Legacy In Lockdown

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Today is pretty much one week into South Africa’s lockdown period. As an introvert myself (surprise everyone who knows me!), I find this time at home holds a myriad contradictions. If I have to choose only two key words that define my own personal experience this past week they would be soothing and worrying.

Soothing because my home is where I find rest. My home is where I feel safe and supported. My home is where I can just be and, I guess because I am someone who works from my home office when not with clients, working from home during lockdown is not all that different from my everyday normal. What I do miss terribly though are my face to face interactions – especially being in the hospitals and supporting teams at the front-line. But, with social distancing firmly in place for external providers at the hospitals, my coaching and debriefing is now done virtually using platforms like Zoom and Skype. These have been great, except when my connection freezes and I have found myself coaching or debriefing myself rather than the person on the other end. Thank goodness my clients are understanding!

And then, on the other side of my soothing coin is a whole lot of worrying. I worry about all the nurses and doctors who I work with. I worry about the children and adults who have immunocompromised systems. I worry about my parents and family and a special friend with cancer. I worry about our already strained healthcare system and mostly I worry about the poor, who do not have a place to call home. I worry about the thousands of businesses and NGOs that are struggling to make it through these 21 days and what will happen to them if the lockdown is extended, for none of us truly knows what lies ahead. All things completely beyond my control, and yet the gentle shadow of worry still walks with me each day.

I also worry for those like me, who use busyness to keep the inevitable grief or sadness at bay, and I worry about those who are completely alone. In early March I did a talk at Red Cross Children’s hospital with my husband, Fred, where we spoke at the Risky Business Healthcare Conference about the risk of a broken heart in healthcare. We looked at the broken-hearted health professional and broken-hearted parents. We spoke about the following themes: trust; feeling invisible and not being seen and heard; the power and importance of connection; leaning into humanity; putting your heart front and center; compassion fatigue; burnout; moral injury; the poverty of loneliness; the importance of being vulnerable; and finally of leaving a meaningful legacy. We asked the question: What have we become in terms of humanity as a whole?

All key themes that I could write a book on if pressed to do so. I am sure many of these underlying thoughts may well be on your heart as you face these days of isolation even while at home and, if you are one of the lucky ones, even while still surrounded by those you love most in the world.

It is easy for us as professional coaches to say self-care is key and give you tips for resilience. Yes indeed, there are indeed a myriad solutions and models out there and many brilliant ideas and yes, self-care is indeed key, especially at an unprecedented time like this. So, bear with us if you are thinking “oh no, not another article on resilience and self-care.” I always remember a surgeon I coached asking, “You are not going to ask me to meditate and breathe are you?”. These words still make me smile – because yes, if I coach or debrief you I probably will.

We are taught as professional coaches that often it all comes down to how we choose to respond to what the day throws at us. This is central to all the work that I do and a beautiful friend of mine did a podcast on this just the other day. Michelle Funke, you rocked by the way! As a parent who has lost my only child, Sam, as a wife and as a palliative and integral coach, I marvel at how resilient we all are, especially those in healthcare and other essential services like the police, fire services, teachers, cleaners, municipal workers etc. What I have also noticed over the years on the subject of resilience is that that which feeds our individual level of resilience is so intensely personal and so often almost impossible to name. For me it is truly driven by an inner something that I often grapple to explain. My well of resilience is steeped in meaning – it is about legacy, it is about leaving behind a footprint that offers only all things good and brings real change in the world. I don’t often get it right and I sometimes have to really reign myself in since I have a sharp tongue and words can hurt – but mostly I try to offer hope and support wherever I can… I guess the question that is on my heart during this lockdown is what makes you get out of bed and how do you choose to respond?

What is the legacy you are leaving behind?

Mine is a work in progress and as it unfolds the worry, the grief and the heartbreak all take on a much gentler presence that I can safely acknowledge and even gently embrace.