The Times They Are a-Changin’
Q3 | June 2021
Topic: Human Interest
June 23, 2021
Image used with permission: iStock/Dilok Klaisataporn
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The Times They Are a-Changin’
Q3 | June 2021
My inaugural blog “Time Poverty: Why Are We All So Busy?” was excitedly penned and posted December 25th 2015. It was a human interest article, the first of its kind for Nexus. The gist was that we, as a society, are just too darned busy. “Time-scarcity” was a real thing, and on the topographical map of life, I was living on Mt. Everest.
Admittedly, I offered very little in terms of solutions for this problem.
Enter 2020. Time? That’s all we’ve got. While pre-covid we were like little hamsters running all over the place, at least we made it places. All of a sudden, we were thrown into a spinning wheel, going nowhere fast.
Enter 2021. With vaccine rollouts meaningfully underway, now all our attention is turned to “getting back to normal”. For some, this is exhilarating and a relief to not have to constantly look at our own aging faces on Zoom. For others, the prospect of re-entry to society is riddled with anxiety. And for a host of people, it’s somewhere in between. “What am I going to talk about? I haven’t really done anything in 15 months!” Maybe we feel a bit like writer Anna Russell as she described her experience in the New Yorker article The Age of Reopening Anxiety:
“Sometime during London’s third lockdown, when everything was still closed, I began watching the squirrels in the tree outside my window intently. There were two of them, and all winter they chased each other around the branches flirtatiously. By early spring, they had built a nest in the crook of the tree and, whenever one of them left, the other would poke its head out, concerned. Recently, I noticed three smaller heads peeking out—squirrel babies!—and not long after that, I began relaying the whole tale as an anecdote to friends in outdoor beer gardens, which had just reopened. Three of them! Can you believe it? Amazingly, they could. They smiled politely, waiting for a punchline that never came. There weren’t many follow-up questions.”(1)
In a recent Nexus Women & Wealth online event, esteemed author and speaker Dr. Amy D’Aprix spoke to Nexus’s female clients about how to navigate life’s transitions. We talked about retirement, caregiving, relationships, aging and health. We were asked to reflect on our past transitions and examine how we handled them. But, the re-entry to “normal” life after a global pandemic had certainly not been on any of our lists of possible life’s transitions, nor is it an experience that we can reflect on from our past. Although there are strategies for people re-introducing themselves into society from incarceration, sobriety, etc., there are elements in this one that are unique. We’re basically creating a transition strategy from scratch.
“With pandemic re-entry, acknowledging what has happened is vital for deciding how to move on” says Nzinga Harrison, a psychiatrist and addiction medicine physician. “The world today is not the same as it was in February 2020. The rug was ripped out from us, our stability was stolen. We are traumatized, anxious, and overwhelmed… Asking yourself what’s out of your control (circumstances, how other people behave), and what’s in your control (how I respond) goes hand in hand with acceptance.”(2)
Although some people may not have been as affected as others, according to a study by the American Psychological Association, “49 percent of surveyed adults anticipated being uncomfortable about returning to in-person interactions when the pandemic ends. It found that 48 percent of those who have received a COVID vaccine said they felt the same way.”(3) But there is something very constructive that could be burgeoning beyond the fear. According to the British psychoanalyst Josh Cohen, the pandemic has sparked a re-evaluation of priorities and values. In fact, during the pandemic he noted a kind of “giddiness in some of his patients, an opening up of the possibilities of life within a narrow circuit. Some individuals’ private lives had benefitted from the slowdown. Some people have let themselves discover empty time, and actually inhabit it, and not be pulled into the ever-present temptation to fill it.”(4) Indeed, this phenomenon is antithetical to the essence of Nexus’s 2015’s “Busy” blog.
Cohen has observed that his clients are now questioning what they want out of life, in a way that only a major catalyst for change could prompt. Questions like, “What kind of place do I want to live in? Where do I want to raise my children? What kind of daily life do I want for myself?” Many of us have been holed up with our families for a year, and wonder if we’ll ever have time like that again with them. “I think they feel that they’re going to be bounced back into ordinary life before they’ve resolved the questions that have been raised,” he says.(5)
Cohen’s clients are not the only ones with these questions. Given the topic of our recent event, I naturally turned to Dr. Amy for some tips on how to manage both the emotional and practical aspects of the transition back to normal life. She advises to start out by pausing and evaluating what parts of pandemic life have been a positive change, and then figure out how to maintain at least some of those parts. “Like a fish not knowing it’s in water until it’s left the fishbowl, many of us aren’t aware of the existence or importance of our rhythms, routines and rituals until they get disrupted. Consider both the obvious and subtle rhythms and routines you have created or adapted over the past year. Which of these provide comfort for you? Are there some you gave up during the lockdowns that you want to have back in your life? What is your ideal rhythm?” Whether it be working from home part-time, or simply not overbooking your calendar so you have some time for head-clearing, or spending a little less time with people who zap your energy, “the key words are: Pause, Evaluate, Choose. Don’t just let re-entry happen to you.”
As we learned in our Women & Wealth session with Dr. Amy, there are many more aspects to a life transition than finances. But as planning professionals, we have been advising clients for decades on not only the financial aspects, but also how to ask probing questions when you are faced with one of life’s transitions. Present day is no exception. On this Dr. Amy offers additional advice: “When we are faced with stress, turning to the people who support us most is a smart strategy. Ask yourself: Who are the people who make your life rich, bring wisdom, bring fun, or who simply have a listening ear when times are tough? Those are the ones you want to reach out to as we all go through this transition together.” If the pandemic has caused you to question any aspect of your future, do not hesitate to reach out to your relationship manager or talk to your wealth planner at Nexus. We are good listeners.
(1),(4), (5) The New Yorker, “The Age of Reopening Anxiety”, Ann Russell, June 2, 2021.