As we traverse the landscape of our new world, we are each attempting to ascertain what is right in our lives and what is wrong, including our behaviors. There are stages in this process just as there are stages to the grieving process. In a way, we are all grieving; some for those who have been lost to this pandemic, some to the future they thought they were well on their way to achieving, and some the relationships that are being stressed to the breaking point.
None of us knows what to expect and all of us are becoming impatient with our confinement. We miss the predictability of the past and we long for our “freedom.” For those of us at home, our “vacation time” has disappeared being replaced by boredom. There is only so much baking, sewing, cleaning, or reading one person can do.
Boredom can bring on risky behavior such as: going shopping, then going shopping without a mask and gloves, then going out to eat, and finally perhaps, going back to the way things were before the virus. This is also the stage where our old negative patterns resurface—our destructive programming. This type of mental behavior is what allows humanity to destroy the only planet we have, while either denying the evidence or belief that in the last minute, someone or something will ride in and save us.
Additionally, as the time goes on, the techniques we have been using begin to grow thin and you find yourself angry and scared. No amount of being in the moment or practicing gratitude can necessarily stop us from becoming irritated; irritated at the way our partners chew their food, irritated with our friend or children’s inconsideration, irritated with our government, and irritated with ourselves. Then the guilt sets in for having these feelings. Your emotions become erratic, eventually culminating with you sitting in your car crying because of all the pent-up frustration, or screaming rage at the TV news, or completely giving up on all the things we once enjoyed.
All of this is normal. We have all been collectively flung into a chaos for which we were ill prepared. No one schooled us on how to withstand a crisis of this magnitude. We are all fighting for our sanity in an arena where the rules are unknown to us. The arena is where vulnerability is. Vulnerability is defined as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. To quote a therapist I know, “Every single time you are vulnerable, comparison, scarcity, and shame are coming into the arena with you.” Comparison: “Why the F is that person not wearing a mask?” “Look at how much she is exercising!?” “Wow! They cooked that?!” “This would be so much easier if I was single.” “This would be so much easier if I was married.” We are looking around comparing ourselves to other people. Scarcity: “Do I have enough toilet paper?” “Do I have enough food?” “I don’t have enough time to do all of this” “I will never accomplish my dream now.” And lastly shame. Shame runs two tapes and it’s going to sound something like this: “I’m not enough right now. I’m not doing enough. I suck right now. I’ve gained ten pounds, I’m worthless.” Or, “Who do I think I am to complain right now? I’m so blessed. I should be grateful.”
What this period can also bring us is time. Time to slow ourselves down and begin to analyze our lives, our physical bodies, our values, and our plans for the future. In our previous lives we were always too busy to care for ourselves; now you have that opportunity. Take this time to look at your life and whether it is one you love and feel care for and cared about or is it one that you are doing because you know no other way? We are being given the chance to make changes in our world both from the inside and from the outside.
The crazy feelings you are having right now are normal. Don’t fight them. But when the noise stops in your head, use the time you have to explore, imagine, create and get excited about all your potentials again.