Keep Calm and Carry On?

“Keep Calm and Carry On.” Five little words that are so hard for many of us to do these days. I was scrolling through Urban Outfitters’ website and saw the most wonderful stock setup. I loved the relaxing vibes, the exposed brick and plant, the openness of a bronze palm sitting on the table, thought about how I could get some amazing sleep on that pillow. The only problem was that possibility was about as real as those items currently being in my house: not real at all. As 2020 presses on, we remain in uncertain times with the continued devasting effects of COVID-19, social dynamics shifting as we knew them, and the never-ending desires to return to a normal life that seems like it was decades ago. We are constantly hearing information on the news about vulnerable populations around the world, many more months without a vaccine for the virus, and unemployment rates increasing every day; yet, we’re encouraged to maintain hope and continue to uplift those around us.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found myself on an emotional rollercoaster over the past five or six weeks. I started out concerned about the regular operations of the outside world: when can my kids return to school, how will they see their friends, how do we need to alter our work schedules? Then I became really excited that my family was having so much time together to embrace one another and share space. That was quickly followed by feelings of overwhelm as I tried to become three different teachers for my sons as we figured out schoolwork and work/life balance. There were days where I gave up trying to be optimistic because my kids could see right through me. There were other days where they didn’t have to say a word because we were so emotionally connected, almost like how we were when they were babies. And there were other days when I was grateful we all ate something and didn’t try to kill one another. Like I said, an emotional rollercoaster.

Yet, in all of these feelings and attempts to control the situation, I (and I’m sure you all as well) have learned we have absolutely no control. Even the control we thought we once had was nonexistent. Now the last time you were here, I was telling you about a horrible accident I was involved in and how I’ve been recovering with the guilt and shame of my actions for the past two years. I realized I didn’t have control over many things a long time ago, but I never thought I’d not have control like this. I mean, a global pandemic has uprooted the entire world! But there has to be some glimmer somewhere, right?

Over the past few weeks, my glimmer has been in being kind to myself and those around me. Each day I have increasingly perfected the balance of talking about the current reality of the world with not becoming overly consumed by information each day. I need to understand what’s happening on a weekly basis to avoid feeling isolated and weary, but I also need to not overconsume to avoid feeling hopeless and depressed. I allow myself and my family one COVID-centered conversation a day then we bookend those conversations with our goals as a family and as individuals. I’ll cook dinner, my sons will do a homework assignment, I will fix something we hadn’t gotten to for years. These conversations remind us that we’re not alone, but they also give each of us agency over how we need to manage our feelings and concerns. I’m immensely blessed to have my family with me during these frightening days, but I realize that’s not everyone’s reality. Some of us are physically and emotionally alone. That’s why I wanted to create this blog, as a place for us to come together emotionally and spiritually, sharing space and kindness because we could use a lot more of that in the world these days.

For the past two years, being alone isn’t a new experience for me. Many of my relationships shifted or ended because people didn’t want to be associated with me. But there’s something utterly eerie about pandemic aloneness. It brings out a raw form of depression, anxiety, and fear for even the strongest of us. Many of us are usually worried about the future, but COVID-19 has some of us paralyzed with fear about the present. We question so much and wonder how we can escape. We’re vulnerable in ways we’ve never been vulnerable before, whether it’s a new outlook on life after surviving the virus or a sense of despair after grappling with the death of loved ones at the metaphorical hands of the virus. Or it’s possibly something existing in the middle of the wide chasm of experiences and emotions between those two poles. Whatever the fears, we aren’t alone.

The lack of clarity from our federal leadership doesn’t help the cause any. I need a moment for a quick aside. I watched a briefing the other day and I heard the “leader of the free world” say we should attempt to inject disinfectant into our bodies to wipe out the virus because disinfectant kills the virus in seconds. Who says that?? I don’t want to steer the conversation into politics because coronavirus is so much bigger than politics, but we’re vulnerable as a nation with the lack of regulations on the types of information that can be shared as people desperately search for ways to manage symptoms and avoid contracting the virus altogether.

Even reading these realities in black and white causes me to experience my vulnerabilities in ways very different from processing my internal thoughts or having a verbal conversation. Seeing the words, my words, is wholly different. I’m reminded of all the things I used to do to avoid seeing the words that describe my reality, and I’m reminded of the things I try to do now that are so much healthier for me and my family. There have been times in my life where stress, anxiety, and worry have driven me to vices. My vice was wine. After a long day, I’d pour a glass or two and mellow out without having to think about what happened earlier. I didn’t have the emotional capacity to work through my experiences and feelings, and I honestly didn’t want to at the time. Knowing that was a reality for me now terrifies me for so many others. It’s so easy to have alcohol delivered to our homes or to stop by the store the few times we go outside for a walk (while maintaining social distancing advice, of course), grab a quick bottle, then head home to get comfortable and drink our sorrows away. It even sneaks up on some of us. One drink becomes three drinks becomes the entire bottle. We’re all trying to escape because there is such a weight in staring down the truth.

I hear it everywhere that coronavirus is the great equalizer. In many ways it isn’t, but in some important ways it is. We all know what each of us is feeling because we’re all sharing the same emotions, albeit at differing levels depending on the day. We’re all thinking of the ways we can escape for a brief second to feel normal. And we’re all brought back to reality when the next notification of what’s happening around the world pops up on our phones. Like I said, it’s heavy.

But there are so many people we can reach out to, from the random person on Twitter to the friend we haven’t gotten a chance to talk to in years. We’re all working together to build community and eradicate the self-doubt we all grapple with as the weeks wear on. The world has changed. The world IS changing. But so are we in incredible ways. We’re taking risks to connect with we people we let slip away. We’re re-evaluating what’s most important, no matter how difficult it is to wrestle with fifth grade math when you learned it one way and your child is being taught another way (if you couldn’t tell, this is still a serious frustration in my house). Even though we can’t physically see people, we’re maintaining relationships through social distancing and virtual hangouts. We’re meeting our neighbors and caring for strangers when we learn they’re in need. We’re embracing our feelings and learning how to process our emotions. We’re seeking various forms of therapy and having those hard moments with ourselves, so that when we come out of this, we will be a more beautiful version of ourselves than when we turned inward to our homes and immediate families. We’re letting go of those things that hurt us so we can open our hearts for more love and joy than we ever imagined.

I’ll admit, when I started writing this post I wanted to conclude with an answer about how things were going to be better and offer a regimen of activities to do to get through the day, along with the apps you could download for exercises and recipes. But I was again struck by the the mantra to keep calm and carry on. The internet is full of lists that we can implement until we phase out of social distancing. You don’t need another. I don’t need another. But what we do need is the encouragement to keep calm, to continue carrying on. We need to know that it’s okay to not be okay. We need to know that we have the option of deciding the mood we will take into our days and that there are no right answers to this.

I was recently sent a link by a friend of the author Glennon Doyle’s Instagram. She was talking about mothers and mothering, and she said something that absolutely brought me to tears: “the miracle of grace is that you can give what you have never gotten.” I never got the words that whatever I’m feeling is okay because I needed to put together action plans: get out on bail, go to court, check on my kids, complete probation criteria, the list goes on and on. But I offer to each of you the affirmation to be calm with yourselves. You don’t need that drink because you are allowing yourself to feel and not have every answer. You don’t need to hide your tears from your children because we all need to experience the beauty of our emotions and learn the process of sharing burdens with one another. You don’t need to question if you should reach out to that friend because we all are desiring connections. You don’t have to get all of the work done by the deadline because each of us is reinvesting in the people and time that are most important to our overall wellbeing. As I experience the miracle of grace, I hope each of you will give yourselves the same grace I extend to you. Give yourselves what you’ve never gotten. Rest in that grace.

Be well, my friends ​♥

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