COVID got you down? Peter McGraw returns for the third installment of Solo Thoughts, where he shares ideas from his private conversation with fellow solos about how to deal with this damn pandemic. In this episode, he presents three profound observations that you are going to want to think about.
Today’s episode of Solo is sponsored by Wrapture Masks. Since Peter recommends wearing protection during sex, he also recommends wrapping your face when you go out into the wild. And Wrapture has made the best non-medical grade mask money can buy. It’s antimicrobial, breathable & most importantly FULLY MACHINE WASHABLE, so you aren’t one and done. One mask lasts over 50 washes and I’ve been using for more than a month and it’s my go to mask. You can find them at wrapturemasks.com. Use promocode WRAPTURESOLO at checkout for a discount.
Listen to Episode #39 here:
Solo Thoughts 3: A Remarkable Pandemic
Our guest is me. I’m back with the third installment of Solo Thoughts. This episode is topical. If you’re a regular audience, you know that the COVID has come up here and there. I’ve even dedicated a few episodes to it. For example, Money Amy returned to talk about how to deal with financial stress because of the pandemic. I want to share some thoughts about the current state of the world, but before we begin, I have good news. I’m launching a message board on the Solo page of PeterMcGraw.org. It’s designed to start creating some more community among Solo audiences. Go to the Solo page on PeterMcGraw.org. You can scroll to the bottom and you can sign up to contribute to the conversation. There will be threads about a variety of topics, including individual episodes if you want to comment and discuss. My only request is that you keep things positive and encouraging. That’s the thing that people living a remarkable life would do. I’ll start with a little bit of a story about how I got here.
I ran a poll on Twitter asking, “At what point did you realize that “normal” is a long way away? Option one, March. Option two, April or May. Option three, June to now. Option four holding out hope.” Thirty-two percent of respondents said March, 44% said April or May, 21% June to now, and 3% holding out hope, the true optimist in the group. If I were to answer that question, I would have said June to now. I’m a bit late to the game in recognizing that normal is a long way away. In my defense, I had a chance to avoid a lot of the headache and heartache and the problems associated with the pandemic. When the quarantine hit, I took off. If you’re a regular audience, you know that I went out to the Joshua Tree Desert and took a sabbatical from my sabbatical. It was good for my mind, body and soul. I was isolated from almost everything that was happening. I came back for a few days and then I did a road trip up to Oregon. I figured I’d go to a place that has no people and got to put off dealing with this for a little bit longer.
Since then, I’ve settled back into my box in the sky in Hollywood, California. It’s around this time that things were starting to open up more and more. For example, my gym reopened and I went back to the gym. I like working out. To be honest, it wasn’t the same. Not only the social distancing protocols and all the other protocols that make good sense in order to help people be safe, but just the experience was rather different. Then with the spike in cases, gyms in California were required that people wear masks and wear gloves at all times. That’s not a pleasant way to go about working out. That was a real but mundane, might even be a little bit dumb thing, but I was like, “I’m not happy about this.” The second thing that happened around that same time was at night around 7:00, I went on a walk around my neighborhood. This is a neighborhood that is gentrifying in some ways. Hollywood used to be a real dump. It’s coming along. There are some tech companies here. There’s some great nightlife. There are some fun things to do.
Normally, at 7:00 at night in the summer, the place is abuzz with people getting out of work, going out for drinks and dinner, with tourists who’ve come from all over the country, all over the world to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I’ll be a bit disappointed with it, but nonetheless there. All those people aren’t here anymore. What’s left is an unfortunate situation with the homeless population in Los Angeles and the people who are out and about who don’t seem to care very much about the risks and what’s going on with COVID. The entire buzz and energy of that neighborhood is now gone. It’s been replaced unfortunately by this almost post-apocalyptic field. There’s trash strewn everywhere because one of the unanticipated things is that the businesses in the community do a lot of cleaning up. That is, they clean the street in the sidewalk in front of their businesses and stuff. I’m walking around the neighborhood, which would normally be a very exciting, fun time to people watch and to take in the energy and it is exactly the opposite.
It was the mix of these two mundane things. Nothing serious like getting COVID or being thrown out of work like some people have to make me realize that this is not getting cleared up anytime soon. To be honest, I felt a little naive. I felt foolish and recognize that this is a weakness that I have. I tend to be optimistic by nature and it serves me well. I try new things. I take new challenges. I believe that I can be successful and things are going to work out. An optimist launches a show like this. I’ve recognized that we’re in this for an indefinite period of time. I wanted to spend a little time talking through some of that. My most optimistic guess, and again this is a guess because I’ve learned not to forecast the future, is we have six more months of this. This is uncertain and problematic because there’s also no generally agreed upon plan about how to get out of this. The last thing is, why talk about this on the show? It’s because I think that solos in particular have special opportunities and challenges when it comes to this indefinite uncertain period of time.
This is something that I’ve noticed from talking to people. I feel that solos have many more decisions due to their autonomy. This is a blessing but it can also be a curse. A simpler world might be one that you have a family. You stay home, do your work if you have it, educate your kids. Maybe you get crazy and do a road trip to some remote location, such as a family cottage for a vacation. If you’re solo, you probably have more time, that is you’re not dealing with family issues and education. You have flexibility. You don’t have to live where you live necessarily, especially if you’re working remotely. I don’t have to be in Hollywood, California. I could be nearly anywhere. At least anywhere that I can get on a plane, not that I’m getting on a plane, but I can travel to. I’m starting to think this is much bigger than originally thought of. The decision points are much bigger. There are once in a lifetime kinds of decisions that people can make. I want to put forth some ways to think differently about this situation.
I’m going to present to you three profound observations that wise friends have made to me as I’ve discussed this latest realization, my naivete, my reckoning with our six-plus months of dealing with this tumultuous, uncertain world. After the three, I’ll talk about some of the implications. The first is the cavalry is not coming. My friend, Darwyn, told me about this one in a conversation that we were having on the phone. The only other time in my life that I’ve heard that saying the cavalry is not coming is from a number of years ago when I was living in Boulder, Colorado. There was what they call a 500-year flood. A huge rainstorm came and flooded out the town and the surrounding towns. I have a house in Boulder and I was away that night during the most torrential part of the downpour. When I came home the next morning, my basement was filled with water.
I did the thing that you would do if your basement was filled with water. I called one of these disaster relief service pro style companies that have these industrial pumps. I couldn’t get anyone on the phone. I left messages, made calls, then waited and hoped. At one point I was on the phone with a friend after a day and he said, “The cavalry is not coming. You need to deal with this.” That was like a kick in the ass. I recognized that he was right and that galvanized me. I managed to find a pump. I borrowed one from a neighbor and emptied my basement filled with water. I cut out the sopping wet rugs, carried them out to the street and ran some fans. The next day, some friends came over and we cut out the drywall. Within 24 hours of hearing that statement, I had a dry basement. It was incredibly exhausting and taxing but it was something that I needed to hear. It kicked me into action. Hearing Darwyn say this has done the same thing.
Why is the cavalry not coming? As I’ve already alluded to, there doesn’t seem to be a general consensus on a plan for this. I think our institutions, between the political climate and then the novelty of this situation, aren’t well suited to deal with it. The challenges with government, schools and universities are scrambling and struggling to adapt and to deal with this. These are big monolithic organizations that keep doing the same thing over and over again. Universities haven’t changed much in the last 50 years. They’re not agile. Corporations are oftentimes trying to survive and foregoing what would normally be their focus on customer service. I’ll give you an example of this. My gym is not offering the same quality of service before because they are rightfully doing the things that they need to do to keep people safe. They also haven’t lowered their prices to be commensurate with the lesser value that they’re providing.
The building that I live in has been pulling back amenities. They haven’t lowered rents for anyone. They’re in survival mode. They’re not looking to take care of their customers. They’re looking to take care of themselves. I think that we’re getting to a point where you and me are going to need to figure this out. The cavalry is not coming. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we’ll be pleasantly surprised that the cavalry shows up whether that be in the form of a vaccine or something else. It doesn’t seem like someone’s going to be swooping in and saving you from this situation. Let that idea percolate and settle in for a little bit. I think it’s an important one and it’s had a profound effect on me.
Before we go to observation number two, speaking of COVID, Solo has its first sponsor. Our episode of Solo is sponsored by Wrapture Masks. Since I recommend wearing protection during sex, I also recommend wrapping your face when you go out into the wild. Wrapture has made the best nonmedical grade mask money can buy. It’s antimicrobial, breathable, and most importantly, fully machine washable. You aren’t one and done. One mask lasts over 50 washes. I’ve been using mine for weeks. It’s my favorite mask. You can find them on Twitter, Instagram, and at WraptureMasks.com. You can use promo code WraptureSolo at the checkout for a discount. Stay safe out there my fellow Solos.
Onto the second observation. It’s a rainy day and my friend Steven made this observation as I was having a conversation with him about the cavalry is not coming. The saying of saving money for a rainy day. If you’ve taken care of business in your life, you’ve saved money for a rainy day, for an emergency, this maybe it. Use your rainy-day fund, assuming you have one. This is a once in a lifetime situation. My question for you is, can you throw money at this problem? Whatever problems you’re facing, whatever challenges that you’re having now, can you buy your way out of it? What might that look like? That might look like taking off to the desert for a couple of months.
It might be doubling up on your therapy sessions with your mental health professional. It might be helping out someone in need. I don’t know what it might be. What I’m saying is if you’ve done the hard work, made the sacrifices, saved the money, this might be time to use it to solve your problems. This may not just be money. This may be time. Maybe money isn’t going to solve the problems that you’re facing, but time might. The question becomes, what are the unimportant things that you can let go filling up your schedule and getting in the way of you taking care of yourself, taking care of this situation? Things have changed and we might not be wanting to stay on the same path that we were 4 or 5 months ago. It’s a rainy day.
Observation three, stop trying to make things normal. I had a live Zoom call. If you signed up on the Solo show page for the community, you’ll get emails when I do these live Zoom calls. I did one related to some of the ideas that I’m talking about. Shane, one of the audiences and a previous guest was part of it. He made this quip, “Stop trying to make things normal.” One of the other participants, Jill, in the conversation talked about the orchestra, the band on the Titanic playing as the ship was sinking, trying to pretend that this abnormal situation was in some way normal. This is not a normal time. It’s unprecedented in our lifetime. I think that it is a bad idea to try to keep being normal. I had this experience with my gym. When the gyms opened back up, I went back to the gym and I was disappointed because it wasn’t the same gym I was expecting. I was wanting normal and I shouldn’t have been expecting that.
This is a difficult situation to be in because we have habits. I spent a dozen years developing habits around going to a coffee shop in the morning and doing my writing rituals. The coffee shops are closed and the more I try to recreate that habit, the more I realize that things aren’t normal. It gets me frustrated because I’m trying to make them normal. I shouldn’t. I should embrace the abnormal. We’re part of a grand experiment. It’s something that we’ll look back on and tell stories about. History will cover this point in time. It will be a fascinating case study. We’re living in what’s called a liminal space, some transition between a world that was and a world that will be. What is important to mention is that there’s opportunity in liminal spaces. Opportunities to see things in new ways to create new habits, to take advantage, to reinvent. I was saying that I’ve noticed that solos are having to make bigger decisions oftentimes than people with families because they have options. They have flexibility.
People are thinking, “I don’t want to live where I live. I don’t want to work for this company anymore. I want to be more autonomous. I want to live in a place that’s sunnier. I want to live in a place that has more mountains,” whatever that might be. Whatever those dreams, hopes, ideas, and ideals that people have are suddenly something to be reckoned with. I ask you to stop trying to make things normal, to recognize the abnormality and to embrace that abnormality. To think what might you do with that abnormality. These three observations have had a profound effect on how I’m thinking. I’m putting everything on the table. From where I live to what I do, how I go about doing it. There is good news for you as a regular Solo audience. This has made me even more committed to this show. This is one of those things that I find myself compelled to do. I find it something that I want to spend time on. I want to do better.
Hence, launching the message board, trying Solo Thoughts and so on and so forth. Let’s build a community. Let’s start a movement. In closing, I want to share a few ideas about some of the implications of these three observations, but unfortunately, I can’t tell you what to do. What you do with this is going to be on your shoulders. First of all, if you don’t already do this, I would invite you to begin journaling. Start writing down what’s happening, how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, what’s going on. That’s going to serve you in two ways. One, it will be fantastic to look back on this at some period of time when things do go back to a new normal and be able to recreate these moments. The second thing is the active writing is going to help you think about it. It’s going to help you clarify. I would say that one implication is as you think about these things, write down your thoughts, slow down your thinking and keep them for posterity.
One of the things that I think is also important to understand is there’s probably a way to make this situation more tractable. Uncertainty is very unpleasant. If we knew that six months from now everything’s going to be fine, we can get through that, but who knows what it will be? The way I’ve been thinking about it is, how do I get through the end of the month? How do I get through the fall? How do I get through beyond January? The most immediate is, what are my next 30 days going to look like in terms of my health, wellbeing, relationships and work? What is it that I want to accomplish with this abnormal time? Breaking those things up where you’re able to be much more focused on the present and then we’ll worry about the future a little bit later. The next thing is to figure out what’s your risk profile. There are two ways to think about your risk profile.
One is how do you think and feel about your risk of getting COVID and what are the implications for you and for other people? One thing that seems very clear is that this is a fairly highly transmittable virus. One that has mixed effects physically. There are certain groups of people. It is damaging and deadly for most notably elderly folks and then other folks who already have a lot of preexisting conditions who are overweight, diabetic and so on. The good news is if you’re younger and if you’re healthier, it may be unpleasant to get it, but it isn’t devastating. We’re getting more and more evidence that suggests that that is indeed the case. One of the questions is to what degree do you want to accept some risk or not with regard to the illness?
What I’m saying is this is beyond wearing masks. People should be wearing masks, but this about how much you want to venture out into the world. One of the things about solos is that because they often live alone, they’re much less likely to be a risk of transmitting it. I have friends who have six people in their household. Their concern is their actions have an effect on others. The other risk profile besides the one of your own health and safety is, how much of a bet do you want to make on this situation? How much change, how much of your rainy-day fund are you willing to use to try to solve your problems in the moment versus building for some uncertain future? I can’t tell you how and what to do. I think people are often in wildly different situations to begin with. They also have different comfort levels in terms of this. I will tell you this. I am decided that I am going to spend more money than I would normally to try to make my life more remarkable during this time.
The second to last thing is this idea of, can you be bold and think more than just surviving this indefinite tumultuous time? Might there be options to try to live more remarkably while you’re there? I invite that as a thought experiment. Our natural tendency is just try to survive, but is there something about this moment that you can consider that might be making it even more remarkable? In my case, it’s doubling down on this show. This idea of, can I continue to try to remove the stigma of being single from the world? Can I help people who are not represented, who are overlooked, not only feel better about their situation but be proud of their situation to help inspire them and give them information and examples to look beyond survival and to focus on thriving?
One way to think about doing this that I’ll say in conclusion is to rely on something that I talked about in Solo Thoughts Two where I talked about the PERMA model. Maybe this is a time to experiment with a different path to a good life. I’ll give you my own personal example of this. I’m an incredibly ambitious person. I like to create big hairy audacious goals, put them on a calendar and then work systematically in order to achieve them. The A in the PERMA model, Achievement, is a big part of my remarkable living. It’s well-served me for 30 plus years, whether it be with regard to athletics or academics or business. What I’ve gotten to thinking about is I’ve always had a little bit of M, Meaning, sprinkled in there, whether that be trying to help my students live better lives in my teaching or for example this show. I’ve decided that I’m going to let go of achievement for a while.
I’m purposely taking a step back from some of my other projects that are much more business-focused and achievement-focused. I’m going to be focused on much more meaning related things. I’m going to see how that feels and how that goes. This seems like an especially good time to release some of those goals. One of the things I’ll do is I’ll put in the exhibits this article that I found on Medium about Are Your Goals Holding You Back? As someone who’s incredibly goal-oriented, it has been a nice counter to the way that I think and wondering if at this stage in my life, might I be better at doing the things that I feel compelled to do rather than routinely, tirelessly working on goals. As you think about this, think about, what is your profile on the PERMA model, Pleasure, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Achievement?
Might there be something that you can lean into during this time that would be a fit? Is it time to write that book that you’ve always talked about writing? Is it time to start working on that secret project that you’ve been noodling on? Is it a time to reconnect and reconcile with important friends and family in your life that you may have lost track of or have been feuding or disagreeing with and letting bygones be bygones? Give it some thought, please. Thank you for reading, good Solos. Tell me what you think of Solo Thoughts. Tell me what you think of the new message board. You can do it on the new message board. Just go to the Solo page on PeterMcGraw.org. We will be returning with a regular episode. Until then, onwards.
- Money Amy – Previous episode
- Instagram – Wrapture Masks
- Shane Mauss – Past episode
- Jill Cohen – Past episode
- Are Your Goals Holding You Back? – Medium article
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