So many of us all around the world are sheltering in place right now.
As we do, we feel so hopeful. Perhaps a little skeptical, too. We want this to work!
But it is all highly irregular.
When I talk with my inner circle of dear ones, I am finding we all feel a little (or a lot) discombobulated.
“Free time!” screams our multi-tasking, mentalizing, must-stay-busy mind. “Productivity! You could get. everything. DONE. Write a book! Sort your closet! Change the world!”
Meanwhile, our subversive stomach whispers, “Hey, there are SNACKS in the pantry. CHIPS. Your favorite. And WINE. Chips and wine go great with Netflix.”
Our body craves rest. Naps. The couch is dangerously close to the work-from-home area.
And our spirit….can we just say “dissociate?”
It really is exhausting.
I’ll be honest. I expected myself to sail through this stay at home stuff with flying colors, gold stars, whatever, because, well, I already stay at home all the time. I work from home, after all. And after more than a decade of practice, setting my own hours, keeping my own schedule, budgeting my own time, it is usually all rather second nature by now.
But it isn’t second nature right now. Because there is nothing at all usual about this. This is what I am learning. People are kind of, well, wigged out.
If you are anything like me, part of your mind is even now orbiting Mars (which of course is far far away from a certain virus that starts with “C”) wondering how fast we can get there and colonize already. Another part is avidly consuming viral news, literally.
And still another part is busy beating yourself up for all those chips and the as yet undone to-do list – which is actually a handy distraction from worrying nonstop about elderly loved ones, inadequately washed produce and what effect last night’s extended happy hour may or may not have had on overall immune system efficacy.
You may not be feeling anything like this. (But I suspect if that is the case, you likely aren’t reading this blog post either.)
Are you feeling isolated? Afraid? Connected yet…not? We are all in this together, it is true. And yet, tucked in the backs of our minds is the unavoidable fact that, should we happen to test positive for COVID-19, all that togetherness will as quickly evaporate, replaced by a rapid-fire official investigation into how and where and who else and how long and how many.
In some ways, that part feels way worse than actually getting the disease.
Which is why I thought I would share some thoughts gleaned from some of my absolute favorite mentors about how to care for yourself during this shelter in place time.
You see, there are specific gifts you really deserve and need during times like these….five in particular. I list them here in no particular order – if you think of any I missed, please add them in the comments!
You need it.
Your mind, your heart, your body, it is all processing a lot right now.
Reason being, a planet-wide pandemic.
No one ever wakes up in the morning and thinks to themselves, “I bet a planet-wide pandemic will happen today (or even during my lifetime).” We never think this.
Yet here it is.
So if it takes you a little longer to get things done, and you can’t figure out why and you are not sure where the time is going and why it sometimes feels like time is speeding by and standing still all at the same time, this is okay. This is – dare I say it in these deeply abnormal times – normal.
And it is good to pause occasionally or often throughout the day and just sit. And breathe. Deeply. It is good to close your eyes if you feel comfortable. It is good to ask yourself, “what do I need right now?” It is even better to listen and wait for the answer and then give that to yourself.
A dear friend of mine shared that she has been having to stop for five-minute intervals throughout the day to just sit and breathe and meditate. Notice she didn’t say she has been choosing to do this. She told me she has been having to do this. Like, it is an actual need she has right now.
What do you need? Give yourself time to ask yourself this question. And answer it. And honor your own honesty by providing for your own true needs.
2. Rest (a break).
I almost titled this one “give yourself a break.” As in, not just a coffee break, but a break from your inner critic, your inner judge, your inner time management and productivity and achievement taskmaster. They are really not doing any of us any favors right now.
This in spite of the fact that, at least if you are like me, you may still be working away right now. And don’t get me wrong. I feel really really grateful to have a job and to have work at this particular moment in history!
But work is also wearing me out more than usual. Lots of clients want articles about pandemic topics. Reading and researching to write these articles terrifies me. As you might imagine, this can be a productivity-killer. Normally I am an article-writing machine. But not right now. Plus, I can’t go out like I have grown accustomed to doing, breaking up my workday with errands or thrifting or a coffee shop pitstop or whatever feels right on a given day.
Ergo, I am finding that, right now, when I am working, writing, taking care of business as usual, it is taking double the energy to do it. This time – there is just nothing usual about it.
Then at night when I am finally done working and can fall into bed, I am noticing it can be hard to sleep. My brain has taken to waking me up around 3am to deliver its list of reasons as to why me and my life and my goals and my dreams are all a total lost cause. We argue for awhile until I pull out the big guns – reiki, tapping and meditation. Then it usually quiets down (aka lurks until I fall asleep so it can get me in my dreams).
So night time rest….not so restful these days.
This means I am having to find other ways to take rest. Like being in nature. Going for walks at the local nature center is very restful to me. The other day we saw baby turtles the size of quarters sunning themselves on lily pads! Every time I think of them, I feel a deep, restful peace come over me.
My rescued 3-toed box turtle, Bruce, woke up from hibernation on day two of our shelter-in-place order. Since then, I have given myself plenty of rest just sitting on the lawn playing with him.
Also, I bought myself a tiny runt of a fig tree-let.
It was on the last shopping trip I did myself before transitioning over to Instacart. As I walked into our local Sprouts, I couldn’t help but notice a bunch of overachiever fruit trees lined up all in a row at the entrance – apples, pears, plums….and figs.
Oh why did it have to be figs. And such affordable figs, too!
Most of the trees were already quite tall – nearly as tall as me. They looked very ready to be fruit trees.
But then there was this one tree. It was right at the end of the row of trees. It was a tiny fig tree, half the size of the others, with a few starter leaves and two awkward little branches coming off its small round trunk.
Guess where it is now?
If you guessed “in a planter pot in my backyard” give yourself a treat. A fig, if you have any. 🙂
Did you know there is a special hashtag just for people who are not willing to maintain social distance from others? #COVidiots.
If the shoe fits….
Several of my most treasured mentors have taken to social media of late to urge, nearly beg people to actually stay six feet apart.
But you know what I’ve struggled with about social distancing?
It can feel really rude!
I haven’t done too well with my parents. I have been over to visit them and help out with things twice since our stay-at-home order was imposed. Both times, without even thinking, we have hugged each other hello just like we always do.
It can also be hard with neighbors. Here, there is not that unconsciousness I’ve felt with my parents. But there is still a familiarity and a trust born of it that feels like it should make social distancing irrelevant. But it doesn’t.
It really struck me on that last shopping trip (the fig tree trip) to see so many people wearing masks and gloves and actively maneuvering their carts to maintain a safe distance – not an easy feat in those kid-sized aisles!
That is when the shoe shifted to the other foot. I saw that, to some people, it can feel really rude to NOT maintain six feet of appropriate distance.
The truth is, we do need space right now – for our own good and for the collective good.
I am learning it is okay to ask for it, demand it, give the same to others, no explanation needed.
What the heck?! Yes, you need play. You need to play.
I could have as easily called this one “joy.” You need to remember what it is we are all fighting so hard to preserve, to save.
It isn’t so you can quickly get back to work and finish populating that spreadsheet or complete that stack of reports.
Even if you have a job you adore, there is a lot more to life than bringing home the bacon (so to speak).
And if you don’t adore your job, or if suddenly you find yourself without one, panic is not the route that will get the cash you need flowing back in.
But play will.
By “play” I don’t (just) mean swinging on the kids-only swingset or trouncing your actual kid in a game of Go Fish.
I mean imagine. Dream. Act as-if. Stand in as many other sets of possible-you shoes as possible. Ask yourself deep questions in a very curious and kind voice, inquiring with great interest and gentleness as to what may have gone missing from your life up until this point and if now might be the moment to start adding some of those things back in.
Take a step or few outside your own day-to-day box – that same box that has been wildly and unexpectedly relocated and (likely) rearranged – and, just for fun mind you, give it all a good playful makeover.
Dream up a single affirmation (or a few, if you are affirmation-friendly) and say it to yourself every day or every time you start to feel panicked or annoyed or utterly exhausted.
Do things that turn your brain upside down, like coloring in your child’s coloring book or putting together a complicated and beautiful jigsaw puzzle. Bounce a slinky down the stairs. Hula hoop.
Say your affirmation while you play and when you wake up in the middle of the night feeling like nothing will ever be okay ever again.
This is my favorite affirmation (feel free to use it too!):
BRAVE. I am brave.
Patience doesn’t really feel like a gift.
It feels like no carrot and a lot of stick, at least if you are me.
But patience has gifts of its own to give if you are willing to, well, wait.
The biggest gift patience has ever given me is perspective. Trust. Faith, even.
With nearly five decades under my personal belt, I can now look back and see how very few things I have really, really, REALLY wanted have ever come to me right away.
Most of my big dreams have taken years and sometimes decades to manifest.
Now that I have a few of those big dreams actually in place or at least in progress, this has given me a measure of trust that the dreams I am still dreaming that don’t even feel possible are likely just beginning to form and coalesce.
It will take time for these new dreams to arrive, just like it took time for those old dreams to finally get here.
What is patience telling me right now?
It is telling me that one day when “pandemic” is just one more vocabulary word we have learned to pronounce and spell, we will look back on this pandemic time, these shelter in place days and weeks and maybe months, and remember.
We will remember dreaming of being free to move about once again. We will remember dreaming of feeling safe to go out and come back in without micro-analyzing every little sniffle and sneeze. We will remember dreaming of shaking hands again. Of hugging. Of biting into a fresh apple without dousing it with hand sanitizer and rubbing it vigorously for 20 seconds first.
We will remember dreaming of living in a world where wildlife is not trafficked and our planet is healthy and happy and nature is allowed to be wild and free in the same way we are allowed to be wild and free.
When these future days finally arrive (and if enough of us are dreaming them together, they will) we will look back and remember dreaming all these things and realize it was patience that got us all the way there.
All the way here.
Be well. Stay home. Stay safe. Take good care of you.
With great respect and love,