Pandemic Prompts – #1

Last week, as the Global Pandemic began rolling in, orders to stay indoors and to not go out of our homes began in earnest.

And just like that we all started to ask the same question:

“What are we going to do for the next few weeks at home, in isolation?”

In response, a tidal wave of ideas, content, and options to help keep you busy, motivated and productive began poring in. More and more every day.

So now the question isn’t so much, what will you do, but how do you choose?

How do you choose when the options are endless? And what are appropriate expectations for yourself and others during this strange time?

When we have so many choices and one little body that has finite energy and emotional bandwidth it’s a sure bet we will enter the overwhelmed state of Option Paralysis.

What should you do?” is what we all want to know, but, “What can you actually GET yourself to do?” is the question that is more than likely tripping most of us up.

This is an age old tension that is exacerbated in times of stress: while our brains go into hyper drive and start making lists, charts and graphs, your body can simultaneously become more and more unresponsive, heavy and resistant.

Right after your energized pep talk to yourself your body probably responded by regressing into an overtired and lethargic equivalent of a five year old who doesn’t want to do anything but sit on the floor and cry.

Then all of you is crying, Body, Heart and Soul.

How will you find your way when nothing is as it “should” be? How in the midst of so much new chaos and input, do you even figure out what you need and/or want?

But more importantly, how do coax your body out of the fetal position and toward the shiny object of a good book, self care or something “productive,” so you can start to feel at least semi okay again?

The questions from this poem invite us to consider that our bodies may not be the issue. It’s entirely likely that you haven’t moved because your body has no other way to tell you that something, (an expectation, process, or how a physical space is set up, etc…) isn’t working.

The body is communicating the only way it’s been given, through shutting down, pain, tension, tears, emotions, feelings and movements. If something isn’t working, maybe don’t push through, ignore, throw a fit, or bully him/her into submission. Rather, as gently as you can, listen for what your body asking you to look at, address or change.

In many ways, this global crisis has been made worse by our reluctance to listen to our bodies. As a society we have rewarded pushing through and ignoring symptoms. Listening to our bodies takes practice and intention and begins with noticing what feelings are coming up and what those feelings are asking you to name.

It’s okay to not know what’s going to happen tomorrow, and it’s okay to take time to let the scared, confused and grieving five year old in you hug your stuffed bear and calm down naturally. It’s good to go slow and ask yourself what sounds good and/or right for you to do next.

In my experience, the answers often won’t have much to do with productivity at first, but may prompt you to establish some boundaries and set up some safe or creative space for engagement with whomever and whatever you need to engage with.

Go slow. Take your time. Allow the limits of life right now to be re-framed as creative challenges. Let your body tell you what’s next, and believe him or her when they say, “The way you are trying to force yourself to do something, it isn’t working.”

Grateful

Grateful
by Elizabeth Honan Amber

 
The knot rises in my chest
My heart plummets
Like an elevator in free fall
I try to move away from the action
Clutching
At all of these feelings —

A friend comes to visit
intending to give comfort.
They see my emotions lathered up and agitated,
My body a knot of tension.

Unsure what to do
They sit and take my hand.
‘Remember,’ They begin,
‘God is in control.’
Don’t worry,’ they continue,   
Everything will work out.’
After a while they finally say,
‘It could be so much worse,
You should be grateful.’

My shoulders tighten and I wince.
My mind rebels at the implied ease
From pain to joy.
I know it is right to give thanks and praise,
And yet…

I have been in the presence of Gratefulness.
She has come to me in the unlooked for moments,
Like the sun breaking through the clouds,
Warm and embracing.
Like a crashing wave
Spraying me whole again.

Her presence feels
Like a passionate kiss
Rocking me to my core
Leaving me speechless,
And knowing something I almost forgot.

She is a visitation,
A sacred moment shared only
By her and the one she seeks.
An angel of sorts.

The temptation to summon her,
To reduce her presence to mere trick of the imagination
Incanting, ‘Thank you God I am not…’
Is to diminish the sacredness of thanksgiving.

She travels through sunsets and stars,
Not through the public transit of advice.
To compare your burden to others
Does not ground you to the path you are called to.

To feel grateful is a fullness,
A lightness of being
Connecting you to the Source
And to This moment.

Another friend comes to visit.
They sit and they listen,
Saying ‘I’m so sorry.’
And, ‘It’s okay to feel these things.’
After a while they gently invite me to be here, now,
Making room for me to ask, ‘What is here?’
As we sit together they reach out, take my hand and whisper,
‘No matter what, you are not alone.’

I pull this reassurance into my heart,
My body relaxes and my mind slows,
Like a horse released from a frantic pace.
I take in this moment and realize,
I am seen.
And I am so grateful.