No Use Going Back To Yesterday

The other day, I was watching a butterfly busily fliting from one pansy blossom to the next in a flowerbed next to where I parked my car. It was a Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly, common to Oklahoma and most of the eastern and southern United States. For a moment I was transported back to the still and stifling summer days of my youth when I fancied myself an entomologist. I would spend my days attempting to capture new species for my collection, and I had no difficulty collecting specimens of Phoebis sennae. This was partly because they were so numerous, but mostly because they were so intently feeding on flowers that they were easily ambushed. I’ve always loved butterflies for the amazing transformations that take place during their lives.

As I thought about this, I was reminded of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, by Lewis Carroll. At one point in the book, after experiencing many strange and unsettling transformations (not the least of which is changing size several times), she attempts to tell the Mock Turtle about her adventures. She says, “I could tell you my adventures—beginning from this morning, but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

One of the things that is important to me is preserving my ability to see the day with fresh eyes. I want to notice little things and the beauty that is all around me. I want to be amazed and in wonder of the things that are easy to overlook. And this is actually very difficult.

This past Sunday, my pastor talked about how the recent crisis was an opportunity to press the pause button. He suggested that we would benefit from re-evaluating our lives and relationships, being clear (and honest) about what we believe, acting on those beliefs, and getting our priorities aligned.

I think that’s an outstanding idea.

We are strongly attracted to “normal.” People are now talking about the “new normal.” I keep hearing people say, “Things will never be the same,” however, humans really don’t like to change. Often, we try to “go back to yesterday” as quickly as we can. My concern is not that everything will be different, but rather that things will be mostly the same, and soon we will forget the gift of new vision this crisis has given us.

As leaders, it is imperative that we practice self-awareness. We need to acknowledge that we get complacent and set in our ways of seeing and interpreting the world around us. We need to create practices and habits in our lives that help us see each day in a new way and each person as unique.

Every crisis and disruption in our lives offers us fresh sight. Sometimes, it is as simple as eating in a restaurant for the first time in weeks and truly enjoying the experience instead of taking it for granted. Other times, it is more complex and nuanced, like realizing how much you miss those small and unplanned interactions with other people at work or school. In every case, it is an opportunity to intentionally look at the world around us from a fresh perspective.

One thing I want to take out of this crisis is to remember the feelings I have right now—the sense of appreciation, the pleasure of new discoveries I have made about myself and about the people around me, and the desire (and ability) to notice the butterflies. I am intentionally linking these in my mind. For the rest of our lives, we will remember and reference COVID-19. Instead of triggering memories of quarantine, fear, and isolation, I will use the memory of COVID-19 to bring to mind butterfly moments.

We are given the ability to make every day an opportunity to see old things in new ways and discover things we have never seen before. If we are going to do this, it will require us to be honest about our beliefs and our priorities. Being intentional about the way we look at things is part of being a leader. There is no use in going back to yesterday; we are different people today. Noticing and embracing every day is the key to our transformation, and it is the Kimray Way.