The title of this blog comes from something my husband Doug always says — “Get real and stay in the game.”
In his professional work as an executive coach and in his religious life as a former and current bishop, he counsels with a lot of people about their problems and challenges.
He said most of his advice centers around two things: helping people get real about what is happening in their lives and helping them find hope and stay in the game.
I have been thinking about this as it relates to the many troubling, daunting issues of our day.
When we first started hearing about COVID, I thought it would disrupt our lives for a short time.
Yet, here we are, entering fall, and we are wondering when or if we’ll ever “get back” to life as we knew it pre-pandemic.
This has made me think about Doug’s mantra — get real and stay in the game.
What does it mean to get real and stay in the game in the COVID world and even in this raucous political era?
Sometimes I feel like I’m cycling through the Kübler-Ross stages of grief in rapid succession.
A Psychology Today article in March suggested that our experience with COVID 19 may look like the five stages of the grief cycle — denial, anger, bargaining, despair, and acceptance.
It mentioned that we may grieve our loss of freedoms, or a future we envisioned, or the lives and roles we left behind.
We might miss our old way of life, and on some level, face the questions of our own mortality. (I’ve certainly faced those questions!)
The first stage of grief is denial. I’ve definitely visited this stage more than once, believing the pandemic is overblown or maybe isn’t a real threat at all, trying to minimize its affect or the level of my risk. If I deny its potency, I feel more in control, and less vulnerable.
The second stage is anger, and I’ve been here too – trying to blame somebody – a political party, a world leader, a country, anybody! That doesn’t usually work so then I sink into a state of plain old virus fatigue and I pretend life is normal because I’m just so sick of it.
And then there is bargaining, the third step, which is another step I often revisit. I tell myself that if I wear my mask, social distance, wash my hands, and be careful, I’ll be fine. So, I can go to my fitness classes, walk with my neighbor, eat in an actual restaurant, fly on a packed airplane, and the list goes on. I need to bargain with the virus and all the confusing messaging around it so that I can feel some sense of personal victory over it.
Despair is the fourth stage, and it’s a step I avoid. That’s when I face reality and recognize all that I’ve lost. I mourn the loss of old routines and find myself wondering if life will ever be good or normal again. Will I ever go to church without a mask and actually socialize with my friends? Will I ever hug people or go to the theater and not feel completely claustrophobic behind my mask? Can I ever touch things in a store again? Will we ever be able to take the extended trip to Italy?
If I let myself stop here, it can be very discouraging, so I do my best to make these visits to the land of despair and depression very brief.
The fifth stage of grief is acceptance, which is really where I want to stay the longest. That’s when I realize I can’t control the pandemic, the racial unrest, the rioting and protests, the political divisiveness, all the injustices or unfairness in the world, or even the things my friends post on social media. And, instead of being crippled, depressed, utterly confused and afraid, I try to pivot quickly and adopt a healthier mindset that helps me accept that just because things are different, it doesn’t mean that goodness and beauty are permanently sucked out of my life.
I accept that life is not the same but I choose to believe that it can still be rich, rewarding, and beautiful.
In a Linkedin presentation on The Power of Hope: Get Real and Stay in the Game, Doug told a story of how our daughter, Annie got real and stayed in the game.
“[Annie] had a goal to run a half marathon… With the virus, the half marathon was canceled. She had been training for months. She really wanted to run the race, but the official pathway was blocked. She decided she would run it anyway on the day it was scheduled. She charted out her own course and ran it all by herself. She accomplished the goal, albeit by a different pathway, literally. When she got home, she took the top of a yogurt cup, made a medal out of it, and hung it on herself. She came in first in her division, but she also came in second, third, and last in her division.”
This is what it means to get real and stay in the game.
Even when we are rapidly cycling through the stages of grief over what we feel has been lost, we can still find pathways of hope and hang on.
What can you do to get real and stay in the game? I’d love to know!