Disclaimer: I wrote the following post months ago during the heightened timeframe of the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020. But i never posted it. Circumstances have since evolved and the majority of nations around the world are no longer in strict lockdown, so this may be too late to share. I never posted out of fear that the message would be misunderstood during such a sensitive time for the world. Yet today I’m realising that if I don’t share, I’m doing a disservice to myself and those that this may positively impact.
In this time of social distancing, or isolation as I like to refer to it as, I find myself being quite aware of my sense of “self”. This comes to no surprise for many because you may be thinking “well of course if you’re around no one but yourself 24/7, you’re probably picking up on a few things”. And simply put, that’s spot on.
Although there are plenty of apps on social media, and numerous other ways to remain connected to our wider communities within society, as a natural introvert, I’ve found myself looking deeper and deeper within. To be honest, a large part of this is due to feelings of loss and having a lack of control. I’m all too familiar with encountering tragedy and being in a state of uncertainty, so my natural reaction to those feelings are to retreat. I’m sure that many others can relate to me in that sense. When you’ve been faced with an experience or received news that has stopped you in your tracks and turned your whole world on its side, you wanted nothing more than to check out physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Obviously at the time that this is going on, you’re not aware that you’re reacting on all those different levels of yourself, but you just know that you simply need to retreat. And fast.
I remember vividly what it was like doing this when my mom died. During the month that she was ill in hospital overseas, I tried to remain positive. I kept myself busy; surrounded by family and friends, with my faith fully intact. It wasn’t until after she took her last breath, and I had given myself the green light to now mourn, and simultaneously enjoy the celebrations of turning 18 and graduating from high school, that I started a new and comforting relationship with the retreat.
As a child growing up, now teen starting to enter adulthood, I always kept in my heart that as long as I prayed, and leaned on God that I would never be alone. I also understood the power of a schedule, and remaining focused on the things that I wanted to achieve in life. Of course there was time to be sad, but I was now in my freshman year of university, so that sadness needed to just find it’s place within my larger plan of continuing my life.
I learned quickly that year that unfortunately my grief didn’t really respect the schedule that I had clearly laid out. I wasn’t making friends with my fellow teammates, and things weren’t really adding up athletically for me on the track. My coach suggested I meet with the sports psychologist, a relationship that would become pivotal in my healing throughout the next 4 years of university.
I hate to fast forward a bit, but just picture that my college years were great, I had a lot of fun, partied with friends, but at the same time when I think back, I probably didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have, because of grief. I definitely don’t regret any of it though. I made some amazing friendships and created memories that will last a lifetime. I include this so I don’t paint a false picture that I didn’t enjoy my life during these years, because I very much so did. But let’s face it, the view looking back on my past is always clearer than it is in the present isn’t it?
Okay, so now we’re 6 years following the time of my mom’s death and I receive a surprise diagnosis of a chronic autoimmune disease with no cure. Wait pardon? Yeah it was pretty wild. So in thinking back to my story with my mom, what do you think I did? That’s right, you guessed it! Retreat!
But I want you to pay really close attention to the method that I choose to retreat with. My patterns and familiarity of isolation come through the form of productivity. If I can control the situation by producing work, taking on leadership roles, helping any and everyone I can, I can use this productivity to my advantage within my life and everything will work out fine. Right?
Wrong. The blessings within these stories have been found because things did not go according to my perfectly marked (laid) out plans.
In the current day where we are experiencing a global pandemic, one that will undoubtedly be recorded in our history books, how will I say that I showed up? I’m sure that my future children (and even grand children) will learn of the Corona Virus decades from now, and I’ll recount my memories from this time.
Personally, I am only being affected by ideas of what “could have been” while I spend the majority of my days confined to my 1 bedroom apartment. My social calendar and entrepreneurial efforts are limited, but my physical health, my finances and my mental state remain in tact.
If you are someone whose health has been challenged by the virus, or whose finances are taking a direct hit due to the lack of business, or someone who has been titled as an essential service provider for your community, how will you recall these events? My hope is that we can face the reality of the current situation as it is, and not drown ourselves with unhealthy coping mechanisms.
If there’s anything that I’ve learned from my past experiences with grief, it’s an understanding that it’s okay to not have all the answers. But to also stop and be aware of how I’m feeling and how I’m responding as a result of those feelings.
How will I show up for myself today? I won’t retreat and douse myself in over-productivity but I will keep moving. I will cling to the gratitude that I have for being alive, for having a place to rest my head at night and having food to eat in my fridge. I will laugh at a funny message sent by a friend, and feel the warmth in my heart knowing that loved ones are but a phone call or video chat away. I understand that this time in my life is but one moment within a much larger picture. Retrospection is always clearer, but I’d love to be as present as I can right now.