While I will never see a “silver-lining”of this crisis, and I am devastated by the toll it is taking on individuals, communities and the world, I realized that we all had a choice to be sad, angry, upset and hopeless or to see this time as a chance to make ourselves better and then perhaps that positive small change in each person will have a butterfly effect. The collective butterfly effect of all of those who are using this time positively could have a global impact greater than the virus.
I would be extremely remiss if I did not acknowledge
that not everyone has the gift of this time.
Our medical professionals, first responders and all staff in healthcare facilities are being worked to the bone. Police, coroners and funeral homes are buckling under the work load. Grocery store workers, delivery drivers, factory workers and truckers are working harder than ever. For others who are not working nor getting paid, the financial strain of loss of all or part of their income is dangerous and terrifying more many. I know this, and I am deeply grateful to those who are helping support the rest of us and can empathize from my own times of financial hardship with those who are feeling that strain.
However, for many, there is nothing we can do, but be home and wait with or without pay, and it is our choice how we spend that time we have whether it be alone or with family or roommates. We can use it or let it just slip past us.
I wrote about my fears and concerns during the first week, and in the subsequent days and weeks, I have written more. This post is the result of further introspection, so this is my about me and my journey, but my hope in sharing is always that someone else will read something that resonates and feel a connection and know that they are not alone.
I read an article this morning as I sat down to finish this that talks about the great period of awakening we have had, but then what will be coming next. He says,
“If we want to create a better country and a better world for our kids, and if we want to make sure we are even sustainable as a nation and as a democracy, we have to pay attention to how we feel right now.”
He warns that if we don’t hold on to the good that has come of this, we will slip right back into old habits and patterns.
I wonder if I, if we, can develop new habits now that we can continue when we get back to “normal,” which may never be the same again.
I had something of a mini-revelation recently that I can attribute to a three different factors apart from the simple fact that the time I have spent alone inside my apartment has been a major catalyst!
First of all, for reasons I can not explain, I decided to write down and publish my experience with trauma, how yoga helped me to heal, and the acknowledgement that it is not a destination, but just a step on a journey. Writing those posts got me thinking a lot and reflecting a lot on who I was before it happened; who I was after coming out of the relationships; and who I was growing into as part of the healing process. Those two years or so following the end of the last relationship were full of cathartic experiences, revelations, moments of deep understanding, moments of emotional release and periods of intense learning and experience. It dawned on me as I wrote those posts that I sort of arrived a certain point, and my learning slowed during the next two to three years. I felt much better, so for that (and other reasons), I stopped actively looking for healing, and I started just living my life as a much happier person. While of course, the latter part of that statement I see as quite good, the first part troubles me.
Secondly, I met someone in recent months to whom I feel quite close, and this person experienced trauma as well as heartbreak far beyond what I endured. However, coming out of the darkness and into a place of understanding is important to him. He is actively working on himself; he is trying to learn from the past and learning to let it go; he is working not to dwell on thoughts, perceptions and identities; he is reading, writing, learning, growing. He is trying to be the best version of himself and to learn to love himself. I know he wants to one day be able to give and receive love again. I felt inspired by him. Watching him on his journey encouraged me to continue on my own.
Thirdly, our lives all changed in the past few weeks, and mine had changed quite a but before that in recent years. I touched on all of this in my last post. When I started on the journey to heal, I had a full time job that I really liked with decent hours and also a part-time job. I was not exactly flush (my full-time job was in nonprofit), but I was paying my bills, and I was stable. While emotionally and personally, I was a mess, I was pretty together professionally. I was living in London, and while it may seem surprising, London was chock-full of ways to explore spirituality, which I wrote about recently. From there, I moved to Guyana, and that was where I started teaching yoga. I was brand new to teaching and felt an urgent need to learn. I did a distance certification course and that was what really propelled me on to a yoga-specific, rather than spiritually general journey. I left there and spent nine weeks on a pilgrimage of sorts in India. Beyond the intensity of the training, I had multiple deeply fulfilling and spiritual experiences.
I returned to the States and to my family unsure of what was next, but I was happy, I was content, I was full of joy and I had a little money saved, plus I had this new skill I could use to spread health and joy while earning money. I also had the prospect of a new job.
Then in January of 2017, things started to fall apart, and a very challenging two years followed. I was stretched very thin physically, and my days were long, so this took its toll. Between multiple jobs, hours teaching yoga and many miles biking to all of these things with no stability or plan for the future, I felt like I was barely keeping it together. I was physically exhausted most of the time. As a result, my own practice sort of dwindled. If you think of a car that you buy new and then crash, it gets repaired and put back together, but it is no longer new and it needs maintenance. It may still run, but it won’t be at peak performance.
That was me. I was not getting maintenance,
and I was driving hard and fast on low fuel.
In February 2018, I treated myself to a three-day rejuvenating trip to an Ashram in the Bahamas because I recognized that my own practice was faltering, and I didn’t want to crash again. I went on my own and decided to be in silence while I was there. I was up at dawn to meditate and then practice. The vegan food was nourishing, and the hours spent lying on the beach, reading, resting and being silent reinvigorated me.
I got back to DC ready to continue, but I felt like I was on a hamster wheel. Continue what? What was I doing? Where was I going? When did this end?
2018 was just as tough, but it is important to note that I felt happy at the time. I was sleeping, I was productive, I wasn’t crying, I was writing, I was enjoying connecting with family, but when I look back, I know that I was just treading water. I wasn’t drowning, but I wasn’t moving to shore, and that was not sustainable long term.
And then I got a job! The federal government opened back up, and in January of 2019, I started a full time job. I used my newfound insurance and started seeing a therapist because I fell twice in a row into the same pattern with men. I didn’t understand why I was happy, but seemed to gravitate towards men who were bad for me, and left me feeling unhappy and down on myself. I am not sure we had time to get very far in my therapy because I once again, left the country that September with my new job and landed myself in an incredibly challenging position.
Work starts EARLY in the morning, and the work is emotionally and mentally draining. I found the emotional strain on the job to be intense, and I was having a hard time coping. I cried in the bathroom at work, and I was waking up in panic in the middle of the night. On top of this, I stopped practicing completely; I drive to work, instead of biking; and I was only sporadically doing any sort of exercise. My body started to hurt and, funny thing, I was exhausted again! I had a perfect place to practice, but I was hardly using it. My body had been very much in motion, but like Newton says, my body at rest was now remaining at rest.
So all this is to say that my own learning and my own journey of mental well being and self-care has really stagnated.
With the turn of 2020, I decided that I needed to start practicing yoga again with some regularity. In December, I started attending two classes a week at a studio, and in January, I started teaching one night a week after work for free at the office.
Enter point two. I met this man at the end of 2019 and spent a lot of time with him in January of 2020. I ended our relationship because it became evident that he needed to work through things still, and I was ill-equipped to deal with being the partner of someone who had suffered such trauma. He left the country right after. We have stayed in touch, and from afar, I have watched his process and his growth and have been inspired by it.
I have realized that I am doing the bare minimum I should be for my mental health and personal growth. Our minds need to be exercised, and although I do believe that the spiritual and meditative aspect of yoga is important, I have been neglecting it. I am still not the best version of myself I can be for myself and for a future partner one day. But how? When? My days are filled! (I think we have ALL said that at some point!)
Then COVID happened, and our global self-isolation began.
At first, I was scared of the idea of isolation and I was worried for humanity. I wrote about those fears in the first week. But then I realized that I had a choice; we all had a choice. I could freak out and panic and feel overwhelmed by the crisis. I could be sad and feel sorry for myself being forced to self-isolate in my apartment alone. I could use the time to wallow in self-pity and mourn the loss of the latest relationship.
Or I could take this as an opportunity for self-care and growth.
In the first two weeks, I spent a lot of time writing in this blog and another one that I have. I did a lot of introspection and ended up writing the series of three blogs about my trauma and coming out of it. I wrote and published new recipes. I tapped into my snarky side and started a new more light-hearted section of this blog. I was working on catching up on my photo albums, which I was years behind on. I made some new yoga and pilates videos, which I had not done in a long time. I have been exercising daily and trying to get outside at least once a day for a run, walk or bike ride plus some fresh air and vitamin D. I used the time to fix my bike, which I had not been on since September!!
This all feels creative and productive, but it is still just maintaining a status quo; it is not helping me continue to heal and to move forward. It is not helping me learn to understand how my trauma manifests itself in my life, nor how it impacts my relationships with others, most recently, with the aforementioned guy.
Then a week ago, I hit an emotional wall. I woke up on Saturday morning a total hot mess. There were a couple of outside mitigating factors, but those blue days tend to just happen every once in a while. I finally dragged myself out of bed sometime after 10 and had a cup of coffee. At about 10:30, I opened a bottle of Chardonnay, which I drank throughout the day as I lay in the hammock and alternated between reading a novel and sobbing. I cried so much that day that my face and eyes were puffy….the bottle of wine certainly didn’t help! The novel itself was triggering because of the domestic violence theme, but I read it anyway as if punishing myself. I ate crap all day and then poured myself into bed after taking two peremptory aspirin. I felt down on myself and completely undeserving of love.
Sunday I woke up better. I took a shower , I looked at myself in the mirror and gave myself a good talking to.
What am I actually doing to improve myself right now? What am I doing to continue my own growth and my own journey? What am I actively doing to try to not let tiny bumps in the road turn in to days of drowning my sorrows in a hammock with wine?
I am far from perfect. I can still let my emotions overrule rational thought (clearly), which is a sign of an overactive ego. I let work overwhelm me and take over my sleep. I am not always able to remain as calm and patient as I would like to be in stressful situations. I doubt myself. During that brief relationship with a guy I really liked, I realized that my old insecurities were still there. I realized that I was anxious around him, and he noticed it too. I really cared for him, and when it ended, I knew what he had done, but I also realized the part that I played; we were both culpable in the inevitable end, which made me sad. The connection with him was real, and yet neither of us was equipped to nourish the relationship.
I realized that while I am doing very well most of the time on my own, I still have work to do to learn to be with another person and to be whole for them; to make sure that I am doing well, not just when things are going smoothly, but also in times of challenge, personally or professionally. I also realized that my insecurities were having a detrimental impact. I told him once that I was afraid that I “would fuck up the relationship.” I realized that I don’t believe that I deserve to be loved because of what happened to me before. I also realized that I assume the worst will happen, and that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I don’t have a low regard for myself. I don’t think I am unattractive, unintelligent, unkind or unlovable, but I do think that I feel unworthy of being loved. I give love readily, and I am hungry to receive it, but insecurities rear their heads and sabotage the possibility. Mostly when I go out with guys, I’m not interested. “I’m happy now. Why should I risk being unhappy?” I always think. And when I do risk it, it always ends. I am not taking all the responsibility for this, but I certainly play a role.
In this case, it was very clear to me the role we both played. While I would love another chance with him when we are both ready, with him or without him, I realize I need to continue on my own path to self-love and to learn that I am enough for myself and for a partner. Seeing how trauma impacted him and us was like putting a mirror to myself and seeing how my trauma is still impacting me and my relationships. We both know we need to heal ourselves and then certainly, I hope to find a partner in him or another person that can be a part of my support system, but we cannot be each other’s foundation, we must each be able to stand on our own.
For years, I have used the analogy of a cake. I love a nice piece of chocolate cake, and it is edible and delicious as it is, but it would be even better with chocolate icing! I want to make sure that my cake can stand proud on its own with or without the frosting, but if someone offers me icing, I want to be able to accept it and use it to complement my cake. I don’t want my partner to feel like he has to BE the cake!
What possible excuse could I have now? I am alone in my apartment all day and there is a 5pm curfew, so if I go out, I have to be back for the evening. My job is impossible to do from home, so any given week, I have had very minimal hours related to my job. I have the internet with infinite books, articles, podcasts, documentaries and more. I could be using this time to read, reflect, write, meditate, exercise, practice yoga, evolve!
That’s what I started to do this week. I hit ‘control-alt-delete’ and reset myself.
I hope to come out of this global crisis better than I went into it. I am heartened to know that I am not the only person doing this, so while it is a shame that humanity requires the deaths of tens of thousands of people to improve itself, maybe their deaths won’t be in vain if we all come out of this a little bit kinder, a little but more humane, a little bit better than we went into it….maybe we can all be happier humans!
I have been so happy (and proud) watching my friend on his journey and maybe one day we will meet again and both be happier humans capable of giving more than we were last time, and if not, at least I know I will be able to move forward anyway because that is where my path is leading me– forward.
I have also loved watching my other friends and family share their stories on social media. Between push-up challenges, puzzles, home-school ideas, recipes and book recommendations, it seems that everyone I know is trying to take this time as a gift. I did my fast before this all started, but what a great time to try it if you ever wanted to. Of course, we have all watched Netflix, and I need my daily dose of CNN, but it doesn’t seem that anyone is able to spend all day everyday watching TV. Everyone is coming together to do their part, and sometimes one’s part is to just stay home. I am so encouraged watching people share how they are coping with staying home. The butterfly effect is real!
For me, the first step was to process my trauma and the path I took to arrive where I am now. I am proud of that and grateful for that. I will continue this series to share what I am doing to put my journey back into gear. I have been idling enjoying the place where I arrived, but now it is time to push on, to challenge myself, to climb the next hill, to round the next curve because as good as this place is, I know the next will be even better.
In the coming days, I will post about meditation, yoga, reading, writing and other creative pursuits, exercise, and I am doing and what I see others doing to stay sane, healthy and happy and hopefully to come out of this stronger together! My only hope is that you read these posts and are reminded of your own humanity and the notion that we are all connected; that you may read something that resonates with you; that you may be inspired to try something; or that you may be able to recognize that we are each on our own journey, but they are at times parallel and at times intersecting or overlapping with others. We should strive share the road, enjoy the views together and know that each journey is unique and correct.
I will add to this series in the coming days and weeks. Please feel free to comment with what you are doing and share your links! We are all in this together. One love.
- Coping During COVID-19: An extroverted empath’s thoughts
- Coping During COVID-19: This time is a gift
- Developing a Meditation Practice…trying to anyway
- Coping During COVID-19:How can I help?
- Starting…and Continuing a Yoga (asana) Practice
- Learning to Breathe Mindfully (Pranayama)
- Walk Like A Yogini: Being Kind and Keeping it Real
- Exercise and other Drugs
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