This pandemic time has been a giant lesson in waiting and patience for the entire world. Everyone’s lives are on hold in one way or another. For some people that has meant visceral, earthbound threats to their basic safety and security. Their health, home, family, food, businesses, or livelihoods have been directly impacted. For almost everyone there have been impacts to mental, spiritual, and emotional well-being. Pain is relative to life experience. No matter who you are, the pandemic is pressing on your personal pain points in some way.
I am a person for whom the pandemic has not created a great amount of physical threat. I am in my early 40s, I am comfortably middle-class, I don’t have any pre-existing conditions, and I have a day job that allows me to easily work from home in an industry that isn’t hit as hard by the pandemic as some others. Of course, I have some loved ones who I worry about in all of this, but for the most part my family, friends and I are living through this from a place of relatively high physical safety. I recognize that physical safety is a privilege. I am aware of it. I am grateful for it. I am doing my best to use that recognition to fuel compassion and action for others. On the flipside, it doesn’t mean that my own pain points have stopped existing and aren’t amplified by the present world situation. The question is, can I hold space for awareness and compassion for others, and for awareness and compassion for myself?
Self-love is not something I’m good at. I struggle with it in the best of times. The world has been so intense for the last eleven months that it’s made it easier than ever to fall into the trap of having “no right to bitch,” into martyrdom, into self-harm at worst, or neglecting self-care at best. For the first six months of the pandemic, I spent a lot of time in my numbing habits: drinking too much; eating too much; watching too much TV; scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. Then, sometime in August, something started to break. For the first time ever, I actually started to get consciously bored with my numbing habits. I think I had been bored with them for a long time, but I started to be aware of the boredom. I got sick of drinking. I started to get sick of overeating. I started to get sick of watching TV. I definitely got sick of scrolling.
As those things have become less compelling, they’ve left a vacuum. There is a space for me, unfilled by social obligation or fear of missing out, where I can gently explore the pain points that have been ignored and then pressed on by circumstance. I started blogging on this site when I was 28. I abandoned it and came back to it here and there throughout my 30s. The whole point of it was always to try to write my way into one piece. To share the process of it, and to thereby feel less alone. Now I am alone for real, and it is the thing (along with a healthy dose of maturity and experience) that has me finally, very slowly, easing my way into becoming myself, I hope, at age 41.
I am not saying that I don’t still feel lonely, or that I don’t still bang my head against the confines of the pandemic on a daily basis. I am certainly not fully on board with the idea of the pandemic being a blessing. To try to optimistically re-frame it only as an opportunity to slow down and reconnect with yourself and your values is disrespectful to the big picture of how much loss and suffering has been endured already, and how much there is to come. I am just saying that, like many, many difficulties in life, the pandemic just is. There is nothing I can do to control it. And nearly eleven months later there is just the teeniest, tiniest hint of sweetness unfolding.