Do What You Can

A couple of years ago a friend of mine sent me a quote that says, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” I have it hanging up in my office and refer to it often, either for my own personal reminder or to impart it to someone else. My understanding is that the author of that statement is unknown, but whoever originated it was on to something!
Initially, as things were beginning to shut down due to the Corona Virus, and people were encouraged to stay home to “flatten the curve”, I thought, “this may be an opportunity for people to go SLOW”. I had the misconception that things were going to lighten up for many of us, especially for those of us who work in the field of education. I knew it was going to be challenging for workers in the health arena (although I didn’t realize to what extent-so let me again say “Thank you” to those professionals). However, I also didn’t realize how drastically things were going to shift for our educators either. It’s been impressive to see the efforts made by so many teachers. I see them working tirelessly to connect with students, ensuring their emotional well-being while also stabilizing and enriching their academic achievement. What I thought was going to be an opportunity to move forward at a more reasonable pace has become yet another break-neck race, complicated by various limitations, including attending to personal familial needs and priorities, along with any emotions; fear, anxiety, grief, that are bound to be felt at this time.
On that note, let me take a moment here, to give you permission to feel your feelings (and to let others around you feel theirs) all without judgment. These are scary, uncertain times. It could feel unnerving to not know when all of this will end. I suspect if we knew for sure that by XX date this would be “done” it would be easier to manage. I imagine we would have countdowns everywhere, “12 more days, 11 more days, 10 more days…” Unfortunately, that isn’t the case and so we continue to move ahead, not knowing exactly where the finish line lies BUT knowing we are making a difference, doing our part, while staying at home. And we will get through this together.
Additionally, there is a lot of grief being experienced. Loss of loved ones, loss of time with family and friends, loss of freedom, loss of milestone celebrations; birthdays, weddings, graduations. It is ok to be sad and disappointed about what we have sacrificed. Take the time to mourn those things. Cry your tears, journal your thoughts and emotions, allow yourself to go through that process. Feel your feelings. It can be healing.
It has been stated frequently, that these are unprecedented times. There is no guidebook for how to transition work, school, life into sequestered states. We are all trying to figure it out as we go. How do we feed hundreds of thousands of children? How do we ensure students have access to technology they need to continue their education? And how do we in some way do all of that while supporting a myriad of emotions? It’s a lot to expect.
As I connect with educators across the state and nation, my encouragement to them is the same. “Do what you can”. That’s all that can and should be expected. We can not give more than we have to give. It can be easy to blur the lines between work and life when you are at home. I noticed that happening to me a few weeks ago. I was working long/late hours, burning the candle at both ends. That lasted about a week or two until I realized, “I can’t keep up this pace and stay healthy.” I now deliberately communicate to colleagues when I’m logging off of work and shifting my focus to family and fun.
It is ok to establish boundaries and to prioritize your own health and well-being. Find ways to protect your needs, give yourself time, even while sheltering in place. You may not be able to make a “Target run” but you can walk around the block. Step away and read a book, work on a puzzle, listen to music that uplifts you. Several friends and I have begun sending cards in the mail to 2020 graduates and/or to coworkers. It’s amazing how giving to others also fills you up. The energy you put out in the world comes back to you. We will be forever changed because of this historic time in our lives. I’m sure life will never be the same. I just hope as we re-set, that our commitment to only “do what we can” stays with us long after our masks have been discarded. Stay home, safe and well!