Ugh… Kick Assers. Things have been ROUGH recently. The year has started with a lull in the entertainment industry, still my main source of income, and rain… lots of it. The combination of low employment and dreary weather has been incredibly challenging. It’s times like these that my soft skills practice becomes invaluable but not because it makes everything sunshine and roses. Adapting to change, navigating disappointment, sitting with grief and overcoming setbacks still challenge the shit out of me, even with my soft skills practice. But today’s post is about how these skills have become the map that helps me maneuver the “shit storm” moments when they roll in.
One of my favorite quotes about change comes from an old Persian adage. As the story goes, an ancient Sultan asks his Sage for wisdom that would always be true. The Sage returns to him with the statement, “This too shall pass.” The reason why I love this quote is because it’s a reminder that the only constant in life is change. This statement can feel like a grounding reminder when we feel joyful, successful and on top of the world but it can also offer us hope, comfort, and resilience when we are in despair.
I am not currently feeling “on top of the world” as I write this. The start of this year has presented me with many humbling challenges that on my hardest days affect my mental health and fill me with stress. Understanding the nature of change has given me both the hope that “things won’t always be this difficult” and the dread of “what if things change for the worse?” Successfully navigating these challenges requires a level of change all on its own.
These days, my resources for navigating shit storm moments include a mental health professional, a loosely structured routine, physical activity, my soft skills practice and a ton of grace. When these moments hit, I tend to navigate them much like grief. Each storm has its own unique combination of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance and hope. One of the biggest advantages I’ve had during this recent challenge is just holding space in awareness. This means having awareness of my fear, anxiety, sadness, helplessness, frustration and loneliness. But it also means having awareness of my joy, my gratitude, my optimism, my persistence, my compassion and my resilience.
We’ve also been experiencing an unusually rainy season in LA this year, which means the rainy season is actually rainy! It’s kept most Los Angelenos indoors and isolated, which adds on a challenging layer when you’re unemployed and navigating financial stress and anxiety. Between the dreary but much needed rain and economic uncertainty, I’ve been forced into change and it hasn’t been fun.
The shit storm climaxed this past week when my kitchen sink clogged. Between the weather and coordinating with my landlord and the plumber, over a week passed before it was fixed. Adapting to life without a kitchen sink (I don’t have a dishwasher), brought me back to memories during Covid when I was doing my laundry in the bathtub during the first few months (no washer or dryer either).
I was doing dishes in a tub, trying to minimize how much I cooked and trying not to order food out (not an option when I’m not working full time) so it was a challenging change to navigate. Plus, my normal daily walks were put on hold due to the storms. By the time the plumbers arrived, I was tapped, my resources were almost drained and I was hovering close to burnout.
When the torrential rains stopped and the plumbers arrived to fix the sink, I immediately noticed a small shift within myself. When I brought awareness to this shift, I noticed having a working kitchen sink actually brought me joy. The feeling of stagnation was starting to lift and I leaned into awareness more. It wasn’t until I had this new joy that I was able to clearly see how off-kilter I had been feeling. I knew I was out of sorts and I knew I struggling but until I was able to wash dishes in my sink and see the water drain, I hadn’t really understood how much this was compounding my agitation. This insight allowed me to give myself some much needed grace and compassion.
As the sun came out, I tied up my sneakers and headed out for a walk. I hit shuffle on one of my walking playlists and “You Only Get What You Give” by the New Radicals was the first song that came up. As a teenager of the 90s, this song was inescapable and one I was very familiar with. But the lyrics hit me harder in this moment. As the chorus kicked in, “You've got the music in you, Don’t let go, You’ve got the music in you, One dance left, This world is gonna pull through.” I began dancing as I walked, bopping to the music.
Suddenly, I noticed my heart felt lighter and I was able to walk with more purpose. I took in how much more green my neighborhood looked after the rain and I was grateful to have survived the challenges the past few months have presented me. This does not mean I have a solution to all of my problems or that everything is fixed but what I regained is my hopeful spirit, my passion and realignment with my core values. When I am in alignment, even during difficult and uncertain times, I am more easily able to put one foot in from of the other, notice unexpected opportunities and keep sailing through the shit storm rather than being taken down by it.
Having a consistent soft skills practice doesn’t mean that I never face adversity or that I’m exempt from the shit storms life throws my way. Where having a soft skills practice has benefitted me is making awareness, compassion, adaptability, gratitude, problem solving, creativity and other skills accessible. Soft skills ARE the navigation tools I need to sail through the shit storms and come out dancing.
Kate Katz is the owner and founder of All Hands In, a soft skills development company. All Hands In specializes in soft skills development by using play and puppetry. If you'd like to learn more about the work we do, please visit: www.allhandsinworkshops.com or email Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org.