Good morning friend.
How are you feeling today? Let’s take big breath together. Let’s be here, right now, together.
Depending on where you are in North America as you read this, you’re likely in week two or week three of social distancing and isolation. It’s a strange and surreal thing to be collectively experiencing something like this, but yet we are experiencing it physically alone. Take heart in knowing that the things you may have felt in the past three weeks, we are all feeling.
Between my friends and family, there’s talk about how we are weathering being alone so much, and what we miss about life before the pandemic. Depending on whether the person I’m talking to is more introverted, or extroverted, they may or may not be loving all the time at home – or feel deeply unsatisfied with the lack of connection they find in a FaceTime conversation.
No matter your response in that regard, I wanted to sit with you today over a cup of coffee (the sun is rising here, my coffee is still hot, my children still sleeping) and talk about the things we have lost, gained, and will never regain because of this global experience. Deep breath again, this is a message of hope, not despair.
There are watershed moments in life, maybe one or two a decade I’d estimate, where you see yourself pre and post a certain moment. Can you remember the moment you began to see your parents as their own person, separate from you, and capable of mistakes? Life feels a little uncertain and shaky, after you realize that your parents are just as flawed and human as you are. This is a watershed moment.
Can you remember the first real relational loss or conflict you experienced, maybe with a friend in the 7th grade, or a boyfriend or girlfriend college? That heartbreak and the wisdom and perhaps guardedness you gained in that experience shapes all the relationships after it. This is a watershed moment.
COVID19 and it’s affects is something we are literally all experiencing together (due to closures of businesses and disruption of “regular life”). What makes this a watershed moment for me, and perhaps you, is the way I’ve been confronted with things I had not seen as clearly before social distancing and isolation. Things within myself that I can’t unseen. Personally, this has and continues to change my life in a way that it will not be the same afterwards.
The global pandemic is affecting us all, in different ways and varying degrees. Depending on if you know anyone sick with covid19, have a connection to an area geographically that has been decimated by the virus, or are sick yourself – or if your mental health has taken a serious nosedive, your relationships are suffering, or you’re feeling very alone and forgotten about – we are all affected.
This is a watershed moment.
We won’t know, probably for years to come, how this global pandemic has affected our lives. The economy, education, health care, our care of the elderly, public health – it will all be different, because of this. And so will we. What I want to invite you into today is witnessing how this has and is affecting you. We may not know the global affects of this yet, but we can be a witness for ourselves in this moment. The simple practice of being a witness to ourselves can shape how this pandemic affects us.
What have you gained? What have you lost? It may feel strange to say you’ve “gained” something when literally tens of thousands of people have died during this pandemic. But even gaining a more empathetic perceptive for the elderly, the immune suppressed, the vulnerable, is something we can be grateful for amidst this tragedy. I know I will certainly will be more cautious and thoughtful when I’m sick in the future, and interact with others. As cautious as we are all being now, with hand washing and social distancing, some families have to bear that burden all the time and without public support. Awareness of these things is something we have gained.
And of course there is so much lost. Lives. Literal lives. Important moments. Weddings cancelled. Graduations that will look so different. Career milestones. Trips. Birthday celebrations. It is ok, and right, to honour what you’ve lost even if you recognize that others have lost so much themselves. One of the ways we are going to get through this is by honouring our own experience during this pandemic, while also validating and honouring the experience of others. Here, in Manitoba Canada, my experience is not the same as a mother in Italy, or New York City, or in Toronto. But I can have empathy for my own experience, while recognizing another’s pain and fear is much greater than mine. As humans, our empathy is not finite. Our humanity, and our capacity for empathy and hope, is what unites us during these times.
Take time today, this week, right now, to honour where you are. For those of us who are others centred (I’m looking at you, Enneagram ones, twos, and sixes), remember that it is not selfish or taking something away from someone to value your experience and check in with yourself. In fact, offering ourselves compassion and empathy better prepares us to offer empathy and compassion to others.
Pure adrenaline and fight/flight/freeze may have gotten us through the first two to three weeks of this crisis, but as we look to the global reality of our lives likely being very different for weeks and months to come, the adrenaline fades and we need to deal with what is here, now, and how we are coping with all the changes. It is more than ok to be in survival mode right now, and to be there throughout this; but in moments where you have the capacity to breath through the overwhelm, take the time process what you have lost, and also what you have gained.
I’ve lost certainty. I’ve lost stability. I’ve lost coping strategies and support systems that have taken me years to develop. I’ve lost the comfort of family and friends physically close by. I’ve lost my patience with my kids more times than I can count.
The world certainly feels scarier to me than it did a month ago. Something as simple as government mandated closures of stores we frequent regularly is very destabilizing, even though it’s for our safety and protection. We can honour that fear and uncertainty. We can honour the loss of physical strength when we can’t go to the gym, or the loss of community when we don’t get to be in our churches and book clubs. We may be able to FaceTime with those we love, and also cry when the call ends because a screen is not a substitute for a hug. We can grieve how this affects our children, long term, and how hard it is to be “on” all the time as parents. Yes, we are safe, yes we are fed, but we do not have to be suffering the most to be suffering in some way. Take time to breath through those feelings of fear, grief, uncertainty, and be a good friend to yourself while you do it.
Remember the mantra from this post last week? It’s one you can return to in feelings of overwhelm, when the news gets worse, when you know someone who is being tested or is sick, when you can’t go back to work or your kids can’t go back to school.
This is a moment of suffering.
Suffering is a part of every human’s experience.
May I be kind to myself
be strong for myself
as I experience this suffering.
And remember – there are things we have gained, personally and collectively, from this experience as well. I’ll share more about that next week, when I’ll be posting
Watershed – Part 2: All the things we do not need…
Until then, stay well, stay home, and wash your hands.
p.s. please comment below if you need a friend to listen, and a space to process. I see you.