Writing is the one thing I always return to. It’s always been the constant in my life; the safe place to return to no matter what. This pandemic that is sweeping the world has given us a lot of food for thought and I wanted to share mine.
For one, I know we all didn’t think back in January we would be here now…but that’s the thing. We didn’t think we would be here, and yet here we are. And life is sort of like that, right? Sometimes never in our wildest dreams did we think we would be standing in a dark room, the unknown extending in every direction. Sometimes we find ourselves hit with the sobering truth that we are in a position we would’ve bet our life on not being in. We find ourselves thinking: how did I get here?
This week as we’re knee deep in true social distancing, away from friends, co-workers, and often family, we’re faced with the reality of this situation. This virus is more than just “a cold,” it’s more than the celebrity that goes on social media to tell us to stay home; this virus is sinking its teeth into the people of our country that never knew what was coming until it was too late. This virus is taking the life and soul of humans around the world and we all know how tragic that is. But the question is how are we allowing that truth to affect us? I can say I personally don’t know anyone who has died from the virus or who has had to spend days in the ICU because of it. But those humans exist. There ARE people out there who can say they personally know someone. People are out there right now who are losing their best friend, their dad, their neighbor, their grandma, the love of their life to this virus. And if they were standing right in front of us, what do you think they would tell us?
I imagine they would tell us to take this pandemic seriously, beyond doing our part of social distancing. I imagine they would tell us beyond hand sanitizing and at-home workouts and TikTok videos (guilty) and happy hour Zoom calls, they would tell us to for one day, one week, stop scrolling on our phones for hours on end, stop binge watching Netflix, and ask yourself: what is this pandemic teaching you on a soul level? It’s not that these things are negative, I believe connecting virtually with our friends during this time is bringing us that connectedness we love. But it’s so easy to ignore life lessons even when they’re screaming at us in the face. If we sat in silence and tried to listen to the greater wisdom this situation is shaking us to see, what would that be?
It’s not a mistake that we’ve been forced into some form of isolation. It’s not a mistake this has happened to our world, that we’ve been forced to slow down, to pause. We are at our worst when we do not understand ourselves and sometimes we need the noise of the world to quiet down so we can stop piling on external distractions and do the inner work that we’ve been avoiding for far too long. If we want to understand our anxiety more we have to do the work. If we want to get a grip on our procrastination of (insert: your health, your emotional avoidance, your novel, your job change, your schedule, your renewed partnership, your joy) we have to do the work. Life can change all around us, but only we can change what is within us. And “doing the work” looks different for everyone. For some it will look like slowing down, being still, on actually not doing anything. For others it will look like taking a forward moving action.
I’ve struggled with anxiety for so long and recently before this pandemic really hit hard, it got to the point for me where I was like, I just do not want to do this any longer. That is not the person I want to be in life. So, I committed to changing and it’s hard work, it’s not gone overnight, but instead of being so wrapped up in the anxiety, in the fear, in the worry, I decided to go to work on changing it. I found the right help, the right tools, the right people to talk to (outside my mom). I got so so committed that I’m starting to see change, I’m starting to feel lighter. And what comes to mind for me is, that’s how life should be too, right? The only way to get through fear, to get through change, or to implement it, is to stop resisting it and take accountability. We should be so committed to truly living life and soaking up the joy and not taking it for granted. We get so caught up in the fight or flight mentality, that 99% of the time we choose flight. I know I do. But this is a time for us to look inside ourselves at old patterns that don’t serve us well and start to choose differently.
And that’s the thing: in this isolation we’re finally being asked to sit with everything we don’t want to face, everything we want to run from. For some, this will hit harder than others. Every one is at a different place in their lives and this will feel heavier to some than it will for others. And truly, I hope that it feels lighter for you more than it does heavy. Some of you will read this and know exactly what it is you’ve been avoiding, know exactly what it is you’ve locked away to deal with later, and it’s no coincidence that you’ve been gifted with a time of isolation to finally deal with it. Some of you will read this and not have something hit your heart immediately. You might think, “wow how can you get so deep in this, just get your work done from home and drink some wine.” Don’t worry, that’s definitely happening. But maybe you’ll ponder for a little bit on what this means for you: maybe it’s calling your sister to rekindle your friendship, maybe it’s finally cleaning something out in your house, maybe it’s not working soul sucking hours anymore to focus on yourself, maybe it’s finally resting and not feeling guilty for it, maybe it’s just about promising yourself to think of three things you’re grateful for every day and complain a little less.
Like the amazing Julie Day says: life is FOR you, not against you.
Soon enough the dust will settle and we’ll be able to look back on these weeks, maybe months, to ask ourselves: so, what is for us? What does bring us joy? Who does make us feel like home? What do we want to make more time for to simply enjoy in our life? How can we laugh more and worry less? Now that we had time to sit in our thoughts, to sit with everything, how can we slow down and cherish life more? How can we start living life forwards now that we took time to deal with the things that we had been sitting on? I’m already seeing this pandemic create a stronger appreciation for connection, which is so beautiful during a time of physical disconnection.
There is a purpose in every season and this season is a wakeup call for us on a national level and on an individual level. We will forever be changed by this season, and if life is for us, and not against us, like a gardener that must shear the vines, it’s time to get rid of everything that is not for us anymore. Dreams that have changed and made way for new ones, old thought patterns, bad tempers, one-sided friendships, internal walls, bad habits that hold us back, you name it. Change is extremely hard for me and yet at the same time, I learn from it. When I find myself in places thinking: how did I get here? How did this happen? I get past some of the emotion and just start shedding things. I’ve dropped so many things these past couple of weeks that weren’t serving me anymore: a job, setting aside something I thought I wanted in my career, things that were holding me back from being better (hello, anxiety). Here are some truth bombs:
The book will not write itself for you.
Your health will not improve itself for you magically.
Your happiness will not improve itself for you while you let your mind work against it or while you’re busy blaming others for the absence of it.
It starts within you, within us. This isn’t really about putting pressure on ourselves during this quarantine to achieve lofty goals by the time it’s over. it’s about: what do you observe about yourself during this pause? What will you do with that?
And I know it’s not easy. There are some things people are struggling with I can’t even begin to understand. I think we have to work at it every day and I’m really not saying any of this from a place of knowing better than anyone else reading this. I’m saying this from a place of…let’s encourage each other, be there for one another, appreciate one another even in the midst of becoming better. We can’t change others, but we can focus on ourselves. When we work through things we become more self-aware and hopefully we become lighter.
My hope is that we come out of this radically grateful for everything in life, the good and the hard. All of it matters. My hope is that we are ecstatically joyful for everything it has to offer. My hope is that we have the courage to change. Soon enough eating at a restaurant with your favorite people will have so much more meaning. Seeing your best friend will be something you won’t take for granted. The privilege to exercise in a gym won’t go unnoticed. The trip you finally book will be treasured so much more. The sweet texts, the little things your loved one does for you will be held close. I know for me I will cherish all the ways my friends and family show up for me going forward because these past few weeks have put so much into perspective.
In our busy frantic lives, this is a message to love more, fear less, and charge into the unknown. Drop the weight, stay in the present, stay in the joy. A fulfilling, happy life doesn’t happen on accident.
The thing is no matter what happens, we’re going to look back and think: wow, now I see the perfection in that time apart from everyone. We’ll look back and say of course that had to happen because we are better for it. We have to trust the process and trust ourselves. Life isn’t always fair or easy, but I guess what I’m getting at is it can be lighter. And it’s still your life.
This is about the gift of having a life at all. And that’s what I think a person would tell you if they lost someone to this virus.