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Suffering is not Relative

In March of 2020, I had a thriving business. We had hundreds of members on autopay and hundreds of new students coming in every month, many of whom stayed. I had an admin staff of four, and they were all competent, interesting, kind people who took their jobs seriously. We had monthly meetings that I looked forward to, and I think they did too. Teachers were teaching great classes, and we’d often get emails from our students saying how what we were doing was improving their lives. It was a dream, and the truth is that I certainly didn’t stop to appreciate it enough.

In March of 2021, my business was in a very different place. We had been completely closed for a year. Half of my staff from before no longer worked for me. My revenue was shot, and month after month I’d get financial statements, loss after loss after loss. But we were online. We still had members. We’d fared fairly well, all things considered. We were alive, and still had leases for spaces to reopen one day. I should be grateful, right?

That’s what I kept telling myself. All through covid, my thinking was: at least I don’t have kids, at least I got grants and relief loans, at least I’m paying my mortgage, at least I have a mortgage to pay, at least we will eventually reopen, at least, at least, at least.

This month we did reopen a few classes, and our largest class the first week was three people. Some classes had zero, and we took them off the schedule altogether. Reality hit. We were restarting a business in a climate in which people were still scared to be in public and, even if they weren’t scared, had developed new habits over the year that did not include things like dropping into a yoga class. It was going to be a long, long haul.

And, for the first time since Covid hit, I grieved. More than once, usually in my car, I cried and cried and cried as I realized the magnitude of my loss. I quit looking at my losses relative to anyone else’s. The comparison was irrelevant. I needed to grieve my unique set of circumstances. Pretending like they didn’t exist because other people had it worse than me was no longer an option. It simply wasn’t useful.

I have to say I’m way better for it. I’m more focused on what matters. I’m clearer about what I want moving forward. I’m much more relaxed, having finally accepted and felt the reality of my situation. This is going to be a long haul. There’s no point in rushing or forcing anything at all.

Almost everyday, I hear someone list to me their “at leasts.” At least I’m still working. At least my kids have a pod. At least no one got sick. At least I have my family. At least we’re all alive.

I think it’s wonderful and important to be grateful. But I also think comparing our suffering to the suffering of others is counter-productive. Everyone had losses this year. Everyone. You did too. And if we just keep looking at our losses and immediately comparing ourselves to those who lost more, we will never feel what we need to feel. We will never go through what we need to go through. We will not heal.

We’ve gone through a monumental ship wreck of a year. We are all coming to the surface and looking around and trying to figure out where we are now, what life will be like. We see each other and feel a new love and appreciation. And we also see the ruins of what our lives were. We see what cannot be rebuilt, what is not coming back. And we see the massive rebuilding that lies ahead. We see the reality of our situation.

This is the time. Feel your pain. Feel your gratitude. They coexist and intertwine, but in no way do they cancel each other out. Close your eyes and feel it. We need you well for what lies ahead.

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