I have it. Or at least, I am trying not to have it.
Or it has me. Or something like that.
What is reverse FOMO? You may have already guessed.
It is fear of missing out on things that (in theory at least) haven’t even happened yet.
FOMO, by the way, is fear of missing out. Although you probably already know that part.
I’ve never had reverse FOMO before, which I have to assume is because I have never lived through a quarantine before.
This quarantine hasn’t been going on for very long, either, but it is also uncertain how long it might continue.
And that is plenty enough uncertainty for my nervous mind to take and run with.
Remember those big goals you were working towards just before you learned what the term “coronavirus” means? Might as well forget ’em. Forget ’em all. Because it’s never gonna happen.
Happily, I can usually out-reason my mind (or at least find a really great distraction for it) during the daytime when we are both awake. So it has taken to lying in wait until I fall asleep to present its predictions.
Then it uses my dreams to unfurl dire scenarios, or finds a creative way to wake me up (here, I suspect it is often in cahoots with my peanut-sized bladder) to share its fears and concerns with me, frequently in extra-scary and overly-dramatic stage whispers…..
And here we go, starting the long slide into spinsterhood.
You will probably never publish that new book now.
Social life? You’re lucky to have a life. Good thing you’re an introvert.
The one and only thing my mind and I currently agree we don’t need to worry about is toilet paper supplies. We have plenty. For now.
But it is already starting to feel a little bit worried about what might happen later.
What if #stayhome now turns into #stayhome forever?
We don’t have nearly enough toilet paper for that. Or K-cups. Or savings. Or friends.
By the way, I noticed the car is running low on gas.
Because hurricane season will be starting soon. And everyone knows you need to keep a full tank during hurricane season.
Why yes I would like a side of COVID-19 with my regular unleaded, thanks for asking.
In the meantime, I am trying to take it all in with as much adult-ness as I can muster.
I do understand that worrying is encoded into my limbic brain right along with respiration as a time-honored survival strategy. I know my mind is just looking out for me. Us. It’s kind of sweet, actually.
And kind of annoying, and energy-sucking, and sleep-depriving, and useless.
What has been helping me cope with reverse FOMO, you might be wondering?
The first and most important coping strategy I have been using is something I blogged about here last week. It is a centering affirmation: “Patience. Presence. Productivity.”
You can read that blog post to learn more about how I’m using it and how it helps.
Tonglen (aka “giving and taking”), a Buddhist practice of breathing in the suffering of the world and breathing out love and respite-relief, is also very helpful for me right now. Practicing Tonglen reminds me I can do something to contribute in a way that doesn’t put me or anyone else at risk. It reminds me I am really not alone in my fears, my feelings, my hopes and dreams, my suffering at the hands of my own over-protective mind.
Giving myself permission to experience what I call “tiny happys,” like playing with my rambunctious box turtle, Bruce, or watching short silly YouTube videos, or doing a Zoom happy hour with a friend, or sleeping in late just because I am inexplicably tired from all that resting I just did, really helps too.
Just remembering that life’s joy as well as life’s sorrow happens right now, not later when all this might or might not be over, is perhaps the biggest help of all.
Have you been experiencing a touch (or a tsunami) of reverse FOMO? Is it just me? (I hope it is and I also sort of hope it isn’t.)
What has been helping you most to just stay the course as we head further and further into the unknown?
With great respect and love,