I’m getting sick and tired… of all the unsolicited advice, all the emails, all the Facebook posts telling me what I should do, which online support groups I should connect with, to get through this pandemic. It’s really quite annoying, actually. Like I don’t know that I shouldn’t just eat cookies by the bagful… that I should exercise, get outside, have a routine, embrace family time… So what else is new?
Yes, I’m staying at home at least 20 hours a day, staying at least 2 metres away from family, friends, and adversaries, washing my hands so often that they’re chapped and raw, wearing a bright yellow homemade mask (or not) when I’m out in public, and putting up with copious amounts of hand sanitizer that makes me gag like my grandfather’s stale aftershave. I’m being patient, polite, and doing my civic duty. I’m Canadian. This is what we do.
When this pandemic first started, we all went through the busy-busy shock phase of self-isolation, Got all those projects done. Garden beds built. Closets cleaned, Clothes saved because they might just fit again one day finally (sigh!) set out for the thrift store. Fridge and freezer emptied and cleaned (yikes! what adventures did you have exploring the deep, dark corners of your fridge?!). Cooking like a pro. Homemade bread, cookies, cakes, pies, pizza… now, for sure those clothes have to go to the thrift store! People with kids at home deserve a medal, having active little ones underfoot while you’re trying to work, explaining to a three-year-old why they can’t go and play at the playground, or can’t go and see grandma and grandpa. Crafts, arts, music… we’ve done it all. For some people, those lucky folks, the wellspring of creativity never ends. For the rest of us, well, it’s more like… What do I do now? Listen to yet another podcast? Reach out to yet another online support group? Facetime again with Aunt Martha and other family members and friends from elementary school I haven’t seen or heard from for forty years? Play another game of scrabble, or have another movie watch-party with friends online? Forget it… I’m exhausted, physically and emotionally. And even more uncertain when this will end.
At the beginning, we reassured ourselves with words like… It won’t last forever… We can cope with this… We got this… The government will fix it… A vaccine is coming… but as time goes on, we’re starting to crack. More irritable, less patient with ourselves and others, broke, frustrated, and feeling like it might just be forever. It’s getting close to the bone.
So what now? When we get to the end of what we know, now what?
We’ve been forced to slow down… many of us against our will… and for many people, that’s hard. Really hard. Yet, here it is. Parts of us just don’t want to be still and quiet. Parts of us are railing against this whole pandemic, the government, the injustice, the incessant barking of the dog, and the neighbour’s cat that just jumped over the fence and deposited in my yard for the fifth time today! Parts of us want to hide under a blanket until it’s all over. Parts of us are fearful of going outside in case the virus is lying in wait. Parts of us long to run and play and forget about the whole thing. It won’t catch us if we’re fast enough, maybe. It’s hard. Really hard.
And yet… It’s a different story on the inside. If we pay attention, that is. Once we’re able to acknowledge and name our parts… yes, even those old painful parts or memories that have been activated by the current situation… somehow a calm emerges. It may seem counter-intuitive, but as we sit with all our parts, listen to their concerns and fears with care and compassion, and reassure them that we’re not going anywhere, that we’ll stay present, they become comforted. No matter what happens in the external world, on the inside there is still a place of calm, of clarity, of centeredness, courage, and kindness. It’s a place where we connect with the interconnectedness of nature, of all living things, of the divine, if you will. Some people meditate, practice yoga, and pray to discover this space. Many people have learned to centre and calm by focusing on their breath, or relaxation exercises that focus on the internal world. Others take a walk in the woods, or sit by the sea.
Wherever you find it, take space. For even a few moments, connect on the inside. That may just be enough.
Everything’s gonna be all right.