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.”

36

Today is my birthday and as I sit here doing a breathing treatment I wanted to tell you about the last few days.

I started last week with a lot of anxiety and a little premature frustration. I didn’t know what I wanted to do for my birthday.

After days with no real headway into any kind of answer I finally had to ask myself Danielle LaPort’s question – “how did I want to feel?”

As best as I could admit, I wanted to feel strong, seen and like I am ready to face the next year.

And what would make me feel that way?

I wanted the answer to be, a big party and everyone to shower me with gifts. And as lovely as that would be, I knew it wouldn’t get at the deeper craving.

So after talking and crying my way through a conversation with my husband on Wednesday, he very gently made the suggestion that perhaps what I needed was to take myself away for the weekend, alone. I knew in my bones that he was exactly right, even as I found myself saying “I couldn’t possibly…”

There is so much tension around this encouragement of aloneness. It feels selfish, and counterintuitive. Logically how does one feel seen if no one is there to see you? How do you feel strong if no one around you will be weaker? How do you send yourself into a new season if no one is there to toast to you?

There aren’t good roadmaps for this kind of detour and very few stories from the field. Perhaps that is because so few of us admit to feeling empty or we think suffering will cure us. Or maybe we are afraid to be alone with ourselves.

Whatever the reason it’s a worthy question.

I’m so happy to be able to tell you I took the encouragement and I went away. I saw a window of opportunity and I knew if I didn’t jump I would regret it.

I literally decided on Thursday that I would go. I left that same night. I gave myself an hour to pack, which was helpful so I didn’t overthink it.

I was given a recommendation for a place to stay in Seward. I called and booked the only cabin they had which was right on the water but no amenities: so no running water or heat, just a wood stove, electricity and a mattress. I was doing this!

I left at 8pm and got there at 11pm.

When I arrived it was COLD, but I could hear the waves lapping and see the stars. I knew I had done the right thing.

After getting settled as best I could in the cabin, which was as bare and cozy as it could be, I finally fell asleep under all the blankets and clothes I had brought. I relished my first test of courage.

Then I woke up to this:

!!!!

I spent the day walking, reading, sunbathing, and thinking. I took my time. I didn’t check the clock or hold myself to any austerity measures. I just tried to be kind but also to challenge myself to dig into some deeper questions that had be tugging at me. I didn’t expect to come away with any conclusions, rather just to have a better grasp of the conversations that my soul and spirit keep trying to have with me.

The day was magical. The wind stayed calm, the sun was warm and I found the best food (in a warm restaurant!). I also found a perfect place called Resurrect Art Coffee shop and gallery, which is in an old style church. Can you get more perfect? I doubt it. I bought art, drank tea and soaked in the view.

For my first solo trip it was an absolute success. I was refreshed and revitalized. I found my peace and felt my strength. Most of all I was able to give myself what I desperately needed: a break.