Hey there. How are you?
No. I mean really...how are you?
I have been home almost exclusively going on 4 weeks now. It’s been so long that at some points it almost feels like this is how it's always been, but more often I have this sense that I'm living in some parallel universe. I have awareness that this is me and this looks kind of like my life, but it's also completely foreign. Almost like I can see it, but I can’t touch it. And other times that I am so in it that I can’t escape.
Life is so very different right now. Just a few short weeks ago our kids were in school, we were going to work, and running to the store to grab milk or bread, getting lunch with a friend, or going to a movie wasn’t something that we saw as a privilege or thought twice about. And now, everything is different. We all, collectively, have experienced a loss of ‘normal’ life. And it’s okay to grieve that loss; to be sad about the way things have changed and how helpless you might feel because of that. Not only is it okay, I encourage you to explore those feelings. I encourage you to explore those feelings because I am simultaneously encouraging myself to explore them as well. And, I get it. Sometimes they are really hard to move through.
Today you might feel sad or overwhelmed or stressed out. Allow yourself to feel that. Take a moment right now to close your eyes and really feel it. Tomorrow you might feel happy, calm, or motivated. Feel that too. There is space for all of it. Increased peace can be found with gentle acceptance of this ebb and flow, this changed reality. Allow yourself to feel exactly what it is you’re feeling in this moment and in the next. Don’t hold too tightly to ‘good’ days or ‘bad’ days. They’re all just days and when we can accept them as such, without expectation or attachment, then we can move through them, appreciating them for exactly what they are while also knowing that they will change.
This is a time to be particularly aware of the ‘shoulds’ because they are so easy to fall victim to. I should be cleaning my house. I should be more productive with this extra time. I should read that book or take up that new hobby. I should, I should, I should. Let go of the shoulds. This is not an ordinary time, so our expectations of ourselves should NOT (see what I did there?) be ordinary either. We all manage anxiety and stress differently. Some people go into full on productivity as a means of getting through (so it’s okay if your best friend, distant relative, or neighbor down the street is painting their entire house, remodeling their kitchen, or learning Japanese). Some of us go into other types of self-preservation, which might look a lot more like hibernation (hello binge-watching Netflix, cuddling with a loved one, or simply sitting and doing nothing). There is no right way or wrong way to cope right now. There are just the ways that we are coping and the ways that we aren’t. It’s okay if your speed is different than someone else’s. In accepting your own ways of being right now, try to accept others’ as well.
This time will change us. It is changing us. The reality of that might seem scary or frustrating or confusing, but if we let it, it can also be beautiful, and liberating, and exciting. We are all experiencing something that is very different than anything we have experienced before. We are seeing the interconnectedness of our world in ways that may challenge our previous views or understanding of the world. This is a shared, collective experience that we are all going through at exactly the same time. These emotions, which may feel unique to you at times, are coursing through all of us, pulsating in each of our beings, even if the rhythm itself varies. You are not alone. No matter how alone you might feel, you are not alone.
We are all adjusting. At times we might be learning from each other what exactly that looks like. And we might ask ourselves how we support others when we are afraid. How we listen when we want to be heard. How we provide when we feel helpless. If we look closely, really closely, we might find that our fears now are some of the same fears we have always had, just a little more amplified. Harder to ignore. This is what it is to be profoundly and utterly human. Embrace it.
We don’t exactly know what the future holds for us. Our collective understanding may be urging us to see that life will never be quite the same again. Is that terrifying or is it beautiful? Is it ominous or alluring? And when can we honestly say that any experience is anything less than that? If we allow them, all experiences have the ability to change us in deep and profound ways. Certainly some more than others, but the ones that do so most meaningfully might surprise you.
For now, and in the days ahead, until we reach the summit, which even now we can only imagine, I encourage you to go outside. Breathe deeply. Feel the sun on your face, the breeze as it moves through your hair and glides along your skin, leaving goosebumps in its wake. Listen to the birds chirping or a dog barking or your children laughing. See the trees blooming, bursting forth in color. And know, from the very depths of your being, that the world is still turning and life is still happening. Witness it. Be part of it. Breathe deeply. Be here.