The world as we know it is on pause. Shops and restaurants are closed. Our kids are home. And the world of work has been upended. Indefinitely.
Meanwhile, my inbox and social media are bombarded with offers. Free online classes: yoga, writing, pilates, art. Free coaching. Free everything.
So many good intentions. Such generosity. And… So. Much. Noise.
The rush to be busy
I’m wary of this rush to activity. To fill the empty space with DOING.
I’ve also offered my coaching for free at this time, to a very few select clients. NHS leaders who I’ve coached before, and friends at the front line. But lightly, selectively, carefully. In the places where I can serve most deeply. Questioning all the time: is this a true call to serve, or is it covering up discomfort with this empty pause?
The Do-er archetype
In 2018, we designed and moderated research groups with women across USA and Europe. We dug into the archetypes that they most readily associated with. And in every city, and every country, the top archetype was the Do-er: that part of us who is busy and productive. 71% of women associated with it.
When we dug deeper, this Do-er energy wasn’t making women happy. It wasn’t a source of great creativity or aliveness. Yes, at times there was a satisfaction in ticking off a to-do list. But mostly it felt compulsive, a habit, driven by deep insecurity and a fear of getting left behind.
For younger women, it was linked to a feeling that life was out of reach for their generation. The dream of one day owning a house seeming like a fantasy, unattainable, yet still something to run faster for, to grasp harder at.
I was struck by how much is lost – here, now – in that life of chasing. Joy, creativity, peace, time with family.
Trusting the emptiness
I know that do-er energy well. I can tick off a to-do list with the best of them. I, too, have spent years running towards goals, in the mistaken belief that they will make me happy.
But for now, in this corona crisis, I’m choosing something different.
I will not grasp after work, or activity, just to stay busy. I will not create more noise in an already noisy world.
If someone comes to me and asks for help, I will give it. And I will write, making quiet offerings of reflection and meaning in these strange times.
I will do the work I need to do. And I will give myself to the silence. To the empty space. The place where new life is waiting to come forth.
Finding space in our busy life
For many of us, this will be a busy time. We may be home, behind closed doors, but our days will be full.
As a mom of a baby and a pre-schooler, that’s certainly true for me. There’s a new intensity to my life. As we are fast discovering, it’s not easy, juggling work while caring for small children, all day, every day, with no childcare – formal or informal.
But even in the busyness, can we look for space? For pause. For quiet interludes where we can come back to ourselves, even for a moment.
And each time we move into action, can we check that those actions are coming from that place of deep quiet? From the creative stillness at the heart of life, not noise at the surface. Moving from integrity, not fear.
The courage to stop
It’s scary to stop. To feel the empty space. Become aware of the quiet behind the noise, the stillness behind the activity.
But it’s life-giving. Deeply restorative. A place of trust and courage.
Whenever I have paused like this before, it has brought tremendous creativity. Ideas, and then a publisher for a book. Relationship, marriage, kids. New work, better aligned to my soul.
I trust this stillness with my life. After all, it is my life.
It is life itself, waiting to come forth.