If you were in a deep dark forest, not knowing what was coming next, but the one thing you did know was that you were one step past half way, and all you had to do was keep on going, what would you do? Would you turn around and go back the way you came? Or would you take another step forward, taking you two steps past half way and then three steps?
At this moment in time, it feels like we are in the middle, not quite sure if we are half way or not, no way of knowing what will come next. At first we heard a lot about enduring lockdowns and restrictions and then “getting back to normal”. But I don’t think getting back to normal is an option now. Because normal was only good for some people and as the pandemic has shown, good for some isn’t good enough.
Brene Brown uses the term “Day 2”, when talking about that middle part of anything that we do where the first new but unknown part has worn off and the hard work part is happening. This is the part that people often approach with weariness, sometimes disdain, where they seek to emerge without actually doing the work. Think about anything new that you have done – from a new course, to a degree, to a diet, to trying a new recipe. The first part can see you rising to the challenge. The middle part gets really hard and maybe you just want to do the bare minimum and get out of there. But when you are in the middle part and you move into acceptance and actually doing what needs to be done, you set a path towards emerging into Day 3, or Act 3 or the next chapter or whatever you want to call it.
This also something that happens with those of us who work in human services and for the clients we serve. When we first engage we are doing so, for the most part, because we are trying to help. We offer support and resources and services and we set up plans, collaborating with our clients to help make a difference. When Day 2 hits however, things can go awry. The newness of the first part is gone and the work is happening. For the worker and for the client. Remaining engaged, working through the middle part and emerging through onto the other side is really important. Sometimes people can’t manage this. Sometimes they can.
When you’re working in a frontline profession, especially at the moment, Day 2 feels like it will never end. We want to go back to Day 1, where things were doable. When we were sure we could get through it. When we knew what we wanted on the other side but we didn’t quite have the map to get there. This is true both of new graduates, going out into the field for the first time, and it is true of seasoned professionals, because part of being good at your job is reflecting on what you have learned, and finding out where you need to learn more, then going into Day 1 and Day 2 yet again.
So now here we are, deep in the forest, unsure of what’s ahead. We know what we had before, but if we use our reflective skills, we know that what we had before just wasn’t working. What now then? Now is the time to sit with the discomfort, think about what it is we really want “normal” to look like. For ourselves, our colleagues, our work and our clients. How you do the middle part is up to you. The work doesn’t mean you have to power through, it may mean you sit quietly, allowing yourself the space in which to decide what it is you really want. It may mean that you make some changes that you can carry with you as you keep walking through the forest, and that will remain with you when you emerge. Everyone’s work will look a little different but when we emerge, what becomes normal for us individually, for our families and as a community both local and global, will hopefully look a lot better for everyone as it did before.