Viral Disruption

Viral Disruption:  RPCVs, where are you on the change curve? 

by Anne Pellicciotto, President and Chief Change Agent, SeeChange Consulting, RPCV MX (2010-12)

We are a good six weeks into this coronavirus crisis – terms like #socialdistancing and #shelterinplace are regular hashtagged parts of our speech, similarly face masks and gloves have become regular parts of our wardrobes.

It’s amazing, in some ways, how well we are adapting. Especially, undoubtedly, we RPCVs. We can handle anything, right?  

I shot this photo ages ago (in mid-March) at a joyful RPCV/MtP potluck,  when we were still blissfully ignorant, imagining this as a passing pandemic. But we had no idea what was coming - and no say in the matter. 

As challenging as Peace Corps service is - and mine in Mexico was a roller-coaster - we make the choice to join-up. 

But this pandemic crisis is different: we haven’t chosen this change; the change has chosen us. All we can choose – RPCVs and regular folk alike – is how we REACT.

I remember the day reality hit me. Headed up to Mt Pleasant Street for my regular Monday vinyasa class, I arrived to find the studio doors locked, signs on the windows announcing Closed for Coronovirus, be safe, join us online.  

Turning down the deserted strip in a daze, shops and restaurants shuttering, spring sun blazing, my adrenaline pumping, I could hear my brain protesting as my feet stomped down the sidewalk:  I don’t want virtual yoga, I want the real thing!

Bamm, like that, I was out of the comfy Denial Stage. 

The mind is quick – it’s smart – it jumped ahead to try to warn me, flashing a list of losses before me: SeeChange clients vanishing, retirement nest-egg crumbling, Airbnb customers canceling, travel plans called-off. And beneath those first world inconveniences lurked the deeper fight/flight fears:  illness, destitution, death.

For better and worse, on a dime, I’d shifted into Stage 2, Resistance.  

Resistance is an uncomfortable but important place to be. It’s when the fear kicks in because the external changes become internalized. It’s where the possibility exists to TRANSFORM.

Transformation is only possible in this way:  facing our fears and acknowledging the feelings, rather than skirting around, over, or under them and diving right into solutions. 

I don’t know about you, but I cheated. A can-do problem solver, I’m an expert at analyzing, plotting, planning, applying for grants, reaching out to clients with new proposals and pivot programs, all the while gorging on the sensational crisis news. Exhausting.  

I’m also a change agent, yogi, writer, runner, and RPCV. Yet, in all the pandemic pandemonium, I’d abandoned my arsenal of mindful coping practices. I knew, in my bones, this was not the way to go. But I couldn’t stop myself...until I was ready.

Change takes time. 

One afternoon, after a series of sapping, zapping Zoom sessions, in a moment of stillness, rays of sunset streaming through my window, a wispy question appeared across the sky of my mind: 

What matters most?

Inhaling, exhaling a long slow breath, I cocked my head, ready to listen. 

I got up from my desk, walked down the stairs, and stepped out into the spring day. Standing on my porch, I felt a waft of breeze tickle my face. Bending down, I fingered the fronds of a fiddle-head fern that had unfurled. Eyes closed, I caught the symphony of birdsong filling the trees, particularly sweet in the absence of the usual, pre-pandemic Park Road traffic noise.

What matters, I realized, was this: life, me. 

It has been a voluptuous spring - nature is immune to pandemic - and I’d almost missed it! 

Inhaling a gulp of clear spring air, I made a promise: to take time each day for myself – feel the feelings of loss, yes, and make space for all that’s possible.  

I could shut-off the mind-numbing news media, get down on my yoga mat and into my own flow, step outside and listen to the birds, use this expansive #foma-free time how I wanted.  It was my choice.

What’s your choice?

For more ideas on taking charge of your change, visit And stay tuned for my next post exploring Crisis and Opportunity. 

“Things don’t change; we just change our way of looking.”  (Castaneda, Carlos. The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge.)