Shifting perspectives

She was dressed in a puffer jacket and winter hat, ready to depart. Lifting the protective blanket off of her baby grand piano, she sat down, wiped rubble and broken glass off the keys and and started to play. Around her was a home she had loved, now lying in scattered bits on her Turkish carpets. Outside the windows, torn from their frames by recent bombs, there was little left of what had been her family’s neighbourhood.

In Kyiv today, normal lives are being shredded along with the curtains left hanging on the blown-out windows.

Photo credit Francesco Taskayali

Once, a few years ago, I was in a session with a skilled executive coach. My house had been destroyed by a flood, and she was helping me find my way through. At the end of the session, I learned that she had recently lost her husband. I was horrified: How could I justify my grief over a lost house when she had lost someone she loved? Her response was that trauma, sadness, grief are all localised — while we might find some solace in knowing things could be worse, we shouldn’t feel guilt in experiencing our own sense of loss.

It’s hard to not feel guilty struggling with challenges when you see the plight of others. I notice it in my own reaction to this pianist, who is facing such life-changing trauma. I have heard the same sentiment from others as we have all navigated our way through covid. Anxious, stressed and lonely, people have talked to me about their own ordeals and then stopped, backtracked, remembering my forced isolation. I have repeated my coach’s words. My situation is bad but that doesn’t make your loneliness any less real.

Today, I remember all of this as I listen to this pianist play a final song before leaving her decimated home. And today, her bravery has helped me choose the perspective of gratitude. My situation is not what I want it to be. But I’m thankful to be to safe and to have four solid walls within which to shelter.

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