July 2020


I have more on my mind than ever before. Fewer places to go means more time to think. And more time to feel. I have so many feelings these days that my brain feels foggy. It’s hard to focus and I’m inexplicably crying at the most random moments. My physical body feels slower and heavier for carrying all of this additional emotional weight.

Despite so many years of living through setbacks and finding my inner strength, this is a life moment when I am feeling particularly overwhelmed. Of course, there’s an explanation for this waterfall of feelings and flailing: so much is going on, so much is unknown and so much is wrong with our world. 

My personal angst cycles between: 

  • Personal plight:  trying to find my center when the things that usually center me (familiarity, friends, family and routine) are so distant and disrupted 
  • Pandemic paradoxes:  feeling fearful and frustrated about disparities in behavior between strict quarantine (which we can’t seem to sustain) and a return to deregulated behavior (that is threatening us all with new spikes in disease) 
  • Public predicament:  being ill-equipped to help close the gap in the disparities of race, class, justice and access that continue to pervade our society 

I know that I am, and we all are, in yet another  “space in between” – trying to see through the haze of what we left behind and into a future where we hope there will be more answers than unresolved questions.   

*  *  * 

I can’t get to the clarity quickly enough. Living in the questions is daunting and exhausting. 

Yet I know that being “in it,” feeling the uncertainty instead of jumping at answers is where the deepest transformation happens. I’m trying to let myself “just be in it” without forcing resolution and action. Some days I do better than others, and that’s just how it goes.

On good days, I’m not making major life decisions. I’m trying to take small leaps of experimentation and evolution before making rash jumps.  

*  *  *

Leaping smart

Leaping is hard and leaping is scary, but for me, fear diminishes when the leap is coupled with thoughtful planning and moderation. Moderation is what we have been missing by living between poles: choosing between proverbial fasting and gluttony, caves and carnivals, fear and freedom. The lack of moderation is what I think is making my head swim between the fear and faith.

I’ve written before about how the research we did for The Parlay Effect  proved the value and strength of small yet positive actions and how those actions create waves of change that are accelerated by those who observe us and go on to replicate them.  

*  *  *  

Small steps show momentum and reduce risk at the same time

Let’s face it. We are leaderless on so many issues. What’s more, most of us don’t want to be leaders in the traditional sense. We wouldn’t want to (or know how to) walk the line between physical health, emotional health and social health.

But we can be leaders, inspirers and role models on personal levels that create a similar wave of change and movement.

Ease into it

Start with small but meaningful steps that make sense for you and are sustainable. Build from those successes.

Maybe take personal note of what you want to hold on to from this current moment. Determine what in your current cadence is really working for you, making you feel good, strong and successful. You might be making masks. You might be playing violin outside of your apartment building. You might be volunteering for a cause, lifting people who will benefit from a boost in visibility or connecting with someone feeling lonely on a deep and meaningful level. 

Whatever you choose, if it is positive and it feels good, do more of it

Then add an assessment of what isn’t working. Think about your tears and your frustrations because when they get swept under the rug, they seem to multiply like dust bunnies. There are likely numerous ways that you can change your situation, actions, attention and commitment to dial up your impact in your immediate circle about things that feel wrong to you without having to change the course of your entire life. Try small versions of change-making to see how they feel. 

Replicate what feels good by going deeper. Then talk about it 

Don’t talk about it to brag or get kudos, but talk to set an example of the changes that are possible. If you are mentoring someone, one of your friends might decide to do the same. If you have changed a dialogue that was diminishing someone else and turned it into an example of empowerment, do it again when people can hear you. If there is a cause that is really hitting the right notes for you in terms of activism and change, support them with both dollars and voice. People who see you taking action will be inspired to find their own voice and maybe join you on your journey.

We cannot be lost when we are conscious of where we want to go.

We cannot be lost when we begin to visualize a better future and to begin to walk solidly towards it.

We cannot be lost when we take part in shaping our next shared chapter. 

*  *  * 

How are you leading the way?

Share it Small: Put on your mask first. That means, if you are feeling rudderless in this transitional time, care for yourself and find your center. See the good in yourself. Praise yourself for positive choices. Celebrate small victories. Forgive your missteps and mistakes. When something feels good, right and positive, write it down. Keep a running list of the good that you can turn to when needed. Share that list with yourself on a regular basis as a reminder of your ability and progress.

Share it Big: As you process the things in your world that don’t feel as good, pick the recurring themes and think about what small role you might be able to change that could create meaning for someone else. Can you be a mentor to someone? Can you volunteer for a campaign, support a cause, speak up in someone’s defense or join forces to make someone with similar objectives stronger? Do that. The world is watching.

Share it with Me: We all learn from each other. If you have had a revelation, a break-through, an insight, or a triumph, we can learn from you so please tell me about it here! I’m collecting stories of these cascades of good for ongoing community building and to track The Parlay Effect in action. I would love nothing better than to hear how you lifted, were lifted, or observed something in others that made you feel good and recognize your own power.  

*  *  * 

I cannot help but share this poem which seems to beautifully capture what this month’s newsletter is about. My favorite line is, “What work have I come here to do besides witness?”. 

We cannot be untethered buoys nor be swallowed by the vast uncertainty of the future. We each must lead in the ways that we can.

On Sullivan’s Island

I heed a path trotted for me before.
I am this impared – forgetting
and forgetting and forgetting. What else
is this wave crashing into shore
but an attempt to cleve remembrance?
Overhead, the dark sky engulfs
the Low Country, once welcome spot
and terror for ancestors, always
a nest for the captors. Now,
baby strollers and casual dog walks
file before a single marquee meant to hold
place for history – leisure where once labor.
What work have I come here to do
besides witness? I go from shore to shore
seeking clarity, to stand on the threshold 
of past and present where land and sea
court death. I search my mind for what remains
of general sanity. There is nothing
but bondage. Ahead the sign reads:
“Deadly currents, deep holes”
and forbids the swim out. I could chase
the distance with salt. I could run 
face forward into what has already claimed me
without regret. This ocean swallows
the whole of me. I could join it 
or become another buoy signalling lost.

-Malcolm Tariq