Recover and Reemerge in 2021: Is That Even Possible? Tracey Diefenbach, GPC

This time of year naturally leads people to reflect back and start looking forward, generating new goals and resolutions. Respectfully, I ask, “How is that even possible with a year like 2020?” It’s been a year filled with fear, sadness, uncertainty, confusion, and constant change, to say the least. Even our everyday language has taken on a whole new plethora of words like COVID-19, pandemic, social distance, quarantine, contact tracing, essential businesses, and flattening the curve. By the way, if you are looking for that blog that says better days are ahead, here is my warning: STOP! This blog is about realness – real thoughts, real feelings, real struggles. I wish I could say that I thought of writing this myself, but I am not that bold. I owe it to a great colleague of mine who challenged me to bring out the realness and ugly truths that may help me (and possibly even others) sort this out in my head.

Looking back on 2020, some “realness” themes emerged:

  • Realness #1: Our world, our country, our state, our towns, and even the small village where I live have forever been changed. Businesses have shut down, schools have completely changed their learning structures, and family/friend relationships and dynamics have changed. Some have come closer; others have drifted apart.
  • Realness #2: We do not know when the end will come or if there is even an end at all. Ok, that was a little dramatic, and while the latter is likely not true, I feel it needs to just be said (I mean, typed) out loud. If there is anything this year has forced us to see, it’s that we actually have very little control over life. This creates uncertain and unsettling feelings that are hard to just sit with – much less try and work with and be productive – especially in the grants deadline-driven world in which we work (finally, she related something in this blog to grants).
  • Realness #3: COVID-19 has undoubtedly impacted everyone; however, the impact has been so very different from one person to the next and in many ways has caused disconnect. I almost see people falling into a “fear” or “fatigue” category. People feeling fear may be more socially distanced and restrictive in where they go and who they see, while people in fatigue are exhausted with endless news stories of case counts, unavailable ICU beds, and even skepticism and mistrust. And here’s the crazy thing (if this whole blog isn’t crazy enough) … people can bounce from feeling to feeling or fall somewhere in between all in one day, one hour, one minute.

We are grant professionals who are all too often focused on questions like, “Did we get the grant?”, “Did we reach our grant goal?”, and “Did we get an answer to the question?” So, with all this realness – what are the learnings?

Self-care: Recognizing the need for self-care has (unwillingly) forced me away from bottom-line thinking to land somewhere in the middle – in a place and space where I give myself grace (yikes, I sound like a Dr. Seuss book!). I give myself space to walk away from my 20-page CARES Act proposal because my oldest daughter is locked out of her Google® classroom. I give myself permission to ask for space or to reach out to a colleague for help. You owe it to yourself to explore and implement whatever version of self-care works best for you. Give yourself the grace to do so, as uncomfortable as it initially may be.

Compassion: With this comes compassion for others by respecting their feelings, choices, and decisions without judgment and with empathy for their situations. It reminds me of that old quote by Plato, “Be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” Not to say that takes away from your own situation and challenges; it just gives you room to respect others’ circumstances.

The challenges our world and country are facing are undeniable. Why would we deny ourselves and others the self-care and compassion we so desperately need right now? I challenge you to recover and reemerge into a better 2021 by bringing these words to action in your daily lives, encounters, and self-talk!

Competency #7: Knowledge of practices and services that raise the level of professionalism of grant developers.

Skill 7.3: Identify strategies that grant developers use in building social capital to benefit their communities and society at large.

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