It's Sunita here.
It was the end of another day at work. After 2 weeks of this, I felt I should have had things down pat. But I was utterly exhausted. I felt like I needed to shut down my brain to stop thinking. Carrying this physical and mental exhaustion with me, I got into the shower to scrub down, dry myself, change and get back home. This was one of the many new routines I was getting used to. The drive home has become a time to just be "empty". I feel that's the only way I can re enter myself. Most evenings are spent resting, and then mentally going over how the next day can run soother and easier.
You see, my dental and sleep practice was closed in mid March this year and did not reopen until the end of June. The practice I left is not what my team and I have come back to. COVID-19 has changed everything we do to treat a patient. There is not a single process or procedure that now does not take 2-3 times the time, and effort to do. It has been an engagement of entirely rethinking my responsibility to keep my staff, patients, and myself, safe. The new way of practicing is more costly, more time consuming and extremely tedious. Not to mention, tiresome. And that's not including the worries of how all this is going to work viably in the long term. No one can see the future right now.
But here's the other side of the truth.
I have never, in my entire 25 years of practicing felt this good about being a health care professional. There is such a charge that goes through me every time I see or hear my patients respond to my "pandemic practice". They are comforted, grateful for our changes, and comfortable in our space. Their expressions of thanks deeply touch me. Being able to provide to them the care they need in very trying times, when their health is a critical component of their survival, is now a source of a deeper satisfaction than before, and is linked to a greater purpose in my life. Which is to be of service.
Every day I get to see the pride with which my team brings their "new" best to our community. There is a deeper sense of purpose to our showing up for work. Despite the constant efforts we must make to get our brains and bodies used to the new routines, we are undaunted in our determination to master them. Now, instead of going about the day as co-workers or colleagues, we have taken ownership of being each others life savers. I'm not being dramatic here. According to the World Economic Forum, dentistry is one of the highest risk professions out there when it comes to COVID-19 risks. We each know how important the job we do is in making sure we keep each other protected and safe from COVID-19.
So what gives? How is this intense and electrifying satisfaction possible in the face of all the challenges we face? How do we show up every day, not knowing what lies ahead?
I think I have found the answer to that.
It is because we have responded to the challenge of this pandemic with the courage to create a new future.
Rollo May, known as the father of existential psychotherapy in his book, "Courage to Create" shares what he understands as the choice we must make to create.
"A choice confronts us. Shall we, as we feel our foundations shaking, withdraw in anxiety and panic? Frightened by the loss of our familiar mooring places, shall we become paralyzed and cover our inaction with apathy? If we do those things, we will have surrendered our chance to participate in the forming of the future. We will have forfeited the distinctive characteristic of human beings- namely, to influence our evolution through our own awareness. We will have capitulated to the blind juggernaut of history and lost the chance to mold the future into a society more equitable and humane."
I now clearly see that I want to participate in the forming of the future. At whatever cost it may demand from me. That is the deal that I have signed on to. So no matter how exhausting it may be at the end of my day, I get up and show up the next day. I don't imagine it will become easy any time soon, but bit by bit, I will have created a new beginning for myself, and I hope for others.
I may be scared and anxious about not being able to see what lies ahead, but I refuse to sit and dwell in what was. That will not bring me to the path to the future. So, I find myself propelled to take action to create the future.
Rollo May poses the key question that we must ask ourselves today, as we all face uncertainty, and a serious lack of precedent, "Shall we seize the courage necessary to preserve our sensitivity, awareness and responsibility in the face of radical change? Shall we consciously participate, on however small the scale, in the forming of the new society?"
Not everyone will have the kind of challenges presented to me, being a health care provider of a high risk COVID-19 occupation. But everyone has the opportunity to choose to participate in the creation of the future. All our contributions will carry weight and will have a accumulative impact on humanity, because they will come from a common place of courage.
I leave you with this call to action. If you are struggling with what to do, feeling stuck and scared, and anxious about the future, I sincerely hope you will consider it.
"We are called upon to do something new, to confront a no man's land, to push into a forest where there are no well-worn paths and from which no one has returned to guide us. This is what existentialists call the anxiety of nothingness. To live into the future means to leap into the unknown, and this requires a degree of courage for which there is no immediate precedent...",
- Rollo May
Wishing you a week of courage.
The courage to tap into the warrior in you,
The courage to create a new future for us!
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