COVID-19: An Awakening Experience

By Pam McLean, Ph.D.
July 16, 2021

The onset of Covid is etched in our minds forever. I remember well – I was on a flight to Boston early last March and feeling a little anxious about what was surfacing in the news. I donned a pair of gloves to provide myself with a false sense of security and three days later upon return to the West Coast, life had changed. Like so many companies, we closed our office doors and sent everyone home with computers and equipment necessary to WFH. We thought the arrangement might last a month or two! Little did we understand that our work for some time would be focused on the task constantly pivoting, surviving, re-inventing and simply locating masks and finding our new sense of normal.

Now, well over a year has passed and almost all of us know someone who contracted Covid and survived and many of us know others who sadly, did not survive the virus. Our grief runs deep, and it reaches across our entire globe and still in many places the virus continues to grow.

Covid has become our teacher. Those of us who were not doing the heroic front line work that benefited all of us, were instead, trying to find a new rhythm – how much caution to exert, how much careful planning to soften the worries; and how to shift into a new way of life that didn’t include planes, trains, offices, restaurants and our usual routines.

Time slowed down, an eerie hush came over our communities and we entered an elongated moment in history that was ominous externally, and deeply reflective internally. We could not see the road ahead with the clarity we had just weeks ago. We wondered if we were safe, if we, too, could find ourselves in a hospital ward. We wondered how our businesses would survive. We grieved the loss of coming together with friends and family. Life as we had known it came to an abrupt halt and the world around us got quiet.

A global pause button had been pressed and many of us found ourselves asking some bigger questions. What is most important in this life? Who matters most? Am I living in the right place? Doing the work I want to be doing? Have I been living on autopilot? What have I been waiting for?

I’ve talked with so many colleagues who, prior to Covid, spent large chunks of each month on the road away from family and during this time they gained a view into what they had been missing. I recall a particularly memorable conversation with a father of young children who told me “look, I left home for my commute each morning before my kids were out of bed and if I was lucky, I returned home just in time to say good night. I am not going to live that way ever again. I missed too much, I missed what is most important to me in this life – time with my family.” Poignant ephiphany, powerful pivot, purpose redefined.

The questions keep coming and the wisdom of philosophers from Aristotle to Maslow takes on a new meaning for us. Nietzsche’s words – consummate your life – remind us to wake up to what matters, live boldly, don’t wait.

In our programs at Hudson we often mention one of our co-founders, Frederic’s, favorite reminders: “the quality of your life depends upon the quality of your inner dialogue.” In this extraordinary moment in history it is likely as well that the quality of our post-covid life may in part determined by what we have become more awake to over these past many months.

The old ‘normal’ is gone and as we slowly find our way into a new sort of ordinary, one that we are ready to giddily relish and savor. In this fleeting moment we could be served by asking ourselves, “What have I learned about life in this extraordinary time, that I want to preserve? What matters to me today that was only dimly visible before?”

We’ve all experienced losses over these many months, both deep and seemingly trivial, and throughout some of our oldest beliefs, priorities, and maps have been shaken. In this transition time the space in between widens, some of the old recedes and gives way – if we stay awake to a creating a new kind of ordinary.

About Author
Picture of Pam McLean, Ph.D.
Pam McLean, Ph.D.

Hudson's Founder & Chief Knowledge Officer, and a preeminent authority on coaching and transition and change in the adult journey, Pamela McLean, Ph.D. has been at the forefront of the field of the emerging field of coaching for the past 30 years.