We are 5 days max into this new way of life. Five days.
It’s an odd time.
I’ve been in my office this week with clients for the first time since this world changed alongside the new realities of coronavirus. Realities like – schools closed, people working from home, restaurants limited to take-out, bars empty, weddings and funerals postponed, sheltering in place, spring sports canceled, rush hour traffic ceased. A new term – social distancing – arises. Talking with my clients always helps me find a pulse for what is happening in people’s minds, hearts, and the world. As a result, I don’t have one, longer topical post; instead, several thoughts surface after my week with all of you.
- We are 5 days into this new way of life. Five days. No one is supposed to be an expert on anything after 5 days. We’re all new here. If you had no idea how to run a marathon and you gave yourself 5 days to learn, how good could you be at running that marathon in five days? Not very. Yet, I am seeing it again and again. We expect ourselves and our loved ones to be adept and proficient at living in this ever changing world and within these social norms NOW. It is not possible. Give yourself a break. Give your loved ones a break.
- People are struggling. This presents issues for families, for marriages, for finances, for small business owners, for folks who love someone who is at risk, for those who are quarantined with family members who are not emotionally or physically safe, for those who depend upon 12 step sobriety meetings – gatherings that that can no longer meet. There are those with anxiety, and it’s heavy. It bears weight. Perhaps you think I am being negative or not trusting in God. This is not my intent. I am trying to normalize an abnormality for many people, who are having a lot of big feelings about a lot of big changes.
- We are shell shocked. I don’t think I – or anyone I have seen – is fully processing all this means to each of us. This week introduced mind-spinning changes to our daily lives in an incredibly short span of time. Each time I conclude a session, I’m afraid to look at my phone, because of what may have changed in our world during the hour I was unavailable. When we think about how much has changed in each 24 hour increment, no wonder we cannot fully process. I think it is going to take many more weeks even to begin to muster an idea of this new reality, and just as importantly – how we feel about it. So be kind. Be gentle. Be ever patient with yourselves and with others.
- As I am watching the news and sitting with people in my office, I have never been more struck by the ability of humans to love. I’m seeing human kindness on a level that is as unprecedented as these changes to our daily lives. This kindness is the ray of hope in the midst of so much loss and fear. One of my clients who is a small business retail owner, understandably fearful of what this virus means for her business, shared with me that in one day customers bought $6500 worth of gift cards to use later in her store. We can’t change the reality for our world right now. But each one of us can reach out and be kind to someone else and it can bring me to tears, and I can tell the story, it can touch others’ hearts, and then others can commit an act of kindness and IT CAN BRING HOPE TO THE WORLD!! We all need hope now.
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.