On The Invisible Stream

Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.

Wayne W. Dyer

I don’t usually think too much about what I look like. I mean, I hope I am not unattractive, that I’m pleasing to the eye. I do have some degree of vanity. I’m aware of age creeping in and affecting my appearance because of how it is perceived at work in terms of my advancement potential (let’s not talk about silver hair on men versus women). But mostly I care about who I am, what I can do, how I perform, and how I interact and am received by others versus what I look like. I mean besides losing weight, showering and grooming, there’s not too much I can do or care to do about my appearance. Like they say, physical beauty is only skin deep; true beauty comes from within. So when my coworker said “you look like hell,” well, I have to admit I was taken aback and it bothered me a bit more than I would normally care. Because when I looked in the mirror I realized I did look like hell—not only was I not attending to my general appearance, but around my eyes the fatigue of my spirit was showing. The wear of the past four weeks was weighing heavily on the soul, and when I looked closely I could see the ravages that weren’t just physical but much deeper.

It’s been a long March, wearing on everyone. The usual camaraderie at work is razor thin, family and friends are getting used to the new “normal” of restricted movements and the loss of activities, work, income and more that used to fill the hours of the day with purpose and meaning. Today is a new month, finally, but ironically it’s April Fools Day. Honestly, it’s not one of my favorite days—I don’t appreciate pranks, especially cruel ones, and I’m not creative enough to think of any to “pull”’on anyone that might be considered humorous. But I thought, new month. Renewal. Spring is coming. Hope.

So today, to try to shake the doldrums, I showered, styled my hair, put on makeup and a new outfit. I felt better than I had in what felt like a decade, but really was only a few short weeks. It boosted me for about half the day. But soon after lunch, the continual stress and anxiety, like water dripping from above, wore down the facade. And by the end of the day, I looked again in the mirror. Peeking out behind the eyeshadow and mascara, I could see the faint crevices reappearing, the small fissures in the barrier created to stem the great wall of water that had threatened to wash over us like a tsunami. I realized that the shell I had quickly constructed as a defense was not going to be a long term solution; I was going to have to adapt. Like the stream of water that flows through the mountain, I needed to learn to be flexible instead of rigid. Change. Reprioritize. And repeat in a rapidly evolving situation. The old ways of dealing with challenge, though critical building blocks in my life, were not going to be sufficient to address the new world. Lessons like persistence, confidence, and drive that served me well for so long needed to be tempered by patience, empathy, connection to a greater degree than ever before. So I reach deeper, not only to be more giving and compassionate to others, but to myself. And hope it’s enough.

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