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This is really hard (and it’s ok)

When we first started social distancing about 2 months ago, I was actually kind of grateful for the break (which I wrote about in this post). Now, as the days and weeks go by, I’m starting to feel more and more isolated and alone. It’s not just social distancing, it’s social hibernation - without the advantage of knowing how long it will last - and it really sucks.

Photo by Peter Neumann on Unsplash

I’m not someone who really loves routine, but I am someone who does better with routine. What does that mean? Well, I am very capable of bingeing a show on Netflix for a few days and disconnecting completely from the world around me. I don’t have kids or a partner, so it’s not like I have to be on anyone else’s schedule. To some of my parent-friends that might seem like a dream come true, but it’s also hard because it creates an overwhelming sense of disconnect. I'm realizing that feeling is harder than I thought.

Yoga wasn’t just about moving my body – it was about learning to be comfortable in that group setting and seeing the same supportive faces every week. Swimming wasn’t just about getting in some laps – it was about getting out of the house and doing something for myself in a community environment. Tutoring at homework club wasn’t just about helping kids learn French – it was also about building their confidence and being a person they could count on to be there, someone that cares. I guess it’s not really surprising that I was spending three nights a week in community spaces…I had a strong need to feel connected to those around me. That was a part of my healing process.

I’ve noticed a gradual shift in myself over the weeks. I’ve felt less motivated to cook, less interested in getting outside and doing things like yard work or even going for walks with Lola. I’ve been feeling burnt out from work because I’m always “on” (the nature of communications in times like these). I haven’t been meditating very much and I haven’t been very focused on eating to nourish my body or drinking lots of water. In short, I've been more focused on surviving an unprecedented global pandemic. (So like, fuck kale, I'll have another oreo, ya know?)

Developing a plan to “get back on track” is one thing but finding the motivation to actually execute that plan is something else. I know, I know, steps…

OR maybe now is an opportunity unlike any other, away from all of that other stuff to refocus inwards and see what else comes up for me. Those concrete steps to improve my mental and physical health have been important and I’m not going to toss them all in the green bin with the exiled kale, but...

What if the MORE important thing right now is a different kind of self-care? The kind of self-care that you can’t ignore in the context of a forced societal slowdown.

Hear me out on this one.

A few years ago, when I first started seeing a therapist, we would talk about certain difficult things that I was struggling with. She would tell me “I don’t want you to work around the pain, I want to you work through the pain”. I had NO idea what she meant.

About a year ago, I began to understand that I’m really good at invalidating my own feelings. There have been times when, even at my lowest low, I could only cry or emote when someone else was telling me that what I was dealing with was really hard and that I was allowed to be upset. Only when someone else told me that it was ok to experience those feelings did I actually say “you’re right, this is hard and I am allowed to be sad” (and then it would be #meltdowncity, ha!).

Fast forward to now and I can tell you that I’ve come a long way in acknowledging my feelings and allowing myself to experience them. This change is HUGE. This change is also amplified by social distancing. I can’t jam-pack my schedule with events and activities and social gatherings 5/7 nights a week. I don’t have a choice but to face some of these negative feelings and just, well, feel them. I think that’s what my therapist was talking about when she told me to work through the pain, instead of around it.

It’s uncomfortable and exhausting but also exhilarating. For the first time in my life, I feel as though I’m starting to be a true version of myself, a version that doesn’t always rely on external validation and that can instead turn inwards. I’ve read (and written) a bit about healing the inner child and my most simple explanation comes down to this: children need to feel seen and heard. I believe that the adult version of having this need fulfilled is ultimately about learning to do it for yourself, meaning you acknowledge and validate your own reality. Also meaning you learn to observe and sit with difficult feelings.

Uncomfortable, exhausting and exhilarating.

So I guess it’s ok if I sit on my couch and have a little cry instead of making sourdough bread. I guess it’s ok to crawl into bed with Netflix instead of putting on a meditation. I guess it’s ok to not grocery shop and meal prep for an entire week when I’m not up for it and feeling tired. I guess it’s ok to go off-track and not adhere to my routine from before.


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