A Survivor’s Guide to the Pandemic: “I contain multitudes”

February 3rd, 2021 by Kelly Kienzle

Walt Whitman wrote this line 165 years ago, yet it contains present-day advice on how to create variety out of the boredom and perseverance out of the strain of the pandemic.  Whitman wrote (and Dylan elaborated on it in a song last year) about how he contained multitudes which often contradicted each other.

“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself;
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)”

But it’s not only our personalities that contain contradictions.  Contradiction and paradox are what have filled our lives these past 10 months.  Contradictions in our daily life, such as being…

  • Bored yet Overworked
  • Separated yet Never Alone
  • Hopeful yet Despondent
  • Awestruck yet Beaten Down

So how do we manage this multitude of contradictions?  I say manage these multitudes with your own multitudes.  Each of us contain a full chess set of opposing and sometimes contradictory skills, interests, and aspirations.  Try out each of them.   Surprise yourself by contradicting yourself.  Surprise vanquishes boredom.  Contradictions keep us observant and learning new things.  Here are some of my multitudes that I have done or will be doing soon:

  • Spend the entire day outside on a long, easy hike; then stay under a warm blanket all the next day
  • Read a chapter or two from an autobiography; then spend a half hour writing about what’s going through your own mind
  • Find an object around your house, yard or block that represents all the crap you’ve been dealing with during the pandemic; then re-make that object into something beautiful
  • Send a text to a friend whose joy and positivity has helped you; then call someone else who might be struggling

Doing exercises such as these reminds us of two truths:

  1. Life is always full of contradictions and a multitude of seemingly conflicting realities
  2. We each have a multitude of skills, interests and aspirations to use as tools, strategies and props

Don’t do what you did yesterday.  Tap into your multitude-ness and take it out for a spin.


If you would like to discover and exercise more of your multitudes in your work, please contact me to discuss how leadership coaching could support you in that goal.

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