In the summer of 1999, I lost my mom to cancer. Seven years later I lost my only sister to suicide. I remember during those times, observing that every moment was filled to capacity with the need to connect with people I never imagined I would – or would on any ordinary day. Our conversations, and especially our silence (as we took in what we had lost) ran on a different stream of consciousness. We all supported each other, forever linked by our grief, and to some degree, linked by the fear of not knowing what was going to happen next. It was as if we were all part of a secret club where one look or shoulder squeeze said everything that needed to be said.
I am noticing a similar connection now with perfect strangers. The first months of our lockdown I found I’d wake up many nights – gasping for air. I was so afraid of what was happening but didn’t want to tell anyone nor did I have the words to describe the immensity of my concerns. I kept on having to remind myself to not give into the fear of wondering what will happen tomorrow. And to know that “this” moment is the only moment that I can actually control. Experience has taught me this, but now and again I have to be reminded. Last week, I was reminded of that and was awakened to so much more.
I was sitting at a stoplight watching a man cross the street with his Labradoodle. “How are you doing today?”, I asked. He laughed and said, “He’s fine,” (meaning the dog). “But to be honest, I’m scared ____less.” His honesty took me by surprise. This perfect stranger shone a light on what I was too afraid to say out loud – that I was scared of what this pandemic was going to do to our world, my family and community. The next morning, I woke to hear this voice in my head: “Free yourself Elevate And Rise”. It was a new way to look at my fear. At that moment, Finding the Light was born. I knew that others had to be feeling the same way and were perhaps as tongue tied as I was. I decided to turn the page of my fears to connect to my family, friends and colleagues throughout the years of being an entrepreneur. I wanted to know how they were coping and finding new ways to live their lives.
When the pandemic first hit late 2019, for a time, the entire world was ‘in on’ the same conversation. We, as the human race, were all part of the same club, bound by our fragile biology, where vulnerability, empathy and kindness were the only labels that mattered. Thousands of people and organizations came together to help in any way they could – many times without a price tag attached. Their acts of kindness and selflessness gave us hope that the best of humanity is still intact. It inspired me to create this legacy, time capsule.
Finding the Light is a beacon of light and a positive resource for those struggling to get through. We wanted to uncover how this pandemic affected everyone from school kids to the elderly from North America, Germany and Australia. Participants include a recovered COVID-19 patient, a frontline worker (who volunteered at a hospital in the “hot-bed” of NYC for two months), fitness instructors, entertainment leaders (including many Broadway actors), CEO’s, artistic directors, talent managers and many others. It is made up of 70+ “bite sized” stand alone essays, photography and poetry, revealing the real and relatable thoughts and fears, with a hopeful outlook from all walks of life. Photos from around the globe, plus six featured professional photographers spotlight how mother nature shone brightly during COVID-19. We have brought together the community by sharing stories from everyday people, those who may have never had a moment of mental distress in their lives until now. This book proves that the thread of love and humanity binds us all to give us strength and inspiration to show us the way no matter what challenges we face.
We started our interviews on April 18, 2020. For 20 days, entrepreneur and friend Louise Camilleri joined me to do many of the interviews. During our chats we were laughing and crying all at the same time. To break the ice at the beginning of the conversations, we would ask our guests questions like, “What are you doing to relieve stress, to stay in shape and fill your extra time up during the lockdown?” People shared some of the funniest COVID-19 “memes”, but they also shared some surprising activities (that kept them sane). Things like, Zoom Tango dancing with people from around the globe, or baking homemade N.Y pretzels kept people “together”. One of our guests sheepishly confessed that she had just watched, for quite some time, on You Tube, a squirrel navigate the security features of a bird feeder. A favorite stress relieving activity came from an L.A. comedian who shared, “juicing” with Pinot Noir!
As we worked towards our formal interview questions, we noted that almost every single guest referred to this unprecedented time in our lives as a giant “reset”. Some referred to it as a regrouping, restructuring, and a recalibration of priorities. We documented sixty “Re” words that were repeated over and over again throughout the days of conversations. You will see a through line of our conversations captured in various ways throughout this book.
The essays were based on four main questions:
- How do you view this PAUSE in life?
- What are your insights and/or advice to the next
generation on how to deal with change?
- What are your hopes and wishes for a post
- What one or two words represent the COVID-19
experience for you?
(As a matter of interest, out of all of the 70+ people we
interviewed, only two words were repeated).
My father and mother taught me – what blesses one, blesses all. By connecting and helping each other through this time of our lives, my hope is that you are moved to share this book of hope, humanity and our history with everyone you know and love including your children and their children too.