The Chinese character for crisis contains two aspects: danger and opportunity.
As I closed out the year of 2020, I was relieved. Who wasn’t! I was also reflective of the year and all that it taught me. I’m not in the camp of false hope that 2021 will be any different or better. I know that we will evolve as a collective through these troubled times.
I’m not naive that some of that will bring its challenge to the human community.
I see this cycle of change lasting as long as four years. We’re entering a period of profound change. We’ve already been experiencing many years of change in austerity, the breakdown of the housing and financial markets, the rise of populism, the slow horror of unfolding climate change. 2020 was a culmination year, it took something natural and completely out of our control to slam the breaks on the incessant progress. I see neoliberalism in part as a transition from the European empire systems of the last period of history, and in part like a train hurtling towards the end of the tracks, unable to slow the growth that was leading us to a demise in biodiversity. Humanity was staring into an abyss. Continue our rhythm of consumption and destruction of the planet for human gain, face the consequence of climate changes, or learn to reconnect to the slower, more natural, rhythm of our ecosystem.
The former option will eventually lead to our pain, and the latter will reconnect us to a part of us that we have long suppressed.
We are facing the sixth mass extinction in the planet’s history. One of the factors is our inability to exist as an interconnected part of a finite planet’s ecosystem. The boyhood fantasy that we held of infinite growth is being tested, and the crisis is a crisis of human consciousness. Can we change?
Indulge me whilst I explore the danger and opportunity that I experienced in 2020, and the ways that I’ve been working to slow down, and re-humanise myself. I hope some of it resonates:
I struggled significantly with my mental health in 2020. I don’t think many would say they didn’t. The pressure of the collective virus crisis was anxiety-inducing; the changes in my immediate environment were hard to navigate. There were instances of individual sickness that seemed amplified.
I lost my two remaining grandparents last year, neither had COVID. They were at the end of their natural lives. However, grieving in the lockdown was a strange and disconnecting experience. The funerals were odd and not reflective of their lives’ warmth and beauty; how their community loved them. I had to witness my parents struggle with losing their parents and the behaviour — convenient and inconvenient, that surfaced more intensely in that time.
My father retreated into his shell, and he rediscovered his love for baking and sharing food as an act of love. My mother struggled with anxiety, and doubled her efforts in caring and tending to her garden; thinking up recipes and making the process more sustainable.
Losing all my income, and watching all of my friends lose all their income, was tough, to say the least. The government gave out a small amount of money a month, but not enough to live a prosperous, or even comfortable, life. I survived, however I could.
Facing the breakdown of my family system, through my disconnection
2020 came with the second year of my psychotherapy exploring sexual trauma in childhood. I struggled to stay connected to the person that I had become to survive, I needed closure, to grieve that person and step into a new empowered and motivated adult self. That created many disconnections in my family system, some members became wary of me, as if they didn’t know who I was anymore. Rightly, I wasn’t the person they’d known. I’d grown. Their ability to accept that dictated the level of the relationship that we could hold. I experienced many moments of grief and sadness over that, as well.
Eventually, in November, I moved out of my family home, amongst incredible financial stress. It was a liberating move for all involved, and I’m grateful I had built the strength to do that. I found the courage amongst those great fears, and I’m now in a different and empowering space where I can continue to relate to my family lovingly. In leaving, I chose love.
I worked in the live music industry for ten years before 2020, it was entrenched in my identity, and it became all of my danger and opportunity. I modelled my history in my job. Working for people who wanted someone to dedicate their lives to their purpose and meaning; an inspiring meaning, yet, I received hardly anything back. I dropped my life for extended periods. It was self-sabotage of sorts, only to return to the same unorganised and overwhelming problems that I’d dropped previously.
I experienced deep imposter syndrome, even when mixing huge shows; arenas full of thousands of people. I kept myself separate from the artists because I didn’t believe I was worthy to sit at the table with them. I didn’t share myself with them, so they kept me at a distance.
Walking in nature
Due to my mental health challenges, I chose, or I was forced to walk in nature every day. I chose a cyclical walk in the woods near my house. It deepened my understanding of the cycles of nature in woodland, and I began to meditate by trees a lot more often. I began to observe the different flowers that blossomed throughout the year, and the fruits in late summer, early autumn. The leaves turning for fall, and them dropping to the ground for winter. I began to see the woodland for what it is, a living, breathing ecosystem.
My life didn’t change too much in 2020. The only aspect would be that I wasn’t taking the 6–8 flights to and from mainland Europe for work. It gave me time to slow down and evaluate. It gave me space and energy within myself — initially hard to sit with, to make aligned decisions for my future and take action on them.
Deepening my healing and relationship to my story
The first lockdown in the UK was March. I spent the whole of it meditating, sitting and reading in the garden, healing, walking in the woods, and cooking. It was an incredibly healing time that taught me so much.
These are the things that blossomed in this time:
Rebuilding relationships with family and friends
A profound opportunity, I had the chance to show up centred and grounded in many relationships where I had previously been unable. I have experienced a deepening of my closest friendships in reciprocity and love. The disconnections in my family have given way to a curiosity into my new state of being.
The most challenging part of growth is when we don’t know how the new person is going to look, the person we are emerging into. Naturally, this creates a kind of chaos within us, and that chaos fosters distrust. Some people can hold this chaos for others, and some people disconnect from it in fear. That’s a truth I have learned. I’m grateful to have that wisdom.
Stepping into leadership
Self-leadership was more incredible than ever for me because it needed to be. I was pushed into that through the re-training as a writer and coach. I’d been toying with this transition for years, looking into the possibility of working in the music industry into my late forties, I felt the need to change. The pandemic allowed me the chance to do that. I took multiple courses, all of which helped my personal development as well.
Building a new business; recognising the value of my talents
The financial scarcity forced me to recognise all the skills and talents I have, that have value for others. I built a new business in coaching, healing, and writing. I became a gong healer, I stepped into my talents as an already certified reiki master, I created and hosted a podcast, I started taking Medium blogging seriously, and I built Creative Essence Life Coaching.
All of this helped me to build more confidence in myself.
Admitting that I didn’t have the answers, that I needed help
A critical moment last year was admitting that I needed help in understanding and dealing with my life. I started reaching out to people, admitting my failure and incapability — the first step in finding new resources and circles of support.
Previously, I kept my life in the form of strength and capability. No one ever assumed that I needed help, and I would never ask for it, so I didn’t receive it, and I suffered.
I have been actively seeking community, forming communities and contributing whole-heartedly in my immediate environment and on social media. The richness that exists in community is impressive. It helps me to survive, and to process my life so I can know which way to move next. I have received so much warmth, encouragement and empathy in these spaces. It’s definitely a reason I am where I am today. I’m immensely grateful for that.
Having space to understand my life experience
2020 was a big year for me to go back through my life and revisit my experiences — the challenges and triumphs of those moments and how they shaped me. I lived my life at such a fast pace. I hadn’t had an opportunity to process most of my experiences. There were so many of them, packed full of emotions. I took some time to process the last year.
I got to know the experiences that I received in the music industry as profoundly significant to the man I have become. I was able to find the gratitude amongst the hardship of some many of those experiences.
Grieving brought me closer to myself
Grief was inherent in 2020, the whole year didn’t turn out as anyone planned, and that was a loss. Additionally I grieved a career, my ability to support myself, the person I became to survive trauma, the relationships I’d hoped would deepen over time that had to be released in forgiveness, two of my grandparents. In going through so much grief I was overwhelmed and exiled from my story; my belonging. In doing this, curiously, I was able to feel my way through the process objectively as well as subjectively, with the help of professional support.
I feel more connected and aligned to my story than ever before, and I have grief to thank.
I believe that the way we face this crisis in human consciousness is to better understand our individual story. To slow down and reenter the sacred rhythms of nature.
In understanding our own story, we inevitably project less of it onto others, we can show up more often in connection, empathy, compassion. We can collaborate with each other in a constructive way, that benefits humanity and the ecosystem.
What were your dangers and opportunities in 2020?
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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Photo credit: Filip Varga on Unsplash