Finding our way…Together by Charity Hagains MA, LPC-S
Isolation status: It’s week two, or three, or four (for those of you who were way ahead of this), and many people are feeling frustrated. These few weeks I have heard a range of emotions: anger, concern, confusion, anxiety, disappointment, loneliness, restlessness, sadness, resolve; and I don’t think anyone is surprised by that. My clients are healthcare workers, attorneys, expectant moms, CEO’s, teachers, and grandparents. From every generation, race, faith and socioeconomic class, we are all sharing in the experience of a worldwide pandemic.
This is hard. Mostly because what we are being asked to do, is to do nothing. We are tasked with sitting still and pausing our world. Sadly, our culture is not used to doing nothing. We are a society of action and achievement. We take pride in our “pull yourself up by your bootstrap” mentality. To be asked to abandon that way of thinking is difficult, no matter how easy it sounds on the surface.
Our self worth has long been measured by action. What we do, who we help, what we achieve, what we earn, these are measures we are comfortable with. To tell American’s that their worth is measured in Netflix episodes is not an easy sell.
I work tirelessly as a therapist to convince people their worth is innate and lies beyond these measures. Clients who know me can probably hear my speech on repeat: “You are born with worth. It doesn’t increase or decrease. It’s a birthright.” Again, this has never been an easy concept. Truth be told, that belief system is one that takes me an incredible amount of worthwhile practice. Therefore, I do not expect the entire population to easily lean into that feeling of discomfort. However, there are ways in which we can lessen our pain.
For parents, it’s easy. Does your child do something that makes you love them? Are there tasks they perform that make them more valuable or more dispensable to you? No. We love them because they breathe. We like some behaviors, and we dislike others, but we love them either way. Be it difficult or easy. You too are a child of someone, and thus, have earned the birthright for love and worthiness.
For non-parents you too have that same capacity for love. Are the people around you dispensable? Do they have to accomplish something to be worthy of being alive and valuable? Likely not. You love them because of who they are and how they make you feel. I doubt you care if they make a million this year. I mean, you might be happy for them, but it isn’t the basis of your friendship.
That being said, you get to give yourself that same grace. You don’t have to have a clean home, a plush bank account, a kid on the honor roll, the corner office or any other “achievement,” You are worthy just the same while sitting at home being “non-essential” because you are essential to your tribe (and essential even if you’ve yet to find your tribe).
Did your promotion get postponed? Your birthday trip cancelled? Wedding on hold? Maternity photos impossible? I can’t tell you how many times in these last few weeks people have shared with me their monumental disappointment, yet followed it by, “But it’s stupid. I’m blessed. I should be grateful.” Let me say this loud and clear: There is room for both. You can feel gratitude and disappointment at the same time.
Don’t try to make this feel better before it’s time. I swear to you that you will move through these feelings, but only if you allow yourself to have them. They are valid and I can tell you that letting yourself feel them, without guilt, will help you move past them faster than denying they are valid.
It is easy to fall into “pre-pandemic” thinking. Hell, it’s our default. But in difficult times priorities change, as they should. This new world, new work environment, new social interaction mediums, all these new things mean we are reinventing our lives. Why not take it all the way?
Reinvent your “to-do” list with mandatory “play” time. Make evening walks with your spouse more important than laundry, make self forgiveness non-negotiable, prioritize your self-care above your company’s bottom line. This has always been possible for us, however now it is essential to us. If we want to come through these difficult times we have to change our mindset, not just our daily routines.
The reality is we are grieving. Grief on a global scale has never been something we have experienced, nor had I imagined we would. Yet, we grieve together. We grieve for missed experiences, for people we are fearful of losing, and for those we have lost to this pandemic. We grieve for normal. I implore you to allow yourself the space for that grief. Let yourself be changed by this experience, and more importantly, let yourself experience the shared human condition of those feelings.
I hope that during this most difficult and unprecedented time you are good to yourself. I hope that when you struggle, you reach out. I hope that through this experience, you find unimaginable ways to grow. I hope. Most importantly, I hope that you hope too.
Should this new world become overwhelming, or you find it difficult to create that necessary space for emotion amidst the many concerns of our era, reach out. Our therapists are waiting to give you a reprieve from dealing with this alone. We have used telehealth mediums since we opened our doors, and we are grateful at how that experience has prepared us to help others in this time of social distancing. Remember you are never alone.