If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that life is filled with uncertainty. When we ushered in the new year, we had no idea that a global pandemic was about to strike the entire world. By April, though, many countries were in full lockdown in an attempt to control the number of people afflicted and hospitalized with the coronavirus.
Home-Schooling – A New Reality
The virus has affected every single aspect of life – and if you are a parent whose child was unable to attend school last semester, and are facing the same scenario as we approach the new school year, you will know how challenging, stressful, and nerve-racking it is to have your children home-school or Zoom-school. All while missing out on graduations, trips, social events. The disappointment almost feels too much to handle. And as anyone with multiple children knows, while one kid might seem to thrive, and even blossom, during this “timeout” period, another might have difficulty studying and feel isolated.
No Two Kids Are the Same
My oldest child graduated from high school this past year with no graduation. Her 12th-grade trip to Montenegro was cancelled. My ninth grader managed to adapt pretty well, under the circumstances, and he was even able to join his team and resume wall-climbing, an activity he really enjoys. My youngest two both attend a Montessori school which is non-traditional in its educational approach – no workbooks, no desks, no homework. That meant that the task of educating my children fell squarely on my shoulders. I tried to make the most of it. I took my kids out to the forest on a daily basis, where we read books, brought games, made a fire, ate pitta. This will actually be one of the best memories I have of this period. But it required having to make serious adjustments to my work schedule. I was determined to continue writing my second book, so it would be ready for the school year.
While I am sure that we can all think of silver linings from this stress-ridden time, the reality is that as we are approaching the countdown for the start of the school year, we are once again faced with uncertainty. My kids adapted really well last semester. But how do I know that this year won’t be a total wash? What will happen to them socially? Will my son have to once again stop wall-climbing? The truth is that until there is a vaccine, and Corona is behind us, there is still so much uncertainty. So how can we mentally prepare for the upcoming school year and find our equilibrium despite the craziness that is going on around us?
I want to share with you an emotional tool I created called The CLEAR Way,® which is the subject of my second book, and which has helped me be mentally prepared for anything – including this coming school year. We may have no control over what this coming year holds for us and for our children, but we can confidently move forward knowing that whatever happens, we can handle it.
How Does The CLEAR Way Work?
The CLEAR Way is a tool, based on the acronym: C.L.E.A.R. (Calm, Lighten, Expect, Accept, and Responsibility). What does it mean to get CLEAR? Being CLEAR means literally achieving clarity. When you are CLEAR, you are as mentally prepared as possible for a future event, because you see things as they truly are. It means you have uncovered and released your expectations and are committed to being who you want to be, no matter what unfolds.
Let’s try to get CLEAR about the upcoming school year.
Way #1 – Calm. Think about what is causing you stress. Maybe it’s the thought of your child being in front of a screen all day. Or how you will be able to focus on your work. Pay attention to the emotions that are triggered by this thought. Take a pause and get calm. It can be as simple as taking a deep breath and paying attention to the present moment. Maybe you will get calm by taking a walk, closing your eyes, or sitting in a quiet room, undisturbed. The important thing is to create some alone space.
Personally, I benefit a lot when I begin my days by focusing on getting calm (either by meditation, doing yoga, and/or journaling). In addition, I set my alarm two others time throughout the day as reminders (in case I forget!) to consciously take some pauses to realign myself with being a person who is calm rather than someone who is anxious, frazzled, or impulsive (ways that I find myself sometimes being).
Way #2 – Lighten. We often believe that we KNOW with certainty what will happen. But the reality is that we never know what the future holds. In order to lighten, uncover what you believe you “know.” This is a moment of complete honesty, and may sound like, “I know this entire year is going to be an educational failure for my kids.” By stating that out loud, it can help you challenge the ridiculousness of your belief. How can you know with such certainty that it’s going to be a disaster? You aren’t a fortune teller. You have a feeling it will happen. In order to adjust your mindset, modify your statement from “I know” to “I have a feeling”: “I have a feeling this year is going to be an educational failure.” By changing your language slightly, you are quite literally lightening the intensity of the situation. You might even feel your body relax, and feel physically lighter, when you make this shift in thinking.
Way #3 – Expect. After getting calm and lightening, it is time to examine your expectations. We all carry around expectations – even if unconsciously. What are yours? Take the time to verbalize or write down your hopes and desires. Answer questions such as, “What do you really want to happen?” Reveal all your hidden expectations and begin each sentence with “I hope.” “I hope school begins on time and stays in session the entire year.” “I hope that things will not be too chaotic at home this year.” “I hope my business won’t be negatively affected by Corona this year.”
Way #4 – Accept. In this step you will be releasing the expectations you just identified. You accept that your expectations might not get met, and your worst fears might materialize. Rather than resisting the future, you recognize and accept the possibility, and understand that your power lies in acceptance. Review your list of expectations. Can you fully accept each one?
Statement of Expectation:
I hope school begins on time and stays in session the entire year.
Statement of Acceptance:
I accept school may not begin on time and may not stay in session the entire year.
Statement of Expectation:
I hope that things will not be too chaotic at home this year.
Statement of Acceptance:
I accept things might indeed be chaotic at home this year.
Statement of Expectation:
I hope my business won’t be negatively affected by Corona this year.
Statement of Acceptance:
I accept my business may be negatively affected by Corona this year.
By accepting that your expectations may not be met, it opens up the potential to stay curious as to how things actually unfold.
Way # 5 – Responsible. The final step of The CLEAR Way is R for responsibility. You have accepted that your expectations might not be met and are ready to take the final step before entering the future. At that moment, you have a choice. You can walk into the future without much preparation, or you can come prepared. You can consider who you want to be. Taking “response ability” is a conscious decision you make before any future moment.
Your way of being is an energy, and your energy will either attract or deflect. It’s not so much your effort in trying to achieve something, but rather how you are being as you are on that path. Taking personal responsibility for your way of being is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself. It’s literally the thing you have the most control over at any given point in your life. In my opinion, consciously choosing your way of being, moment to moment in life, is a form of self-care. By doing so, you can set yourself free as, while it may be difficult, you are only responsible for one thing: your way of being. You are not responsible for others’ ways of showing up and behaving. This is the crux of The CLEAR Way.
There are many roles you may play in the coming year: Parent, spouse, friend, teacher, student, neighbor, businessperson, community member. For now, I invite you to choose just one and then choose a few ways of being to commit to that are in synch with your values. For example, when I think about how I want to show up this coming year as a mother, I think about how I would like to be organized, calm, and adaptive. Then, ask yourself how this kind of person thinks, feels, and behaves? Take responsibility for that way of being.
I am committed to being an organized, calm, and adaptable mother.
To me, an organized mother plans her schedule in advance to ensure she allocates time to be available to her kids (and to be able to take care of her own needs).
A calm mother recognizes that some days will be harder than others but knows that she can remain grounded through it all.
An adaptable mother knows that things can change from moment to moment – especially during a global pandemic – and that whatever arrangements she needs to make, she will do her best to take into account her children’s needs while balancing her other responsibilities.
Whatever your ways of being, whether it is a joyful mother, a creative parent, or an optimistic businessperson, choose how you want to show up – and stay committed. Even if you don’t feel like you are any of those ways of being, by putting yourself in the mindset of a person who is, you are allowing your actions to determine how you show up. It takes practice.
The beauty of the CLEAR way is that it can be practiced anywhere, anytime. You can try to get CLEAR the night before school starts, or in the morning, before everyone wakes up. You can get CLEAR while you are journaling or driving to an appointment. But preferably you want to be in a quiet space where you are not interrupted.
No matter what happens in the coming year, no matter what surprises may arise or what twists there may be in the COVID saga, the idea is to stay committed to your ways of being no matter what. Your ways of being are like the anchor of a boat. No matter what waves come along, you remain anchored in your ways of being so that you won’t get stuck or toppled over.
I invite you to try getting CLEAR and let me know how this tool works for you.
Wishing you clarity, courage, and confidence as you approach a new school year.