Clear as Mud!
I write this as we end week 3 of lockdown in the UK due to COVID-19. I had to self isolate before this, so its been a 4 weeks for me. Variations of social restrictions for us all are expected to last for much longer. What our short term and long term futures look like is as clear as mud.
I started this time with lots of intentions. Initially I saw it as an opportunity to eat more healthily, lose weight, get fitter, practice more yoga, exercise more, walk further, earn CPD points, meditate more, practice lots of Reiki, be more creative, start some garden projects, cook delicious meals from new recipes, bake, sort through years of photos, start knitting again, decorate, learn a new skill, binge watch box sets, read that pile of books that has been sitting on my bedside table for a year. The list goes on. It sounds exhausting doesn’t it?
Social media platforms have never been so important to us all; we can connect with each other and feel less isolated. I am so grateful to have this technology. A flood of vlogs and blogs have appeared …yep here I am too! For families home schooling children, this aspect of technology has been especially important. People have dedicated much time in creating articles and videos to help us in various ways. Communities have come together in support of each other and rallied around those in need. It has been heartwarming to see how technology has brought people home and abroad closer together.
However it didn’t take me long to start to feel overwhelmed, not only from the pressure I was placing on myself to achieve, but also the pressure I felt from watching and reading so many articles on how to make the most of this opportunity. I became frustrated with so many positive suggestions; it started to feel a little surreal to me. For a short while I became overwhelmed, unsure what I was supposed to be feeling.
Not everyone has the resources to have a fulfilling time; some live on their own, people with children live in homes without a garden, children and adults are trapped with an abusive family member. This time is bringing the best out in people but sometimes we are also seeing the worst. People are losing family and friends. We’re watching helplessly as thousands of people die. As Ruby Wax described this week on BBC Question time, there has been a tsunami of fear, panic, anxiety and anger. Everyone is experiencing loss in one form or another. There have been job losses, loss of financial security, weddings cancelled, holidays cancelled, much needed operations cancelled, house moves postponed or lost. At times I felt like I was wading through some murky waters.
The waters became muddied for me, caused in part by my initial frenetic activity, and a familiar feeling of not being good enough surfaced. To attempt to feel positive all day was unrealistic. It was impossible to do everything I had set out to do and watching all of the motivational messages on social media was having the opposite effect. I had set myself up for a fail. I decided to tune out and stopped watching the news more than once a day. I now have strict boundaries around how often and how long I spend scanning social media. I needed to reset my stance to become less positive and more realistic.
A photo popped up on social media of the canals clearing in Venice. This and similar amazing reports of how nature is thriving are a positive consequence of human isolation. Reports from Venice explain that canals are more clear due to less motorised boats and an absence of cruise ships churning up the sediment. Shoals of fish can be seen. Ducks are nesting on canal banks Cormorants have returned.“The water is blue and clear,” said Gloria Beggiato, who owns the celebrated Metropole Hotel, a few steps from St Mark’s square and has a view over the Venice lagoon. “It is calm like a pond…. we Venetians have the feeling that nature has returned and is taking back possession of the city…” (The Guardian 20.3.20 online)
The pressure melted away and I started to feel better once I slowed myself down. The sediment began to settle. I love to travel and one loss for me is that some of our travel plans have had to be cancelled. I am a counsellor, I like people, I like to travel to see new places and am curious about other people’s cultures. Holidays are a significant aspect of my self care. Reading the news about Venice started me on an inner journey instead. I travelled back to a holiday in Venice a number of years ago. An amazing trip that I’ll never forget. I have allowed myself space to reflect, allowing many personal inward journeys and much gratitude to flow. Feeling gratitude always makes me feel better. Remembering those good times gives me hope that there will be more to come.
I have found my own way through this very difficult time. Through the stillness I found some energy to get through, but I have promised myself to do this one step at a time, one job at a time and in my own way. I won’t overwhelm myself again. I will forgive myself if all I want to do is to do nothing very much at all. This space is invaluable. I will not allow myself to feel ashamed of resting. Many people have dependents and will be more busy than ever before; please find time for yourself too. Rest and recuperate whenever you can. We are living through difficult times. Life is stressful enough at the moment without adding to it with an unachievable list.
I encourage you to find your own way. That is is the only piece of advice I offer you. In the words of my 2 grown up daughters. “ You do you Mum”. I did and I felt better. Give yourself the time to tune into yourself. Similar to the changes in Venice, allow your nature to become clearer. When you tune into your authentic self in this way you will find your own way through.
When counselling I often use the metaphor of emotions behaving like water. Collectively we have experienced tidal waves of emotion. Eventually these waves will reduce in intensity and frequency. We will experience calmer waters, until then be kind and compassionate with yourself and let the sediment settle.