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Conversation time: Your thoughts?

In life I want to…. [insert your goal/dream here]

was exactly how I started the hour-long online session that was the first of UCLA’s ‘Conversations with TEDx Speakers‘ series. You may ask- Laura, did you do a TEDx talk? Did I miss that?? well, not yet you didn’t. It *was* scheduled for 30 May, and then COVID-19 happened. You probably have things that were put on hold too?  … hold that thought (whatever it is you’re thinking)…

See, my [insert your goal here] thought might have been my TEDx talk. I have lots of goals – imagine like when sunlight shines through a solitaire cut crystal and there are suddenly rainbows everywhere – yep, that’s how I am with dreams and goals. Giving the TEDx talk was definitely a big rainbow of mine. I had the airplane ticket on hold, accommodation planned, the talk drafted (with several versions of improvements), and I even knew what I was going to wear – and yes, each bit of clothing had a story – not that anyone would know that, but I had thought it through. Yes, life changed. No, my goals have not gone away.

What about your goals now?

These are strange times, and figuring them out takes thought and action from each of us. I do not mean ‘go get ’em’ action, but mental processing to understand the situation, how you fit in it, what it means, where now, and what on earth comes next? These things impact us all.

Let’s keep the conversation going.

I want to talk; I want to think; and I want to engage. In times of isolation, more than ever we need to conscientiously reach out.

Let’s start with the online conversation UCLA hosted, and then let’s go from there:

UCLA Conversations with TEDx Speakers: Dr. Laura Ritchie from Visual Arts on Vimeo.

Since this conversation aired, the research project I mentioned has been drafted and submitted as  a paper for peer review. Honestly I can say that even since then life has changed. There is no ‘new normal’. Nope. There is every day. Every morning a new day unfolds and sometimes there are great days where, like the best of times, rainbows of thoughts shoot out with every breath as the day dawns, and other days where well, breakfast is cookies because I can’t really face another Wheatabix or bit of stale toast, and I know there’s no grocery shopping scheduled for almost a whole week yet.

Adapting to a genuinely new situation is not something many people are actually prepared for.

(why would they be?) When you do figure it out a bit, then even on the days when it’s cookies for breakfast because they were there and you didn’t think you could face anything that took effort, you can find a way to look at them and think – damn! I got *cookies* for breakfast! 🙂 You can find a rainbow in the smallest, simplest of things.

Although the earth has been shaken, and on very practical levels we need to be sensible and direct attention to solving the problem of infection and disease, I look forward to new ways of being, doing, and seeing that are indeed not normal.

  • Have you developed strategies for being or doing that are different to before?

I believe in ideas (yours and mine) and I believe they are worth sharing.

  • What came out of the conversation above for you?

  • Are there topics you would like discussed?

Join in. I don’t think this is over, and there’s a long way to go to understand and navigate what has become a pivotal moment in all our lives. I invite you to take the time to comment, say what you think, and be part of the conversation.

Laura

 

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ben #

    Hello Laura,

    A great TEDx talk (thanks for the shoutout) and such an important topic for the world to talk about during these strange times and beyond. So many people are failing to achieve or find the motivation to set meaningful goals. I know from talking to my own social group that we are all feeling some sense of dread and loneliness. It is conversations like these that make us realise that this is a shared experience and not something that needs to be tackled alone.

    For me, the pandemic has caused me numerous challenges – both with my work, study and home-life. Feelings of loneliness, repeated stints of insomnia, missing the birth of my best man’s first child and the unfortunate loss of a family member. My meaningful goal prior to the pandemic was to continue to progress my studies further. Since the lockdown, however, I am unable to enter the laboratory meaning my academic progress has slowed. Like most people though I have used this time to learn new technologies to allow me to work from home to a degree that allows me to progress steadily. So, unlike my fiancé, that is working five 12.5 hour shifts a week as a COVID-19 A&E nurse, I am the lucky one who can work from the comfort of my own home.

    For me, this is a time to pursue something that makes us happy – something that allows us to sleep at night with a clear mind. It is shocking seeing the degree of mental health struggles faced across the world currently. It is our meaningful goals that will ensure we don’t fall into a pit of despair and crumble, and instead come out of this horrible time with something to feel happy about (even if it is just a newly painted lounge).

    Thank you for leading this discussion and all the best,

    Ben.

    May 10, 2020
  2. Dorothy #

    Hi Laura
    Thank you for sharing the TEDx talk with us. I found it so interesting and such an inspirational conversation video. The amazing thing is that the book I’m reading at the moment, although fiction, mentions the CEO attending the TED talks. Plus I had Alexander Technique lessons for about 8 years and it is still how I try to live and move every day. The overriding phrase in my memory is always what my teacher used to say. Don’t end gain. It isn’t the end result but the means whereby.
    I think that we all make life choices, but they are choices and sadly some people are unable or unwilling to realize that they have a choice in deciding their future (to a degree). Maybe past life experience/s have been a reason or a sudden present life experience, as is the current situation. However we all still have a choice even in lockdown to be either happy or sad, or active or sedentary. Of course some people are inherently happy (me) and can see the funny side and will try to make the best of any situation no matter how dire, but others who have depression or low moments aren’t able to do that on their own.
    This is why we need to support each other when times are hard or stressful so that the stronger mentally and/or /physically can support the weaker or more vulnerable people.
    When told that the Country was in lockdown my 1st thoughts were, What do I like doing/What of my current activities can I still do/What things would I like to do but haven’t found the time for yet? So I wrote a ‘To Do’ list. There were 12 items on it. I’ve achieved 1 and ticked it off. I’m half way through another and a 3rd was to work my way through my contacts list and delete any I didn’t contact any more and to contact the others, Letter A week 1, Letter B week 2 etc.I’m currently on J. However this has created more things To Do, as when I spoke to some they were stuck or needed help either mentally or physically. By helping them it has become a 2 way street as it helps them but makes me feel better too.
    However my usual activities, even though Brownies isn’t happening, French x 2 groups, Qi Qong, Orchestra and Laughter Yoga are still happening on Zoom. So along with the usual household chores, gardening, reading, doing puzzles, walking and cycling, I’m really still very busy.
    My reflections:- Having a ‘To Do’ list is my comfort blanket. As I like to be busy and have things to do, by creating a list, even if I don’t do those things, I know that if there is a quiet moment or a nothing day, then I can go to my list and find something to occupy me.
    Phew, sorry, bit of a rant. I know that you said that you are getting lots of emails just now. But hope that my thoughts help with your research project.
    Best wishes
    Dorothy/Percussion

    May 8, 2020
  3. Geoffrey Gevalt #

    Laura, I loved how this shifted from research to stories to, well, an advice chat. It was great. Personal growth, taking stock, taking care to look beyond your box. And I love Ken’s “How are you?”

    Really nice job. I want you, Ken and me to chat sometime. …

    I do so want to chat with you but my silence has been because my life, soul, emotional state has been turned upside down… all three kids got sick, my oldest had a relapse. And then my sister-in-law died. I loved her dearly.

    But i will reach out soon. I will. And thanks for this. I love how you speak, so conversational, so fresh, bright, connective. You are an optimist and I love that about you. It helps me even now, seeing this video. And that is why so many people seemingly got involved in the chat and the questioning which I think is a testament to how welcoming you are.

    Nicely done. Let’s chat soon.

    May 6, 2020
    • Laura Ritchie #

      Oh Geoff, I’m not sure how to reply. I feel like the soil of humanity has been well and truly tilled. I am so sorry about your loss and the illness at home. I’m reminded of one of my accompanists who used to caution me upon going home after a recital – ‘Laura, remember you’re still human. Just remember that.’ Of course he meant I should keep my feet on the ground despite the euphoria that often goes with a big accomplishment. How often we think we’re super-human, and this has reminded us all just how vulnerable we are. -still resilient though, but perhaps it’s harder to dodge the actual humanity part these days.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and be a part of this. I certainly look forward to when we can talk. With smiles from across the ocean, Laura

      May 7, 2020
    • Geoffrey,

      I learned many years ago that it is easy to prepare for 98% of responses to the question: How Are You? One needs to be able to attempt to comprehend the magnitude of thoughts that come from the remaining 2% who respond other than, “Just Fine”. Geoffrey, I am ready for that conversation with Laura and yourself when you are. I’m also ready to begin the conversations about take aways from this time of Cholera. Virtual hugs to you sir. Thinking of you

      May 9, 2020
  4. I so appreciate the fact that you want to have these conversations.

    For me it’s a bit hard to do the ‘insert your dream here’s thing partly because of pragmatics and partly because of experience.

    The pragmatic part is that, at the age of 61, my planning window is anywhere between next week and 20+ years. So there isn’t a sense of wanting to ‘be’ something other than what I am. Not that I don’t plan, but it’s always with half an eye to contingency plans.

    The ‘life experience’s part is that in many ways my ambitions expanded as my life expanded. For half my life, ‘success’ would have been a paying job. Even when working at Assiniboine I would never have expected any more success.

    But a lot of that is because my ambition (if it could be called that) has always been in my own head. I’ve always been far more interested in my projects, whatever they happened to be, than in life or career ambitions. My projects typically had no end over and above themselves.

    And as a result this whole Covid changes very little (I feel guilty about that, but not too guilty, as I think I went through enough recession economics in the 80s to qualify for a pass from this one – I didn’t have a proper job until the age of 35 so I really feel for what people are going through). I’m working from home, I’m working on my projects, my ambition is still in my head, and things for me are actually a bit easier.

    Of course, I probably *will* lose my job when the crisis is over and governments go into restraint, but I was going to lose it anyways through retirement. Retirement means I’ll have to cut back expenses (sometimes I hope for post-retirement income but I’m not planning on it).

    I think that when people think if ambitions and aspirations they’re thinking in terms of success and the pursuit of happiness, and really, it’s not that. Nor is it the silliness of ‘living one day at a time’s. Yes, appreciate the simple things (like sunsets 🙂 ). But that’s not what we live for, it even what makes life worth living – it’s more like a type of nourishment.

    For me, at least, it’s losing myself in the thing, whatever it is -the performance, if it’s a talk, the code, if it’s a program, the ideas, if it’s writing, the activity, if it’s sport. I forget where I first saw that, it was someone talking about singing, but it applies to everything. Being able to find those moments of being outside myself, that’s success. Whatever makes me feel that is what I want to do.

    I think everybody can do that, but for some people(eg. Me) it’s more of a challenge. And seeing the result as just the result. Seeing the sense of it being better or worse than anything is purely arbitrary. That is also a challenge.

    I love it when people find success within themselves, and these are the people I want to know, and these are the people I want to talk to, and learn from. 🙂

    May 6, 2020
    • Laura Ritchie #

      Stephen, I appreciate that you are both willing and take the time to be a part of these (including my) conversations. I completely agree that the noticings of everyday are nourishment; they keep me propelled from one foot to the next, like a feedback loop without words. Sometimes the precision, the synchronicity, the geometry of how things and people around me fall into place is enough encouragement to find those in myself. It certainly helps, but you are right in that is not enough. I’d argue that neither is the transcendence – simply because (at least for me) I cannot maintain that all the time. A crude (not rude, but simple) analogy is like a bath: you can get in the bath, immerse yourself, but after a while human skin gets all shrively, and being a raisin is not really part of the glam of transcendence. …Maybe I’m just not there yet! 🙂
      It is definitely a challenge. For me it’s a constant quest to juggle the nourishment, freedom, and finding the ground once in a while. I need that because I get scared when the ground is taken out from under me – (really and metaphorically).
      Thank you, as always, for sharing your thoughts and for making me think. My day is richer for what you have written.
      Laura

      May 7, 2020
  5. *Upheaval*

    When our lives must pivot,
    Can’t just replace the divot.

    In this moment which is strange
    Our lives must go through change.

    If today, there is no sorrow,
    That might change tomorrow.

    So now we look ahead
    And might do so with dread.

    Because of the pandemic
    Change will be systemic.

    Since these events our lives stir,
    We cannot *know* the future.

    Still, as for sense we grope,
    There’s always room for hope.

    May 6, 2020
    • Laura Ritchie #

      Algot, you have encapsulated SO MUCH here. I find, in talking to people across walks of life, there is a sense of the raw, the unknown – despite being ‘told’ this or that with (admittedly changing) certainty from various media or social sources. People really aren’t prepared for a genuine unknown and it takes a collective effort to unpack it. I’m glad there are thinking people like you in this collective boat journey traveling with me. You give so much in your thoughts. Thank you!
      Laura

      May 7, 2020

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