?”

Step 1: Anchor yourself in time

  • Amplify your energy and capacity by prioritizing self-care, whatever that means for you
  • Set up a schedule which includes connecting with others and work/play/chore activities
  • Write down everything which needs to get done for you to thrive and choose the reach out or action which matches your capacity that day. Exhausted people can’t think.

Step 2: Assess your pain points and passions

  • The environment around us has changed so there are new challenges to observe and find solutions for, each according to our particular zones of genius
  • Pain points and passions are likely to fall in the areas of business, relationships, health, money and time. What matters to you?
  • Be clear about what specific aspect of your pain point or passion interests you to leverage your time and energy most effectively and get the best results

Step 3: Design your future

  • This is a moment of enforced pause for many people, an opportunity to review our lives and identify the gaps between right now and the lifestyle and legacy we truly want
  • Then we have a choice: to go back to our lives before the chaotic events of 2020, even if we weren’t satisfied, or to carve a new path, more congruent with who we are now
  • If we go back, ask, “How do our historical skill sets serve current needs?” because the world has changed. If we design a new future, “How can our zones of genius address current challenges, which may be new or old, needing different solutions?”

Time is a slippery beast. Life is short. These are two truisms I learned painfully as I watched my husband in our last months of life together when we committed to living fearlessly and loving fully again. After I became a widow in 2016 and refused to be broken by the circumstances of my loss, above is an overview of the steps I took to reclaim my own resilience and resourcefulness, and get back to thriving.

2020 has been really tough. Human beings are not designed to live in such an extended experience of fight or flight for so long, especially alone. Transitions are painful but it’s easier to take new action when there’s no choice because the world around us, the ground under our feet has shifted. That’s what I discovered, anyway.