On Saturday, October 7th, I awoke to the sound of aid raid sirens, a low boom, and then a louder one.
My husband and I were in a hotel in Tel Aviv, on vacation. After the sirens, we quickly dressed and took the stairs down to the main floor. Breakfast was being served, and everyone was talking anxiously. There was little information, but it was clear there would be nothing routine about this day or the subsequent ones.
Over the following five days, as we sequestered in the hotel and navigated returning home from a nation newly at war, I observed my own reactions to the stress and uncertainty.
Here are some reflections I made during this time:
The fine line between planning and worrying.
We are [were] vigilant and proactive about being as safe as possible, and exploring ways to go home. But it’s also been helpful to say, we’ve done enough now and can stop.
Taking one step at a time.
Some moments I feel paralyzed by anxiety, What helps is doing one thing, taking one step even when the whole feels overwhelming.
People are always the answer.
The hotel staff preparing breakfast and showing us the safe spaces. The friend who offered us their couch to stay. The patient airline representatives when I call twice a day.
When I look back on my notes, now safely at home, what strikes me is the disconnect between what I feel I ought to have done but actually did. There was a lot of downtime but could I work, could I collect my writing into an on-time newsletter? No. The combination of potential physical danger (daily rocket attacks) and uncertainty (our flights repeatedly cancelled) swamped out my creative thought processes.
As the leader of myself, it was important to accept the impact of the situation on my body and brain.
As the leader of others, I’ve seen stressed out teams – technical challenges, organizational overhauls, etc – even if no one on these teams was in physical danger. But our bodies can’t tell the difference between physical and virtual threats, and they respond to both.
As the leader of others, I similarly pledge to accept and understand when people are just not ok (for any number of reasons), and that accepting this isn’t avoidance but bravely facing reality.
Courageous leadership is compassionate leadership.