A few weeks ago, I sat outside at a restaurant with a good friend and talked about the complexities of trying to see my parents, who live on the other side of the United States, in the time of COVID-19. They are high-risk, both in terms of age. In addition, my mother is severely immunocompromised due to cancer treatments. I was doing the math, weighing risks and restrictions. The kids’ schools had sent a letter asking for no travel two weeks before they start. We were at higher risk as my son had started baseball and camp. Massachusetts requires a 14-day quarantine upon return. I had a board meeting and financing to close. My friend patiently listened for a few minutes and then said, “You just need to go. Now.” I then remembered that her mother had died of cancer a few years earlier. She was saying this from a place of experience, grief, and loss. She was totally right.
So, this past week, I took a lawn chair and sat outside a clinic at 6am for two hours for a rapid COVID test the day before leaving. I gathered up a few medical grade N95 masks, ate a giant breakfast knowing I wouldn’t take the mask off during the nine-hour journey. When I landed, I sat in the back of my dad’s car on the opposite side with the windows fully down and masks on for the drive from the airport. I showered immediately upon entering the house, threw all my clothes in a plastic bag, and sealed it. Then I got to hug my mom.
People who have experienced the death of a loved one are wiser about living life with awareness that each day is a gift. I first learned this lesson when my sister died. She was only 25 years old. It taught me that, in a blink of an eye, everything you thought your future might hold can disappear. Since then, I ask myself now and then: “If I died today, would I have any regrets?” That mindset has helped me quit jobs that weren’t a fit, pursue new ideas, take trips, call friends to tell them I miss them and work harder to see them, and apologize quickly when necessary. I just hadn’t processed that not seeing my parents again was on the list.
A “Just Go” mentality requires creativity and perseverance because it is much easier to maintain business as usual. One of my favorite stories about COVID-related creativity involved a man in his late-eighties whose wife was in a nursing home. He had spent every day of the last year by her side, but then the facility shut down. She lived on the 3rd floor and he couldn’t see her. He was devastated. One night his kids were brainstorming and had the wild idea of renting a bucket truck. They put a plea out on social media. A week later, he was hoisted up to the third floor and visited with his wife. I had dozens of very rational reasons not to travel cross-country right now. But, ultimately, if my mom or dad passed away this fall, I knew I would regret not going.
COVID-times are prompting profound reflections on life and priorities. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to ask yourself: “If I died today, what would I regret?” Write down what comes to mind, if anything. Then, just go. Think creatively about how you can move those regrets off your list. It won’t happen overnight. The answers won’t always be obvious. You might need to ask others for help. And, yes, there could be a few where you just can’t or shouldn’t “go” right now—COVID or otherwise—no matter how creative you get.
When you do reach that place where not much comes to mind whenever you ask yourself that question, it is a glorious place to be. Just one of the many reasons I am grateful that my friend encouraged me to “Just Go.”