March 11th, just a little over 3 weeks ago, marks the day our world changed forever. It was not long ago at all and yet it feels like a lifetime ago… we got the call that morning telling us that the mighty Mom Klein had died. We visited our son (2 days before visits were shut down for the foreseeable future), grateful we could deliver this news in person and share our tears, love, and hugs. I went out to lunch with my sister at a local restaurant and enjoyed a nice meal, and probably another hug or two.
March 12th – with a growing sense of things quickly spinning into something unknown and foreign, I did a radio show with Lori and Keith from Recovery Coach University Radio. With a heightened sense of awareness, we did wipe all the equipment and surfaces with Clorox wipes and mostly kept our distance, but we didn’t yet get how serious this was. We joked about the toilet paper hoarding and shook our heads in confusion… and just to be safe, on the way home, I bought two packs. We affirmed and were relieved by my younger son’s decision to cancel his trip to Florida for Spring Break, even though he is young and healthy… already it felt like the unquestionably right call. Just days earlier I had told him I thought they’d be fine to go…
Things were changing and happening so rapidly and have been ever since. I feel like I’ve been caught in a whirlwind… internally and externally. A blur of news updates, of emails advising of extra precautions being taken which rapidly morphed into “We are closed until further notice…” Cancellations, closures, schools switching to online learning,… more and more erasures in the planner of all the trips, appointments, and events I had coming up. April went from one in which I would barely be home to one in which I will only be home, with no plans. Each day brings with it a swirl of thoughts and feelings as I try to magically predict when this will all be over, fall into despair, perk up at a story of goodness – living within the chaos of it all.
It’s a lot. We must be gentle.
There has been so much letting go… of classes, appointments, events, routines, regular support, fun times with others, contact with loved ones. And, in all this letting go, we are all feeling the weight of uncertainty. Those words “until further notice” land with a dark and ominous tone. They remind us that life is always uncertain – we just usually pretend it isn’t. Somehow it feels extra uncertain right now with so many things being disrupted all at once. The fear is palpable as this invisible antagonist sweeps around the world. As we take in the death tolls, we are faced with our own immortality and the truth that one day those we love will also die. We hope it won’t be alone.
We are ordered to shelter in place, to self-quarantine, or to PAUSE as our NY Governor has called it. For a moment we imagine all that we’ll get done in this time when busy-ness is taken away. But then we feel the weight of it all, and we are reminded of how exhausted we are and that stress takes a toll on everything. We are brought to our knees as we are forced to confront what is truly essential. To re-prioritize our lives – what really matters? Health. Relationships. Life. Love. Kindness. Compassion. Generosity.
All these free offerings?? They are oh so tempting to someone with Bright Shiny Object Syndrome, like moi! The urge to fill in all that usually coveted white space is strong, and I catch myself mindlessly signing up, saying “yes, please distract me from the here and now…” Nature abhors a vacuum, and apparently so do I. Until I reality check and realize my bandwidth is not as wide as my white space – it’s actually much, much less than before.
I remember to be gentle with myself.
I don’t need to do all the things – only those that will really nourish me. I only need to be on the calls with people and in groups that feel supportive. I can skip the rest. This might not be the time to learn a new skill or to focus on business. This might be a time when less really is more. I want to do more less!
Over the past few weeks it has been easy to let this ever-present concern consume us. It’s been easy to get obsessed even when we didn’t intend to. Even if you don’t watch the news (which I don’t generally), the news is everywhere…social media posts, headlines of breaking news at the top of my email inbox and within every single email that comes in it’s there… Coronavirus… COVID-19. We need to be informed, but we don't need to be flooded with input. It's too much to digest.
We see the inherent inter-connectedness of all beings and this both terrifies and empowers us. We are reminded that viruses don’t respect borders, oceans, or walls.
We find ourselves reeling as we ride the roller coaster of emotions in this human experience – feeling our own and the collective fear, overwhelm, sadness, dread, and grief while also being uplifted and inspired by the many acts of compassion, caring, kindness, love, and generosity. This time bringing out the best and the worst in us.
It’s a lot.
We come to realize that we are feeling more tired and less productive than we’d like – not an easy thing to accept in a culture used to driving, doing, achieving, producing, succeeding… Suddenly we wonder what “succeeding” even means right now.
Now we realize that it’s nearly impossible to find motivation or create from a space of exhaustion and anxiety. So, we surrender to Netflix bingeing, earlier bedtimes, and longer nights of sleep.
This is our new normal, and it’s anything but “normal.” It changes moment by moment, and the only reasonable way to approach it is one moment at a time.
We feel the weirdness of endless disinfecting and keeping our hands from touching our faces. We feel the creepiness in the air as masked figures move together, but apart, averting gazes (as if we won’t really be there if we don’t look at one another), collectively holding our breath – together, but apart.
And we're reminded that in the empty streets what feels like the end of the world is also a reflection of our great act of love, our care and concern for others, our desire to be part of the solution.
It’s. A. LOT!
So, please… go gently into this next day. Into this next moment.
Take breaks – a lot of breaks. Get more rest than feels reasonable.
Offer tender loving care to your sweet self.
Say “yes” to the things that make you happy.
Bake the familiar goodies that comforted you as a child (Betty Crocker Blueberry Buckle for me today!).
Wear clothes and jewelry that feel good. Maybe wear things from places you’ve loved or concerts you’ve enjoyed (today I’m wearing my Albuquerque sweatshirt to mark that I should have been arriving there this afternoon).
Hug a tree. I’m pretty sure that’s still a safe thing to do!
Offer a loving smile to a stranger. Call a friend.
Extend love and compassion freely, often, and wherever you can, beginning with yourself.
Know that we will get through this.
Go gently… until further notice.
How are you going gently these days?? Please share in the comments below. We can learn from you.