Breathe

Pools of water reflecting the trees and sky in the woods near where we live.
We’ve had a lot of rain.

I have about ten blog post drafts in my backlog, but I admit to feeling a little bit of “everything is crazy and nothing matters anymore.” COVID-19 has disrupted life for nearly everyone at this point. For some more than others, to be sure. Life is very different for those of us staying home to flatten the curve, as well as for those being forced to work in unprecedented conditions. Yet even people who are trying to go about their lives as usual must see the difference in the availability of goods and services, and probably know at least someone who has lost work or been affected in some other way.

I am able to work from home, but my husband, who was already scheduled off work this week, will soon be returning the hospital to spend his nights doing CT scans. Likely on very sick patients. I often find it hard to keep the overwhelming uncertainty and worry at bay. I think of all the things we had on the calendar, plans we’d been putting off, places we were going to go, activities my kids were pursuing–and I find myself awash in sadness and anxiety over all the not knowing. I feel my rib cage constricting. I realize I’m nearly holding my breath and have to force myself to fully breathe in, breathe out.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Then I start to feel ashamed for borrowing trouble, for feeling sorry for myself when we have our basic needs met and are not considered high risk.

I know there are people out there grieving the loss of loved ones. I know there are people who are terrified because they have multiple high-risk factors. I know there are people who aren’t safe in their own home and there are people who don’t even have a home. I know there are people experiencing violence and hatred because of the ignorance of others. I know there are people going without basic necessities or life-sustaining medication. I know there are people working around the clock to provide care and services for their communities. The thought of all these people and circumstances weigh on me as well.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

What am I to do? What are we to do? I keep coming back to these questions. I’m not wealthy. I don’t have a stockpile of goods I could distribute. I’m not a scientist or a product developer. I can’t find a cure or manufacture more vital medical supplies. I’m not a doctor, I’m not a nurse, I’m not famous, I’m not powerful. I don’t even know that many people. I’m an introvert who works in IT Process, lives in the country, is easily overwhelmed by everything going on in the world, and who forgets to reply to text messages because my mind is always overthinking all. the. things.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

I am also a person of faith who believes deeply that it matters how we live. What I keep coming back to is that the importance of how we live is true regardless of our individual circumstances. We all have different temperaments, traits, perspectives, gifts, resources, and abilities. Now is not the time to focus on what or who we are not. Now is the time to focus on who we are. Now is the time to get creative and do what we can.

We may be someone who can’t leave the house at all and has to rely on others for supplies. We may be low risk and (with lots of hand washing and sanitizing and disinfecting) feel comfortable running errands for others or collecting goods for those in need. We may be activists, able to mobilize our networks to demand action where needed. We may be quiet helpers, able to work behind the scenes to organize support. We may be overwhelmed parents, who only have the energy to keep our little ones feeling safe and loved. We may be vital workers in survival mode, doing our job day in and day out to keep things running. We may be unexpectedly out of work, needing to focus on navigating through the sudden change in routine and income. We may be someone who struggles with mental health, needing to reach our for support to feel our way forward. We may be in any combination of circumstances that none of us would have foreseen even a few months ago.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Whatever our circumstances, we must find ways to cultivate self-compassion and realize we are all doing the best we can as we adjust to the present challenges and physical distancing. If we start from there, we can find a way to keep going. For some of us, we may need to accept that just getting through the day with all that’s coming our way is the best thing we can do. For some of us, we may have the time or resources to get really creative about new ways we can help others. We each need to remember that we are all connected and the more kindness, generosity, and hope we can put out into the world–regardless of how small or extensive our circle of influence–the more likely we all are to come through this with our humanity intact.

As we each find our own ways be compassionate and stay connected and help as we are able, I’d like to remind us of the importance of taking deep, centering breaths when it all feels like too much.

While standing at least six feet from the nearest person, of course.

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