Dear Nashville……we need a hug. A huge, collective, filled with love and grace hug. It has been a couple of really difficult weeks. Just 2 weeks ago, many parts of Nashville experienced devastating damage in a tornado. For days, as a therapist I was processing with many clients their trauma from the tornado and how their life had been impacted by different losses associated with that. Before we got anywhere near being done feeling our feelings about that event, we are now faced with a global pandemic that is making changes to our daily lives at a breakneck pace. I’m not sure about you but I am having tons of feelings about all of the above.
This coronavirus so far has impacted my life personally by canceling my youngest’s spring break plans, bringing my college kid home for an undetermined amount of time, causing me to spend close to $700 in groceries and supplies as I feel the weight of providing food, shelter and medicine for my boys as a single mom, canceled my young son’s entire sports calendar as of now for the spring, threatening my son’s graduation from the Naval Academy that we have waited for excitedly for 5 years, and caused me intense anxiety about my ability to continue paying my bills and supporting my kids being a self employed, small business owner. Wow. As I list all of that I feel a tightening in my chest and tears threaten my eyes with the acknowledged weight of it all.
I have hesitated to begin to write, even though I do feel a call to be addressing issues of mental health, anxiety and self-care in this crucial time. My thought is I am very close to being in the ditch myself emotionally-how in the world can I offer any personal hope, expertise, leadership or stability? But maybe that is when I ought to speak up the most? When I am in a vulnerable place myself instead of waiting until I get it all together?
What I really want to say is…this is hard. This is weighty. This is an unprecedented time in my life. We have never navigated anything like this in my 50 year lifetime. We aren’t supposed to know what to do. Nothing like this has ever happened before. It is ok to have big feelings. It is understandable that we are all feeling a sadness and loss of all the changes we are experiencing at this time. I felt sad today when I was at Costco today and realized you can no longer sit at the picnic tables and eat a hotdog.
As I feel all of these feelings, on the heels of that is guilt and shame. What right do I have to be sad? I am not sick. I am not immune-compromised. I am not elderly. I am still considered “rich” compared to so many in the world. I did have money to stock up on food for my family. I have a warm, cozy, clean, peaceful home to spend more time in at this time. I have NO RIGHT to feel these things. The thing is….I do and you do as well. We can never know how we feel by comparing our situation to others. That is a tool we use to minimize and deny our own feelings. Feelings are not either/or-either grateful or sad. Feelings are both/and. We can be grateful and sad. Grateful for the things we DO have and sad for the things we are losing in this crazy time in our world.
One of the ways I plan to cope with this time and all my feelings is write more often. I want to write about practical suggestions on how to self care and mange anxiety. I want to write about how this season is causing some of us to spend time in a home, marriage or family that is not emotionally or physically safe. I want to write about how some of you are experiencing great loneliness during this time. I want all of us to feel like we have the benefit of a community of folks around us who are saying all at once “it is ok to feel whatever you feel” and “you are not alone in it”. I look forward to walking into this uncertain next few weeks and months with you all as we honor our feelings and look for gifts in this impossibly hard time.