Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong. –Lao Tzu
Things are fluid in this world, and if you don’t remain fluid, you get lost in the sauce. –Talib Kweli
“I’m grateful for this time of COVID because it’s teaching me to be more fluid.” Funny she said that because I’ve always seen my friend Loredana, from Italy, as the gold medalist in fluid living. Tall, brilliant, and gorgeous, she came to the US to follow an American boy she met in her hometown of Rome one summer many years ago. At the time, she spoke little English, but Loredana is a hard worker and a survivor. She has been successful here and has navigated more than her share of struggles. Through it all, she is a bright light. Loredana’s COVID wisdom is a lesson for us all.
my COVID life
Speaking of summer, what are your summer plans? Oh. You HAD plans but they changed. I see. Same here. I keep reformulating my summer plans to get a closer approximation to my typical past summers of travel and adventure. Aaaaand then they change again. Much like most of you, I am having to be more fluid. Again.
And then people ask me, “What are the plans for the fall semester at your school?” (Shrug.) Honestly? I have no idea. In order to be ready, I have to be prepared for anything. So how prepared will I be? (Shrugs.) (Again.) It’s an impossible task to be prepared for every contingency. No one can do that.
so what do I do?
What we can do—and the only way out of this dilemma is to Be more fluid. To move with the challenges rather than fight against them. Like a Tai Chi master. Bending with the energy of what is vs. fighting with what was or with how we want things to be.
Loredana had even more challenges in her pre-COVID life: Back in November, she lost her job. She knew she had some wiggle room because she had been a careful saver. And then the virus hit. Like many others who lost jobs due to the shut-down, she quickly found that few employers were hiring. While I know she was worried, she is also incredibly resourceful. Look for a need and fill it. That’s what she did. I can imagine myself paralyzed with terror and experiencing sleepless nights worrying. Not Loredana–she did any sorts of jobs that people needed.
Loredana has been a Zen master through it all: “It has made me question everything I do” and to develop more intentionality around her previous life. She’s focused on what is needed and what is not. She sought comfort from her army of friends who believe in her. When she leaned, they leaned under her as support. Everyone in her circle became more fluid.Fluidity is necessary when life does not pan out like you plan or how you expect it to look. Click To Tweet
all the big plans
I’ve known a number of people who had weddings planned in the spring. And then they postponed to early or mid-summer. And then they had to change again. Some went ahead and got married and their guests “attended” via zoom. Others had a ceremony with a small handful of guests. Some eloped and put off the big celebration indefinitely. TBA. Working through the challenges for creative solutions that fit them and their modified wishes is a good example of being fluid and quick on their feet. of course, I have no idea how many melt-downs and temper tantrums occurred along the way but in the end, they seemed to meet their goal in a different way. They are married now. Like Loredana said about questioning everything, what is the real goal here? To begin our life together or have a picture perfect wedding day? Disappointing, yes. But quite resilient.
flow like a river
To the point of that opening quote from the Lao Tzu about water, have you ever sat and watched a river flowing by? It is a beautiful message of strength and resilience. The water will work to find its way around obstacles. Unlike us, it does not fight with reality. It doesn’t stop and turn around and go back because there is something it its way. A river moves around the objects impeding its path. Alternately, a high or swiftly running river sweeps away those smaller things that are not bound to something stronger. Over time, the river smooths out rough edges. It can carve its way through mountains.
The checklist when you can’t use your old checklist:
So how do we become more fluid in this new world without being able to plan?
- Be gentle with yourself. These are situations beyond your control.
- Be ready to change. Bear in mind that a plan is not written in stone…
- Develop a back up plan for everything.
- Know that you cannot know what you don’t know–that is, you cannot plan for every contingency. We DO know what the “end posts” are: the way life was before COVID and life in shelter-at-home. There is a lot of space in between.
- Find alternatives to summer traditions and rituals.
- Be gentle with one another. No one has the answers here. No one is living without disappointment. Everyone is fearful about what lies ahead.
- Be creative. And then stretch yourself to be more creative.
- Practice good communication skills. Say what you mean. Use active listening techniques. Acknowledge emotions–yours and others’. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
- Then be gentle with yourself again.
In these trying times, we’re constantly running into situations that are a new challenge. Situations that are obstacles to our goals. Messy and uncertain circumstances that get in the way of our plans and expectations. Be like a marvelous river. Be more fluid, friends.
Rhea A. Merck, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist, persistent woman, mother of 2 amazing young women, writer, teacher, life-long learner, curious & creative human, lover of life, passionate about making life better every day…
visit my outdated website at ramphd.com or email me at [email protected]