Many months before you came and went.
And now here we are, watching the last few brazen rays of Summer desperately grasp at the edges of what has been, without a doubt, the strangest year to date.
I (like so many of you, I’m sure) have spent most of this year in what feels like a constant cycle of the following: disruption, confusion, adaption and evolution.
Here’s the thing.
Evolution is, in fact, progress. We move forward.
Squeezed (albeit tightly) between the fingers of challenge’s relentless grasp, we learn to break through. In between the constant barrage of new information and unexpected shake-ups there are slivers of time to reflect, and for these small moments of dead space, I have been so grateful.
What have you learned about yourself during this time?
I have thoughts…
As I’m sure you’ve already guessed.
I’ll begin to unpack them, slowly. But first thing’s first.
Something I observed during the span of these past few months is that as time went on, when all of the voices around me grew quieter (mostly due to the prescribed social distancing) – all I could hear was myself. Subtle, like a nudge at first. And then it felt easier to listen. Then I was compelled to listen.
Sure, I still battled that pesky inner critic that popped up each time I allowed myself to consider things I’d deemed “silly”, “feeble”, “unrealistic” or simply “a waste of time” – but months into this span of isolation and distancing I started to feel more confident, more empowered. Almost defiant. Never before had my self talk taken on a defiant tone.
This was new.
Perhaps one of the most delightful insights of this trying time is that when asked, rather, when mandated to peel back and remove nearly every outside source of distraction and focus solely on the things happening inside our own four walls – inside our own minds even – we uncover an unexpected opportunity to gain a little perspective. When we are forced to carve away our external worlds and let go of our daily operating systems, we uncover ourselves.
Here, tucked inside this internal space, we are better able to listen.
The problem is most of us are trying to do this deeply internal work amidst parenting, wifing & husbanding, working long hours & simply surviving all within those very four walls.
It’s certainly nothing short of a “process”.
Nonetheless. Amidst this resulting simplification, compartmentalization and massive reconfiguration (aka pandemic), we are left with an opportunity to “reset”…to construct new daily systems of operation that better suit our current needs.
A second observation.
I’ve found that when we are spread thin, we thicken. And when we think, voice, even proclaim that we simply can’t go any further, we often (though at times, begrudgingly) forge on.
I am in awe of this.
Even when our worlds are turned “uh-side down” (as my two year old son would say), we feel our way through, finding ways to carve new paths. In my attempts to make sense of what this new reality looks like, one word has surfaced time and time again.
I think it’s helpful to keep in mind that balance is something that can really only be “felt”.
Maybe it can also be “found”, but only if this means discovery through consistent research, self-reflection, tweaking of schedules and a surveying of resources. It’s certainly not achieved through the application of mathematics, ratios of time, logical deduction or by someone else’s notion – this must be put to rest. It is forged, fluid, and felt by us, and us alone.
My sister sent me an article on living in what author Tara Haelle calls “surge capacity depletion” that I found particularly insightful with regard to coping with both the perpetual flux and indefinite uncertainty that is this pandemic. In it, she references a few suggestions from specialists. One in particular stood out to me as a self-proclaimed “high achiever” (which, I use in reference to mindset & mode of operation only, because if you asked me what I actually achieve, my response would be “very little”)… it was the suggestion to “expect less of ourselves”…
Even typing this out, I have trouble accepting it.
However, as I read on, the specialist explained that with this particular kind of pandemic related burn out, what we really need is to replenish more, but the key is that you have to know what that looks like for you, personally. This means that we have to move beyond the socially influenced escape-scrolling and face-masking of our current “self-care routine” fatigue and ask ourselves a more personalized set of questions: “where do I get my energy from?”, “when do I feel most grounded?”… “what kind of down time do I need?”…what new rhythms and routines will give me comfort here and now?
What will, in essence, give us a greater sense of balance?
Even as I read through this list I find myself asking (both in silence and out loud. Also rhetorically. Also often) “why is it still so difficult for me to actually believe that it’s OK to be my natural, honest, truest self..?”
Answer 1: Because, despite my efforts, I still refuse to let myself meet my own expectations.
Answer 2: Because I still allow the one or more external forces that reinforce my self doubt to prevail.
Honestly though, the gap is narrowing.
For me, the silver lining of this whole Pandemic has been an unexpected awakening of self-assurance. A rebuilding of self-trust. A discovery of conviction. Isolation has given me the space to speak up, to listen to my feelings and to actually speak out against anything that feels like an assault – to push back against self doubt.
Whether it is self preservation, survival, or just good old-fashioned personal growth…I’m grateful for it.
And with the struggles that so many others have been through…and are still going through…my sincerest hope is that in this one tiny little discovery, I’m not alone.