“Sleep doesn’t help if it’s your soul that’s tired.”
PUT YOUR MASK ON
I’m watching people slip. When the pandemic “shelter in place” first began where I live in Maryland, most people were very compliant. We stayed home. We ordered our groceries and vigilantly wiped them down. We had virtual birthday gatherings and adapted whatever work we could to online platforms. Once the powers-that-be figured out that masks really did help stop the transmission of the virus, we wore those. People started walking outside in record numbers, observing social distancing and wearing those masks.
We did it. And our numbers ultimately went down.
I spoke to a lot of people about the American habit of managing acute stress pretty well, all hands on deck, sprinting to something better, (ex: 9/11) but not being particularly skilled with chronic stress – hanging in there in and staying engaged during a slow drip crisis, like losing a loved one to protracted illness. I knew we needed to pace ourselves.
And this is why.
The world grows weary
As we enter the cold months, we have already begun to resist captivity in dangerous ways. In client sessions I’m hearing about college kids who just *had* to go to the beach this summer, families that got tired of negotiating and renegotiating COVID boundaries between themselves and others in their intentional bubbles and pods, people’s heartbreak as they have had to push away their loved ones who were too young, or too old, to understand why they couldn’t hug. I’ve listened to the sense of defeat as people who were reported to have “done all of the right things” ended up with COVID anyway. Lines have gotten blurry. Risk tolerance is starting to shift.
As much as I miss my office, hearing about all of these fudging lines affirmed my decision to hold off on meeting people in person until we can do so safely indoors without masks. My clients are reporting reasonably healthy precaution-taking, but the people around them aren’t. I’ll just keep my respiratory-compromised family over here, thank you very much.
I do get it
Believe me, I do understand. While all of this “everybody all together all of the time” might be the fulfillment of my dog’s biggest wishes and dreams, (though candidly I think even he is getting sick of it,) I miss my peaceful alone space most painfully. I miss seeing and hugging my dear friends, I miss sharing presence with my clients, I miss just jumping in the car and going somewhere interesting without having to plan out every minute detail for safety and alter plans accordingly. I’m tired too.
But I’m not tired of breathing. I’m grateful that I have much less concern about the safety of my family’s health because we are all being careful and resisting the urge to just scream “EFF IT!!!!” and do what we want to do.
Same as it ever was
Human beings have an amazing ability to adapt to whatever comes at us. Think about how your body can bristle so vehemently at the first morning of Fall where you wake up and it’s less than 50 degrees outside. By the time we are deep in winter, those 50 degrees would be welcomed like a day at a sunny beach! 50 degrees is still 50 degrees. It doesn’t change; We change. Our bodies adjust and valiantly try to protect us from suffering. This is homeostasis at the cellular level.
Homeostasis happens in every aspect of our humanness. Our cells, our bodies, our hunger signals, our households, our work and school communities, our geographic communities, our states, our regions, our country, our world — ALL lean toward falling into “norms” or even ruts. It’s part of how we survive. Homeostasis can protect us from the suffering that ensues when we expect something different and don’t receive it.
Tired of being tired
“I can’t get un-tired.”
My family has heard me say that way too many times in the past couple of months. In spite of sleep, in spite of spiritual recalibration, in spite of downtime, laughter, the joy of puppies, healthy diet, good exercise, warm and positive social connectedness… I still find myself unable to get un-tired at times. I think I’m finally figuring it out: I’m fighting homeostasis.
A few days after I figured this out, I heard our current President say, (regarding the pandemic,) “I say we’re learning to live with it. We don’t have a choice.” Nearly everyone I’ve spoken with about this had a visceral reaction to his statement. It’s as if the entire country’s “OH HAIL NAW” came screaming to the surface simultaneously.
I don’t wanna!!
My tenacious soul is not interested in adapting to COVID life. I don’t want this to be our norm. I don’t want to be lulled to sleep and forget that life didn’t used to be this way. I don’t want us to be in the Third Wave of COVID case uptick. I don’t want more people to suffer, more people to grieve, more people to lose their jobs and their businesses. I don’t want more people to die. I’m tired of being angry and frustrated that those in power are not using the resources at our disposal to end this needless level of human suffering. I’m not ok with political maneuvers taking precedence over the health and wellbeing of our community.
I am carrying my resistance in my body.
No wonder I can’t get un-tired.
The eyes of my eyes are open
Carrying resistance and marking that something external is not ok is a kind of homeostasis of its own. It’s what we trauma survivors often do so that we “remember” on a cellular level to go back and complete our trauma healing. It’s rather brilliant, really. It works. The body demands that we stay awake and refuse to believe that things are okay when they aren’t.
When I work with people who have experienced trauma, especially as young people, we can follow their body sensations back to the place that needs care and restoration. It goes deeper than our conscious memory and has a lot more nuance than our narratives. Those of you who have experienced it know – there is an amazing freedom and respect that can come when we understand what our bodies have carried for our future selves. There can be a restorative peace that comes with finding healing in those places.
Carrying the weight of the world
You’ve probably heard the expression, “She carried the weight of the world on her shoulders.” That’s where many of us have been for most of those year. Some of us carry it in our gut, some in our aching heads, some in our backs – whatever place the wise-body chooses. The pain from the weight manifests in illness, fatigue, anxiety, depression or any manner of ways that seems best to our wise-bodies. If we aren’t mindful about it, this kind of overload will deplete our telomeres and break us down genetically. This can leave us much more susceptible to serious illness… In. A. Pandemic.
That won’t be much help, now will it? So let’s do something finer.
Limbo is hard. Long, drawn out limbo with no visible relief is brutal. And yet, here we are. So what do we do? We consciously mark the things that are no okay so that we don’t have to carry them in our cells. We remind ourselves anyway we can that this current moment is not forever. We strive to be as present as possible in the current moment, while still holding hope for and dreaming into a satisfying future, written in pencil.
Being in Now: What’s good right now in your life? It could be something as mundane as a quiet moment in the morning when you took a deep breath and appreciated that you could. It could be as profound as a touching connection with someone who really matters to you. The size of the hope-seed we plant is not important; That we consciously notice it and plant it, is vital.
Future Dreams: Allow yourself to dream a post-pandemic future. It is coming. We just don’t know when. Personally I’m dreaming about travelling to places I’ve never seen. Instead of telling myself, “in (pick a month) of 2021, I will travel to (pick a specific place,) and do (pick some specific things,) returning on (pick a date.)” There are still too many unknowns. Instead, I will look at different places, get a sense of what it might cost and whether or not we can afford it and keep track of those dreams.
Reminding ourselves that the current “now” is temporary changes our body chemistry. It re-tools our acclimation process. We don’t have to carry the markers internally to remind ourselves that this way of life doesn’t work for us indefinitely.
This mindset serves us much better in the long run than trying to convince ourselves that things will always be this way only to have resiliency stream out of us in some sort of “I CAN’T TAKE THIS ANY MORE” risky behavior.
The thing you can no longer tolerate is believing that
it will always be this way, or that we have to just get used to it.
Use your discontent
Sarah Ban Breathnach wrote, “Discontent breeds lifelong change.” Are you discontent with all of the crap we have to do to manage COVID risk? GOOD! Use your discontent to find creative, safe new ways to get your needs met, differently! This is a time for innovation, for growth, for re-imagining. Your risk-prevention is not the thing that needs to be changed here – your hopelessness is! Let’s trade it for something that works better in the now and doesn’t compromise the future.
Now… and Then…
Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Be intentional about your COVID boundaries in a way that keeps you and those around you as safe as possible. And… Get wildly creative. Dream some dreams. Remember that doing now well does not mean that this current “now” will be our future. Imagine, create, remember what’s good. Temporary homeostasis is possible.
You can do this.