Is It Over Yet?? Moving Through the Pandemic Wall
This month will mark the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the pandemic, at least as far as most of us are concerned. It was in March of 2020 that much of the US went into “lockdown” and life as we know it changed dramatically. We didn’t have a lot of information about COVID-19 at that point, but what we knew wasn’t good. Things were getting bad in Europe—Italy was in total shutdown, with staggering death tolls—and we were on the same trajectory. With the information available at that time, the prediction was that it would take 12-18 months to return to any kind of normalcy. Intellectually, this timeframe made sense to me. But I now realize that, emotionally, I had no way to wrap my brain around what that would really mean—how dramatically life would change and how it would feel to live under this new reality for so long.
I have to point out that I been extremely fortunate. I still live in my home, we have two incomes coming in, plenty of food on the table, and we never caught COVID—at least, not that we know. I am also an outgoing introvert which means, as one of my friends put it recently, “pandemic living suits me.” I don’t mind being alone—in fact, I love it. I have plenty of things that I can do at home. Stretchy pants are my friends, I’ve enjoyed cooking and reading, and I don’t have to get up as early to “fit in” my meditation and yoga practice before I start my work day. I have not suffered the way many others have.
This doesn’t mean that I haven’t been challenged in the past year. I feel the loss of the things I can’t do. I miss traveling, going out to dance with friends, and treating myself to a nice meal at my favorite restaurant, among other things. I’ve also felt the rollercoaster of emotions surrounding the incompetent response of the previous administration and the staggering death toll that has resulted from it. I’ve gone from powerlessness to rage to sadness and back again, like many people.
In fact, no matter how well off we may have been in our own personal circumstances this past year, we have all been struggling—it’s just a matter of degrees. For me, the pandemic has highlighted my fear of not being safe, supported, and protected in this world. Initially, the science indicated that the elderly and individuals with other health conditions were most vulnerable to the worst cases of COVID, but time showed that even young and otherwise healthy people could be severely impacted. The randomness of it just heightened the fear.
My solution to managing this fear has been to make a concerted effort to support myself by listening to my inner wisdom about what I need in any particular moment. I can close my eyes, take a deep breath, and listen to what happens next. Usually, the desire that arises is something simple. Homemade baked mac and cheese used to be a once-a-year-dish my daughter requested for her birthday. This past year, it became part of the regular menu rotation. I also started baking more cookies. Binge watch a new TV show online? Don’t mind if I do! Warm baths and home pedicures also became a staple in my support repertoire. Indulgences that used to feel gluttonous or selfish have become routine. I’ve also tried to be more present to moments that used to flash by, such as hugging my husband before he leaves for work in the morning, or stroking one of our beautiful fur babies. In that presence I find both peace and gratitude.
It doesn’t mean this is easy for me, or that I’m not tired. At this point, we are all living our own personal version of Groundhog Day. But I’ve tried to turn pandemic living into a spiritual practice. If I stop often enough to consider what will bring me joy in this moment, I can string those moments together to create a satisfying day, and another, and another. And if “joy” in a particular moment means a few hours of mindless television with a box of Girl Scout cookies on my lap, I try to indulgence that impulse without guilt (after all, I do have my stretchy pants!). My hope is that, when we come through the other side of this, I can look back and say that I not only survived the pandemic, I developed a deeper connection to myself—one rooted in self-love and compassion. And from that standpoint, I will have more to offer the world as it heals.