I wish this were an April Fool's joke. It's not. My entire body feels heavy and tired... months with no human contact for my daughter and I apart from each other.... months of curbside grocery pickup... months of trying to feel safe just to get essentials... ((note how those thoughts make you feel for a second...))
We're the lucky ones, truly. We're surrounded by beautiful land; I have a work-from-home job that is secure, and we already homeschooled.
Side note: coronavirus homeschooling is not real homeschooling. The idea of "home"schooling is a bit of an oxymoron because we're seldom home. We're meeting up with friends, going to co-op classes, at theater events, art museums, days at Yale, and much more. We get to choose what curriculum - or no curriculum - we use and don't have 4 teachers sending home 4 different kinds of work for each child. So please don't think this is what homeschooling is really like! Homeschooling is FUN - especially if you're unschoolers like us!
While my daughter and I have it "good" in many ways, the heaviness is still here... the grief... the sense of loss... the feeling of some hopelessness when all of life is turned upside down. We're all feeling it at one level or another. And for those less privileged than myself, I imagine it's compounded 10x.
So here's what I'm doing....
1. Choosing My Focus - Focusing on what I *DO* want and not on what I don't want
I'm a big believer in the idea that we have the power to choose our focus. I can choose to focus on the bad and all the bad things that might happen as a result of this pandemic. Those are legit and anxiety-inducing concerns! I should be aware of them for sure. You can be a realist here. I'm not saying to stick your head in the sand or the clouds... But the bad is not what I'm going to deliberately focus my attention on longer than to be aware and educated... I'm going to focus on the good, on the beautiful, and on healing connections.
Scientists have found that emotion literally lasts for 90 seconds in the body. From there, it becomes more deeply rooted or passes on depending on whether or not we feed it.
“When a person has a reaction to something in their environment, there’s a 90 second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop.
Something happens in the external world and chemicals are flushed through your body which puts it on full alert. For those chemicals to totally flush out of the body it takes less than 90 seconds.
This means that for 90 seconds you can watch the process happening, you can feel it happening, and then you can watch it go away.
After that, if you continue to feel fear, anger, and so on, you need to look at the thoughts that you’re thinking that are re-stimulating the circuitry that is resulting in you having this physiological response over and over again.”
Our thoughts are powerful. We can't ignore what's happening right now, but we can give ourselves time to process the pain and grief and then take time to deliberately focus on the good and the beautiful around us. The more we think about how bad things are, the worse we're going to feel (think back to how you felt when I shared the heavy feelings and thoughts at the beginning of this). The more we feed our fears with our thoughts, the worse we're going to feel. The Buddhist mindfulness idea is to sit with a feeling... without feeding it with your thoughts... until it passes. Mantra meditation would add to this idea by also incorporating thoughts - or mantras - that focus on what you do want. This mantra in the form of a song has gone viral right now and is really great! Every Little Cell in my Body is Well! Check it out!!
And remember, feelings go beyond thoughts if you're an empath. It's easy for us empaths to feel things that aren't even our own feelings... we can read the collective emotions of the world around us (even via social distancing) and it can be overwhelming. Ask yourself what your responsibility is with these feelings? Are they feelings around which you can put an energy boundary and block them - because they aren't yours to carry or process? Or are they things you need to feel and process? Only you can answer that question.
The more we make choices to create beauty, create connection, and find the good, the better we're going to feel. So I'm choosing the feel-good things. It's not easy sometimes! But I'm also a firm believer that what we focus on is what we energetically feed. I want to spend my time during this pandemic feeding and building new ways of healing and being in harmony with the earth.
2. Focusing on the Earth Healing
Gaia theory says the earth is a living entity. I've long said that the earth has the ability to heal herself and will do what it takes to survive. I think we all understand that the more the earth hurts, the more we hurt. What I think most folks miss is that the earth can do something about this....
So let's see this as an environmental reset. A reboot... I'm already seeing calls from mainstream publications like Teen Vogue that we can't go "back to normal" - that we must use this time to find new ways of living from the heart and in harmony with the earth. People are waking up!
But you know what? If this virus passes us all by in 6 more weeks, nearly everyone is going to jump right back to the old normal without a 2nd thought. People don't like change. I've worked in psych and wellness for years now. Change is HARD for people. Conceptualizing a new way of life is HARD. Psychologists describe multiple stages of change, the first handful being only stages of contemplation - just thinking about change but not changing at all yet.
This time period of social isolation is forcing people to change. And once the realization sets in that this pandemic isn't going to be over in a few weeks, people are going to start adjusting to find ways to make this new normal really work for themselves, to make it sustainable for their families. Eventually, these new sustainable ways will become habits, will become the new normal, and will, in many ways, be sustained after the pandemic is over - because, remember, people don't like to change.
Ultimately, I believe we'll begin to rethink what we can do for the environment, our time with our families, growing gardens, our food production, how we fill up our time with "busy" things and don't take time to "be", the ability to work from home, much more.
Already we're seeing less smog, cleaner rivers, safer wildlife, and so many more benefits. We're finding that we can make a difference and let the earth heal. What will it look like for this to continue when we can safely go back out? What sort of ways of being are you reimagining?
3. Focusing on Change to Social Systems
Leading in from the above point... There's no doubt that my ability to write this is couched in huge privilege. It's a lot harder to find good things to focus on when one is without a job, going hungry, and/or in a place of domestic violence. I pray that this period of time wakes people up to the need for universal healthcare, a living minimum wage for our "essential" workers, better social services across the board, and elected leaders who value these things. Maybe more people will vote in the upcoming election! There are a whole lot of folks seeking relief right now who realize Bernie would have provided that relief. Democratic socialism isn't looking so bad...
4. Focusing on Being the Helper
Remember Mr Rogers... When bad things happened his wise mother always told him to look for the helpers.
If you're in a bad place right now due to the pandemic, reach out... there are various free services and people willing to help. If you don't see what you need, be bold and ask.
And if you're more privileged, don't just look for the helpers. Be a helper! Ask yourself what you can do to make a difference for others. It might be meeting a major need. It might be offering a skill free or sliding scale online. It might simply be making a phone call or doing something to bring beauty, love, and light into someone's life right now.
4. Focusing on Creating beauty
Do you make music, paint, draw, knit, sew, write poetry, weld, do woodworking, make jewelry... ??? Birth beauty folks! Share your beauty with the world.
Create beauty in your daily lives. We set up our dining room table like a little cafe table, put on nice clothes, and "went out" to coffee the other day. It was so much fun.
The week before we set up a live-online poetry reading.
People are making and sharing music widely, from balconies and online.
We're getting out even more to explore local parks and trails. Getting out of the house (if you're in an area where this is still safe and allowed) feels so good! Soak in the beauty of nature!
Museums are putting art online. I had a great time, last night, exploring new fine-art photographers on Lenscratch.
What ways can you create and soak in beauty?
So there you have my thoughts... choose your focus. Focus on the good things and on creating beauty and goodness. Don't ignore the negatives. They exist. Be aware. Sit with the feelings that arise. Process the grief and be gentle with yourself. But keep circling back around to focusing on creating what you do want. Our thoughts and creative potential are powerful! <3