Photo by Eduardo Flores / Unsplash

Why we are in Big Girl Panties Territory.

In what now feels like ancient history, back in 2020 many of us were noticing the blue skies and bright air and animals wandering the streets once clogged with cars. For many of us it meant hope, where the Mumbais and Nairobis of the world were breathing more easily.

Not for long. Industry has returned with a vengeance. That's despite the fact that there are more variants evolving daily in those pockets of the world where folks either couldn't or refused to get vaccinated, including right here in America.

Last night up here in Canada I politely walked out of conversation with a woman who claimed, without any proof whatsoever, that wearing masks did nothing to prevent Covid. People like that are one reason we are still dealing with it in countries where vaccination rates are relatively high.

I just got my fourth. I take this seriously, just as I take the opportunity to reset seriously. It's a skill set.

Let's talk.

Bill Bridges, in his seminal work on Transitions, explained the three stages of moving through them after a major change. There is an Ending, a Neutral Zone and a New Beginning.

We are crap on Endings in our society for we do not wish to deal with our losses. That means we throw our angst, anger, bitterness, pain and all the rest into our backpacks and hike along with all that extra weight right into the Neutral Zone, which is where the world has been since March 2020.

Those unable to deal with the ending (our previous ways of being) have both held onto what has disappeared AND tried to force society, which has moved on beyond them, back into a box out of which the world has already grown.  This is what we do out of fear, we hang onto what we know, and in doing so, do damage to what is coming or could potentially be far better.

The Neutral Zone is defined by not-knowing. It's life in the muddled middle, which is where we have been for some time now. As it relates to Covid alone, you could legitimately argue that HAD we all gotten vaccinated, and HAD we all lived by the precautions, then Covid would be in the past tense and new variants would not be having a heyday. I'm not going to get into a pissing contest with anyone about the science.

Here is what the Bridges Transition Model says:

Neutral Zone

The second step of transition comes after letting go: the neutral zone. People go through an in-between time when the old is gone but the new isn’t fully operational. It is when the critical psychological realignments and repatternings take place. It is the very core of the transition process. This is the time between the old reality and sense of identity and the new one. People are creating new processes and learning what their new roles will be. They are in flux and may feel confusion and distress. The neutral zone is the seedbed for new beginnings.

You can see why folks don't do well here. It's not for the squeamish, but all of us are in the Neutral Zone in some aspect of our lives ALL the time  from being an empty nester to moving to college to growing through our teens. It's a normal aspect of life. We just aren't very good at it.

Back to us, to Covid and right now.

That said, those dragged kicking and screaming by the sheer passage of time into the present hanging on for dear life to a past which no longer exists and continues to disappear are part of the problem. Big time. Men who can't forget their wives who are now married to someone else, people who still believe Trump is president, shall I go on?

Others create a terrible issue, along with those listed above, by trying to force the New Beginning before its time. Every time people insisted on going to church or concerts or reopening venues etc. etc.  only to create more infections and death are perfect examples of folks who cannot live in the not-knowing.

Both types perpetuate the Neutral Zone by either trying to deny what is, or forcing what's not ready to show up faster.

Again we do this in life all the time but we don't see it, and we bloody well don't want to admit it either. We're not the issue, it's the governor or the politician or the doctors. Or the guy asking us to mask up or the doctor telling us that the fake silver colloidal cures won't save Daddy,  so we punch his front teeth out. Then he quits (so would I) and now we're all mad we can't get ER care because those doctors effectively told society to go jump. They're the problem?

No. It's us.

So now there is a plethora of articles on how to reboot after the pandemic.

Hitting the reset button: Building a better normal after the pandemic | Stanford News
Instead of emerging from the coronavirus pandemic resilient to crisis and catastrophe, Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki asks what if we grew stronger because of it?

While my hat is off to all those folks SO EAGER to help us reboot for the New Beginning, it ain't here yet, folks. For even as I listen to and read stories about how America just can no longer deal with masking for yet another summer, here is what I am attending:

Omicron’s ‘stealth’ subvariant BA.2 could go ‘wild’ in Europe before going global, top epidemiologist says
The rise in cases across the continent is being driven by several causes including the spread of the omicron subvariant, BA.2.

We aren't over it yet. Covid doesn't give a shit about us,  our irritation with masking, our summer vacay plans. It has one purpose, and that's to kill our ass. Covid is doing a happy dance for every denier, every anti-vaxxer. Those are part of what guarantee the success of the virus and our inability to move forward, especially as such issues have devastated our health care workforce.

As a species living in 2022,  our impatience is going to be our downfall, at least for millions of us. Politicians caving to lobbyists and angry constituents are already relaxing rules which are likely to result in rising infection rates and our loved ones ending up dead or with long Covid.

I recently got my fourth booster. It hurt. A lot. I was way ahead of the curve last year with a third last July. I don't CARE what you think, I take this very seriously. Perhaps it's because I look at the much larger trends and implications of what happens when irritated, impatient and non-resilient people cannot deal with waiting, cannot deal with restrictions, force movement when movement isn't such a good idea.

Call me crazy, stupid, whatever you like. I don't care. Our governments and medical communities did a bang-up job of creating vaccines. Our politicians did a shit job of making sure they got rolled out even in countries which bought and hoarded billions of them to the detriment of countries which badly wanted and needed them, such as in Africa. We hoarded vaccines which went bad while those countries got nothing compared to what they needed.

And then we want to blame those countries for being the source of new variants in the most picture-perfect example of blame the victim you could ask for.

We are not ready for a reset.

Not even. We are, in the largest possible sense, smack in the middle of the Neutral Zone where we will be for decades and decades. As long as there are anti-vaxxers and Covidiots, Covid is going to have a party on our asses.

Okay, so what can you and I do?

Here's the invitation and the opportunity. It's not all doom and gloom, albeit this isn't likely to be fun for a while.

I'm a Bridges Transitions Trainer, and from that expertise I'll give you this:  

Learn to live in the middle. That is where you gain strength, perspective, patience and wisdom. EVERY SINGLE DAY  requires a reset. Every day, for the world changes overnight and when you and I wake up there is something new (war in Ukraine) or our doctor quit or whatever. You learn to deal.

Refuse to learn to deal and you will implode. Lots of folks doing that right now.

Neutral Zone living is all about building daily temporary scaffolding. Working with what we know right now, and then being willing to drop that the MOMENT it no longer works and build new scaffolding based on what we know NOW. I won't tell you it's easy. But it is mastery. It is uncomfortable.

The best strategies are relationship building, connecting, collaboration, staying informed and above all, staying open, soft and curious. That keeps you flexible,  malleable  teachable,  reachable and ready to respond swiftly.

That's Big Girl Panties territory. Got yours?

Getting very comfortable with discomfort is what masters do.

This past week I attended a conference. I was in a session where there was a brilliant woman giving a talk about how four folks pivoted successfully during Covid. We had nine participants. Everyone was next door learning about how to work with brands. I know where I needed to be, and where I got value, and I also know that fully some 95% of those folks next door weren't ready to work with brands. The are in the Neutral Zone,  nowhere near ready. In denial, which will perpetuate the problem.

Part of success in any aspect of life is understanding where you are, and what you don't know, which will lead you to what you need to know. The strategies for being in the Neutral Zone are networking, collaborating, and being constantly willing to let go of what isn't working RIGHT NOW and moving on. That's what I mean by the daily reset.

This is the world we inhabit right now. We are in the Neutral Zone, which is at some level requiring us to reboot nearly every single day. Learn how to do that, learn how to let go of what isn't working and be willing to learn something new and watch what you can do. Watch how much easier life gets when we focus instead on solutions and outcomes instead of bitching about what we lost or what we wish would happen or who to blame.

Big girl panties territory ahead. Lots of folks are going to sit and wail in their wet diapers and wait for someone to make it all better.

The rest of us are going to hitch up instead of bitch up and keep going. We network, strategize, support, make fun of things, laugh, giggle, cry, hitch up our panties again and keep right on going.

I know what I'm going to do.

Natural portrait of hips and thighs of a twenty-five year old woman showing cellulite and stretch marks.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon / Unsplash

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