IN TAKING, COVID-19 HAS GIVEN

Tomorrow will be December.

A new month – the final month of what was to be a new year: 2020, unlocking all of the hope and possibility, confidence and certainty of a new decade. Little did we know what 2020 would bring, how locked in we would all be, not just physically…and how grateful we would be for it to end.

As we look to close 2020, understandably wishing to forget so much that has happened – the horror, the heartache, the losses, the longings – moving too quickly into 2021 would be missing the point. It feels it would be such a waste to have it as a chapter in the history books with the pages left blank. As hard as it is to find the words to describe 2020, or as risky as it would be to put the words in writing for fear of their heat burning through the pages, they must be written.

Why? Because to leave the pages blank would be to leave 2020 unfinished in its messages, its meaning and its memories worth remembering.

Think about it……..

What if “2020” had not happened?

What if 2020 was simply the year that followed 2019.

Where would we be?

What would we be doing?

Who would we be seeing….and not?

What would we be valuing?

Just when we thought we had it all, all under control all by ourselves, Mother Nature made it very clear who is really in charge. And what she felt was needing to be truly valued.

As soon as 2020 began the dominoes started to fall, first indications coming in January that there was trouble with this thing called the Coronavirus, now what we know as COVID-19. As it started to creep across the world from East to West borders started to shut, airline started to ground. We knew something was wrong, something was seriously wrong.

For years and years, as one blessed to be travelling over 200 days/annum with an aerial view of the world, 2020 has been a year lived, viewed, through a zoom lens. My last travels before the world shut down were mid-March – Miami for Board meetings, a full moon trying to calm stormy skies as flights were being cancelled. It was time to get home, quickly. Looking through photographs of this year a feeling of awe emerges seeing just how many images there were watching the world close up – the world of other little creatures, whether it be squirrels, swans, geese, bees, bugs, whatever it might be. And for the first time really appreciating the magic of being in one place.

It’s been a challenging year, no doubt. Milestones missed, marriages missed, memorials missed, loved ones now lost are so missed, life’s work for many is no more. Never should these moments be moved on from without pause for prayer.

Thankfully, those I love have been safe – near, far, wherever they may have been grounded. I am very blessed that my business has been safe – work more intense and purposeful than I have ever known in my two decades of operation. Every day has been as humbling as it has been exhausting, AM&A’s singular focus being ensuring no one feels alone in facing the trauma of 2020. My AM&A girls have been absolutely incredible – we have been nonstop, operating as a compass and an anxiety sponge for our Clients as the global Travel & Tourism was brought to its knees like never in its history, and it has a long, long way to go before momentum comes close to 2019 levels of travel (latest estimate is only 2024). 98% of our work that we’re doing has been from within in the eye of the storm, moving through layers of crisis: the pandemic, its resulting economic crisis, the unlocking of mental health crisis – helping clients, helping partners, helping people through, trying to make sense of what in the world is going on. Our role, our impact, our sense blessing, has been vividly clear every single day. For this reason, month after month we have given back, as much as we can, because we can.

As with all, the year has been lived in the main on-line. While geo-forced apart, like everyone worldwide, 2020 has meant hundreds and hundreds of hours on-air, our world through a small screen.Thank goodness for those spinning satellites in the sky keeping us all connected.

Ans so, as we look at the end of 2020, there’s not much more I can say other than simply this: I am thankful. I am thankful for what we have. I am thankful for those who have been spared. I am thankful for what’s been created from this time. As I have said hundreds of times this year: “There is NO going back to normal – there is no ‘back’ and there certainly is no ‘normal'” The value and values of every day have shifted. 2020 has taken much, and yet it has also given.

May 2021 bring a new hope:

  • a stronger awareness of how we need each other more profoundly than we ever imagined,
  • a stronger appreciation for the world around us,
  • a stronger commitment to actively support its wellness – naturally, socially, culturally, spiritually and economically,
  • and a stronger sense of blessings for simply being ‘safe”,

And may we carry into the year(s) ahead of us that it really is so important to stop and smell the roses….and see the swan-babies grow, feed the squirrels, and rescue the ladybugs….before boarding a next flight. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020

 

 

 

 

TAMING THE ROARING (20)20s

As we near the beginning of November – awed that we are into the countdown to the end of the year, bewildered by the blur behind us – it is impossible to not pause and think of all that has been.

2020 is not over yet, but still, who could have known that the roaring ‘20s would come with such a fierce bite!

This year has taken us all by surprise. Globally grounded, it has kept us in a state of disconnectedness in so many ways, regardless of how our virtual world operating, organising and other e-social skills have strengthened.

Since the beginning, as fear spread as quickly as the virus from East to West, the world became united in a state of shock. Together we have transitioned through 2020, month after month, wondering how long will this last, how severe will be the losses of lives and livelihoods, how we will possibly get back on our feet again – especially as a member of the global Travel & Tourism community that has been brought to its knees.

COVID-19 stopped us. Logistically and emotionally. Initial closing of businesses, borders and skies forced us to look carefully at the worlds in which we operated – what we valued deeply, what values we held dear. With dramatic restrictions on our mobility, the radius of our lives decreasing like never universally experienced before this generation, we have been forced to restructure our worlds, blur our lines (if not erase completely), rethinking the role of work, the role of play, the role of family, the role of friends, the time we have for each other, the space that we have for ourselves.

Ultimately 2020 has been a defining line of text of this generation. Mother Nature, fed-up with how poorly we were taking care of her world, upset with how we were focusing on our own needs at the cost of hers, forced us all to stop, sent us back to our rooms to think about what we had done wrong. We were not to be let out until we had figured out how we could do better –  we were going to build forward better.

So, how are we going to create a world that is more caring of not just ourselves, but of our communities of our countries and over our environment around us? Before 2020 we talked about sustainability. In the main the term was used, at best, as a strategic pillar of business and government strategies. At a minimum it was a strategic footnote. But did we really respect it for what it meant, past, present and future? Do we now?

Now it is THE priority.

With our world being grounded we have seen, finally, the need to recognise the definition as so much more than simply ‘green’. ‘Sustainability’ stretches across all dimensions of lives and livelihoods: economic sustainability, cultural sustainability, spiritual sustainability, social sustainability…and environmental sustainability. It is about ensuring we do not put ourselves in a position of erosion, extinction, bankruptcy, nothingness. It is about sustaining survival. Simple

The bottom line is quadruple bottom line. ‘Sustainability’ is a call to action.

How then do we look back the world we are leaving in 2020? And look forward to the one ahead in 2021? Looking back is not enough. Nor looking forward. Creating a sustainable future demands that we look into the mirror. It has been remarkable to see how now, just days before country after country in the northern hemisphere goes into the second wave of COVID-19 with second rounds of lockdowns, and just days before election day begins in the United States of America, many of us look at the challenge ahead with nervousness in our hearts, untrusting of the outcomes. Crisis, a next one, may be just around the corner.

This year has exposed very vividly the difference in our wiring – how our brains process crisis, and how our hearts and bodies respond thereafter. And that’s okay. People respond differently to crisis. People respond differently to opportunity. People respond differently to risk. People respond differently to joy.

Through each passing day, month, COVID-19 phase of 2020, we are all in a situation where we are responding differently, together. All we know for certain is that uncertainty is ahead of us. It is not about political uncertainty, social uncertainty, economic uncertainty. As our countries work through the pandemic and its impact, closing down country after country, it is about uncertainty at a humanitarian level.

Are we able to take care of each other, together, equally, for the long run?

As we look ahead, as shared earlier, this call to action has become a defining element of not just this year, but this generation. We have been so blessed to have had so much for so long. In 2020 we have been forced to stop and think: are we ready for the world ahead of us as active participants, not just admiring passengers?

Now is the time, and the opportunity, for all of us to step up, masks on, ready to create a stronger, more united, more genuinely grateful tomorrow.

2020 has roared, exposing the ferocity of its bite. This is our time to roar back. For as beautifully expressed by Benito Mussolini: “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a lamb.”

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020

 

 

 

CONNECTING IN OUR COVID-19 WORLD: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE EYES

We live in a world without smiles. At least in 2020.

Why? Because we live in a COVID-19 world of masks. Masks, protecting one another, in a year of a pandemic that is defining our generation, even though we’re still trying to define what exactly it is and how exactly it is going to impact us.

It has not been easy getting used to living in a world without smiles, especially considering how dearly we have needed smiles this year – smiles to provide comfort, smiles to provide calm, smiles to show compassion, smiles to show we care. But in our quest to care by covering up, we lose our smiles.

To remove smiles from daily life is to remove sunshine. Always there, even is cracking through heavy clouds overhead, the comfort of the sun’s presence sets a mood. There is always reason to look up.

In the first days and weeks of 2020 as COVID-19 spread across the globe, masks began to appear. Rapidly. Regulations, whether by choice or by mandate, differing though they may be country to country, became a growing presence. Some plain, some patterned, some creative expressions of personality, all were symbols of growing fears around an invisible, life and lifestyle changing phenomena. For most, the thought of a pandemic was a concept beyond all comprehension. The ability to protect oneself was beyond anything familiar. We all needed to take cover. Including covering up.

And so masks began to appear as clouds overhead only grew heavier and heavier, skies rapidly filling with trepidation, storms brewing with uncertainty around the disasters ahead. Doors, borders, skies all closed, human connection was blocked.

As time has passed, the block has become the norm. What we thought, hoped, was just a few passing months of management of this new challenge to our shared world has become a crisis defining our year.  Possibly even longer. More and more masks surround us, more and more smiles have disappeared.

With this natural, omnipresent form of emotional connection covered, with our expressions of care, love, joy, excitement, gratitude, compassion, consideration and concern covered, how are we to communicate? How are we to remain hopeful?

A new language has emerged, a new channel for communication: our eyes.

It’s all about the eyes.

Especially in these still fragile times. Like smiles, eyes have become a universal form of expression, a way of sharing, immediately, one’s mindset, a doorway into one’s thoughts.

The eyes reveal far more. When we were able to see smiles, we may never have appreciated the power of the eyes. In these COVID19 times when awareness of others is so important, eyes reveal fear, they reveal friendliness. With fatigue and frustration increasingly becoming a part of daily restrictions to life as we once knew it, choosing to ease off of caution rather than keep a mask on or keep a safe distance, eyes can reveal flippancy, and they can reveal forgetfulness.

To travel once again after so many months grounded is to see, feel, and appreciate, the power of the eyes.

As slowly our world is reopening, tourism cautiously re-starting, it is impossible to not notice the different look in the eyes of strangers, travellers, and the eyes of those being travelled to. From airports to airlines, taxi drivers to hotels, it’s all in the eyes. Whoever it is, it is the eyes that now speak.

And in those eyes, one gets a whole new understanding of the COVID-19 world in which we live, and in which we are trying to travel. Communication of the eyes has become one that we rely on to be able to trust. And as expressed by the Secretary General of the UNWTO, “Trust is the new currency”.

Trust. All of it is channelled through the eyes. There are few other ways of communicating that sense of “I will take care of me to take care of you.”

This is critical as we continue to try to make sense of so much that remains changing, rapidly. From a travel perspective, these changes have been in many places and for many people, painfully, the opening and then quickly closing of borders, hotels, restaurants, minds – lives and livelihoods changed in a moment.

How do we make sense of it all in the world of travel? At least in the next 12 months, we need to recognise that the language of the eyes is one that we need to rely onto be able to reconnect with the world, recognising that people in the world are reconnecting with their own world. The lack of a smile does not mean the lack of feeling.

For millions around us, their eyes are filled with fear – their lives and their livelihoods being taken away because of this invisible pandemic that has hit every single one of the 7.9 billion people in the world, right between the eyes, and in the heart.

In our hearts, through our eyes, we need to ensure we do not lose sight of the need to remain compassionate towards others. As hard as these times are, as hard as it can be thinking beyond the “I” to consider the “we” and the “them”, we need to appreciate that with so much around us continuing to be challenging,  and changing – all of this scary – we still have a long time until this is all over.

There is a reason why we are all familiar with the expression: “The eyes are the mirror to the soul.” In these times of unparalleled crisis, because this invisible, agnostic, inescapable virus puts everyone at risk, everyone needs everyone. As confident and courageous and cocooned as we may think we are, our eyes reveal how we need the consideration and compassion of others to maintain stamina to see the end of this generation-defining time.

Ultimately the warmth and wonder of our world comes through connecting with people. 2020’s #COVID19-defined year has unlocked a new way of communicating, a new way of connecting – giving us a new reason to look up. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020

 

 

CRISIS: IT IS NOT LINEAR, IT IS LAYERED

Just 10 days ago the world watched in absolute horror as the Port of Beirut was shaken to the ground – the hopes and lives of the people of Beirut, and across Lebanon, altered irreversibly.

Immediately one looks for reason. How? Why? Why now? What now?

The Gods were angry.

But whose Gods, and why?

So many options. So many reasons. And so what – what good does the debating do?

Whatever the source, the stretch of recovery ahead, or the arguments surrounding righting wrongs, it feels as though 2020 has become a forced daily reflection of the fact that global complexity has entered a new creative territory: fiction, possibly even science fiction.

04.08.2020. With whiplash speed, global focus immediately shifts. From COVID-19 spikes, surges, second and third wave storylines, the story immediately, dramatically, tragically moved to Beirut – investigations around the sources of the explosion, questions around how simple fertilizer could cause such profound destruction, questions around sources, questions around survivors, questions around the future of one of the world’s most monitored cities as a reflection of rumblings of change. Beirut was already in a devastated state of infrastructure and leadership system paralysis, its people already struggling to remain hopeful around a stronger, safer, more secure tomorrow. And then, in a split second, these rumblings literally exploded, rocking the nation – its shockwaves tearing at the heart of its flag while tearing across the world.

As the numbers of lives and livelihoods lost grew, statistics turning faces and families into figures for ongoing monitoring, it was the individual stories that started to emerge that kept the world’s hearts and minds centered on what really mattered. Who really mattered. Every single person in Beirut who’s life was not broken because of the blast.

A signature impression of that now-historic day’s unimaginable moment of devastation: an exquisite bride swept away during her photo shoot, live video footage capturing the transition of one of the most beautiful moments of her life into one of the most horrific. As revealed in a touching follow-up CNN interview, her life and that of her love were spared….but her love for her native Lebanon will never be the same. Her heart is broken, her hopes for a country once adored are broken. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kPL1MdexeA

As are those of families having to deal with immense loss of loved ones, loved places, lives unable to be lived. The challenges continue. The people of Beirut immediately took to the streets to clean up the rubble, claim back their lives.

The crisis facing Beirut in the aftermath of the port explosion, and resignation of Government soon after, has left a deep, dark, devastating crater in the country’s economic, political and social structures, not to mention emotional. It will take years and billions to rebuild and recovery. To heal.

Suddenly a variation in the scene emerges: some are wearing masks, some are not. The masks are not for protection from the dust and debris. The masks are to protect them from COVID-19.

Oh good lord, COVID-19.

“It’s just one crisis after another“, millions around the world can be heard saying in despair, disbelief and hope-fatigue.

But it’s not. There is, and always will be, a fundamental flaw in such a statement.

In times of crisis great minds and hearts come together in an effort to ensure that not only is the crisis’ impact minimised, but to try to find the truisms that will take us forward repeatedly. We keep hearing that every crisis prepares us for the next, every opportunity to learn making us stronger. Crisis after crisis after crisis.

Philosophically this is correct.

Practically, however, it is simply wrong.

Crisis is not linear – it is layered.

In Lebanon, COVID-19 did not stop in Beirut because there needed to be an immediate start to cleaning up the city – it’s infrastructure, it’s politics, it’s hopes for the future.

As we now move through August we see that in the southern part of the U S and in the Caribbean, once again, hurricane season is starting. Mother Nature will not stop the annual, cyclical clock because we are focused on COVID-19.

There will be a next crisis, and a next, and a next, be it economic, political, social, natural, beyond-fictional. These are all layers. One on top of the other, varying in degrees of duration, damage, depth of impact.

Look again at Lebanon – a place now facing one of the greatest social, political and economic challenges of its generation (if not history) with COVID19, economic and political collapse, and infrastructure eradication. All of this, all while was already facing the pressures of compassionately hosting over a 1.5 million refugees that were fleeing the war in Syria, refugees trying to find peace, protection and promise in a neighbouring nation. The refugee crisis does not stop for COVID-19. COVID-19 does not stop for cleanup. The clean-up does not stop until a new, trusted Government is created.

Crisis is layered. And what we must make sure we do is not forget one of those layers.

As we layer on the next, adding on layers and layers, it is vital that we recognise through it all that no one facing these layers should ever stand alone. Layers, their impact, and their victims, cannot be ranked. Their interwoven nature must be recognised and respected as a critical part of holistic, humane recovery.

As seen with COVID-19, our shared world’s invisible, primal, merciless, crisis completely uncaring of borders, boundaries, politics, lives, livelihoods, age, gender, culture, seasons or social standing,:

  • COVID-19’s mental health crisis does not wait until physical health crisis is over,
  • its economic crisis does not wait for the mental health crisis to pass,
  • surviving the physical health crisis of Wave 1 does not protect us from Wave 2.

The layers are all connected.

As are we all, wherever on the map, on the curve, on the news lineup, we may be. And in today’s 2020+ world of layered, logic-defying, longevity-redefining crisis, the message from Mother Nature is clear, the human truth undeniable: we either all win…or we all lose.

So too the truths of crisis:

  • Crisis will never be linear – we need to live with, push through, survive, and stay connected to work to suppress the layers.
  • Crisis will never leave us – they will always be present, in one form or another, in one layer or another.

and critically:

  • Crisis must never define us. Our definition comes from our layers of faith and fortitude.

And that is the bottom line. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020

 

 

 

PERMANENTLY CLOSED. THEY DIDN’T MAKE IT.

As our world works through the Summer of 2020 in the Northern hemisphere and Southern hemisphere winter sets in, we find ourselves locked into a year focused on COVID19. No longer are we looking to making it through in a matter of months. 2020 is a living case study, we all a part of the lessons and learnings of ‘here & now’.

What lies ahead?  ‘2021’ has become a part of our planning – personally, professionally, painfully. Patience is paramount. The longing for long lengths of times with loved ones, without turning away from touch, have many becoming increasingly frustrated. The initial fear of suffering the severe effects of COVID19 has, for many, turned into severe impatience. And this has turned into a false sense of confidence.

See, it hasn’t touched us yet. It can’t be that serious. And if I get it, I can just get over it….and then I can get on with my life.”

For those who have suffered COVID19, the reality of the illness is not limited to the ‘in the moment’. The risks continue, long, long after test results reveal recovery. At the same time that the world is busy managing the curve, trying to find a cure, we are trying to figure out exactly what we are needing to cure. Enduring and/or reoccurring Corona-cough, headaches, mind-haze, whatever it might be, the risks still exist. Even when the light is visible at the end of the tunnel, one can be certain of walking out to the risk of storm clouds still lingering above.

We also know of spikes and surges, early warning signs of the risks of second and third waves. Before we know it new seasons will be upon us.

Still, the world cannot stop. The quest to protect lives alongside livelihoods has become a delicate calculus for countries across the globe.

As a result, countries are opening up. Local businesses are bringing their people back, bringing in protocol-compliant cleaning teams, communicating that ‘it’s time!’. Cautiously, ever so cautiously, countries are unlocking their borders, welcoming back locals and tourists from next door and the country next door, as a means of rebuilding momentum of the heartbeat of their local economy, and society.

Travel & Tourism, a sector vividly exposed as ‘essential’ in our interconnected, interdependent world as a result of the stability, security, and sense of meaningful purpose & productivity it provides to literally billions worldwide, is now being celebrated. And a part of national re-start strategies.

Why? It is not just about the sector’s impact on global financial health – providing an invaluable 1 in 10 jobs worldwide as we entered into 2020, now facing losses of 1 million jobs per day since COVID19 cut off all global mobility of travellers (and trade). It’s about the sector’s vital ecosystem that keeps people connected, physically and emotionally, to the world and their worlds – an essential part of maintaining strength of mental, social, and environmental health and wellbeing, not just financial.

It’s time to step outside. With social distancing and mask wearing protocols being put in place to keep people safe, people are being permitted to get out, unlocking their  minds, hearts and doors after 100+ days. Annnnnndddd breathe…….

As we walk past restaurants, cafes, and shops, seeing and feeling even the slightest buzz of activity is incredibly heart lifting. It’s so good to see that people are getting out again, socialising in a way that allows us to feel that our world can and will indeed come back to life in a next normal way, able to touch one another’s lives again, even if unhuggably.

But something’s not right – some places are visibly dark. It is impossible to not notice. For all of the relief there is the reality. There are those that remain shut. The lights are off. The CLOSED sign remains firmly in place. unless the door opens to allow movers to remove furniture. There is no heartbeat coming from within, Only heartache.

Suddenly one realises the sadness of the scene: whoever the owners / operators / staff, whoever’s livelihoods were dependent on that establishment for income, for investment, for a sense of purpose, productivity and peace, there are some, many, questioning “why us?” –  their businesses didn’t make it.

These people, these livelihoods, didn’t make it through. These are casualties of COVID19 that must be recognised alongside the lives suffering from the health trauma of COVID19.

As much as we are confident, feeling more comfortable in this surreal discomfort zone of global COVID19 as a part of our daily lives, we must never stop praying for the lives, and livelihoods, of others. There are people right around the corner, right around the neighbourhood, right next door, who are still struggling and will continue to struggle. The health pandemic is merging rapidly and mercilessly with a financial pandemic. There is no vaccine, medically or financially.

Now is the time for continued prayer, patience, and hope – for ourselves, and for others. Especially those for whom the lights remain off.

We have a long journey to walk – we need to walk it together, keeping our safe distance, but still taking each step together. With each step, we need to look and see if those around us need our help, carrying them forward in thought, in prayer, in action.

Because ultimately one of the longest lasting after-effects of COVID19 will be how we re-think, re-define and re-shape, and re-commit to the world into which we will all re-enter. May it be a world of greater connection, greater compassion, and greater appreciation of being able to reach out and touch the lives, and livelihoods, of others.

In these immediate times of smile-covering masks, social distance markings, e-meetings and limited lifestyle re-makings, may we wave more, dine more, tip more, blessing-count more, believe we can create more.

Our world can be so much more. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020