As we finish the first quarter of 2022, it is so encouraging seeing the transition back to the norms we have become so accustomed to in our lifetime: gyms, restaurants, theaters, and parks reopening to full capacity and hours; children going back to camps and school five days a week for at least seven hours per day; and beautiful, MASKLESS faces! God, I missed seeing smiles! For some people, a smile might have been the only warm gesture they would receive in a day.
So, it would seem as though things are finally getting back to normal, but I find myself questioning… what is “normal?” Should the norm of before continue to be the norm of today? If not, how will it be different? How will we be different? And should we really want to return to the “normal” we once knew?
Apparently, my reaction to COVID did not follow the norm. That became abundantly clear during the early days of COVID in 2020 as I read about the fear, isolation, panic, and worry being expressed on social media. Although I could understand the concern, and justifiably so, I can’t say I felt the same. In fact, it was the exact opposite for me. I felt immense joy and freedom during self-quarantine. I can honestly say it was one of the happiest times of my life.
Now it is possible that I may be a bit of a hermit. I do love my alone time. But I do rather enjoy interaction with people too, albeit more one-on-one as opposed to big crowds. So, I don’t think I qualify as a full-on hermit. I just express and appreciate hermit tendencies every now and again. Especially having two small children. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my children dearly. It’s just that ever since my husband and I separated, and we started sharing custody… WOW, did I not realize how little time and focus I allowed myself…! I didn’t know what to do with myself when the kids were not there. The wellness center I was working at as a personal trainer and Pilates instructor was shut down, so there really was no one else to focus on. It was just me, myself, and I.
And I had to learn to give myself some TLC. So yeah, I’ve learned to be a bit selfish, and I will not apologize to anyone for that. In fact, I believe everyone should love themselves enough to put themselves first. Serve yourself first. Take the time to make yourself whole. Fill your cup up to the brim. Only then, will you have anything of value to offer anyone else.
So, my days in quarantine were spent doing things I absolutely loved. I meditated daily for an hour or more. I learned how to cook for the Keto diet I started. I exercised, I read, I wrote, I dated online, I sang loudly and off-key, and I danced around like no one was watching, (and if anyone was watching, I hope it caused a chuckle or brought a smile to their face). When I had the kids, we played games, we went for hikes, we watched shows, we baked, and we spent quality time together. We stayed up late. We slept in late. We stayed in pajamas all day if we wanted to. And it was heavenly!
Now, I refrain from watching TV and avoid most forms of social media. I am an empath who can very quickly become depleted with the constant bombardment of negative news that seems to come from every direction. As so, I have learned to be very selective as to what I give my attention to, and I set boundaries against the things I wish to keep out. But since I was trying to date at the time, and because most forms of socialization had to be internet-based due to the pandemic, I would find myself online with the rest of the world being swallowed up in the wave of COVID. The health impacts, the financial and economic impacts, the horror stories, the warnings, the checklists, the do’s and don’ts, the shortage of everything, the tips on how to home-school, how to make a home-made mask, how to properly disinfect things, how to get tested, when would a vaccine be ready, and just how long is this going to go on for??!!
I admit it. The wave took me down a time or two. I am human. I let the fear crawl in a bit. I let it get under my skin, and I felt it. I felt the fear. And then I did something completely against the norm… I welcomed it.
Over the past few years, I have shifted my perspective on how I see things. In my previous blog, Inside Ourselves, I talk about pain and how it should be listened to and not ignored. Pain is resistance in the body, and so ignoring it or trying to push through or past it, will only create more resistance. We need to embrace our pain, acknowledge it, talk to it, learn what it needs to feel better. And I believe it is the same with fear.
Just as pain is a tool to let you know something is wrong, so too is fear a tool. It’s a tool to help you become more aware. And how you use that tool, and what you become aware of, will determine whether you can embrace the fear and move forward, or whether you will let the fear control you and make you stuck.
It seems to me, all fears can be lumped into one general fear… a fear of the unknown. In regards to COVID, it’s easy to see how this fear can get rolling… Am I going to get the virus? What if a loved one of mine gets the virus? What if I lose my job and can’t support my family? What happens when unemployment runs out? What if we lose our home?… There are too many scary scenarios and “what-ifs” to count.
The truth is however, those fears aren’t new. They just have a different spin on them. Anything can happen on any given day. Nothing is guaranteed. You could lose your house or job in some random, environmental event. You could get sick with an ailment worse than COVID. You could die from something far less severe than COVID. You or a loved one could die from any assortment of things on any given day. So why freak out now?
The perceived threats have always been there and will always continue to be there. Most of us, however, have learned to just push them aside and not pay so much attention to them. And by doing so, we don’t let fear get to us, get under our skin, keep us up at night. We don’t let “what could happen” control us. But there are others who are crippled by debilitating, life-dampening fears, phobias, and neurosis. These are the ones who can’t seem to change the thoughts in their heads. They have constant, fear-invoking images playing in their minds. And without some serious professional help, they will continue to have their lives controlled by fear.
And that’s where COVID took some people, unfortunately. To a place where it deeply, possibly even clinically, affected them. Where it couldn’t just be pushed aside or brushed off. And even if some were successful for a moment at doing just that, all they had to do was open a crack to the outside world, and in blew a gush of COVID news that slammed them in the face! (Hence my joy in hermit-hood…).
So how about this… let fear come at you. Stop pushing it away. Invite it in for a conversation. Look it square in the eyes and ask… Why does this bring up so much fear in me? And then be prepared to sit and go within for an answer. Give yourself a chance to feel the fear. While in the feeling, bring up a moment from the past where you felt something similar. Remember how it felt at its worst. Was it in a time of expectation of something, or was it in the moment of the thing itself? Often our expectations of something are far worse than the real thing.
If your expectations do not seem worse to you, at least be able to see that you survived something that you feared. You went through it, and you are still alive to talk about it. Find gratitude for every small moment of joy and triumph you have had in your life since that moment, realizing that there are still so many wonderful and truly worthwhile experiences life has to offer you.
And I bet if you really look deeply, you will find a gift buried deep behind the fear. A gift from the universe. A gift to remind you of what truly matters to you. A gift to wake you up to what you will miss if you let fear hold you back. My gift from this COVID experience was every precious, quality moment I was blessed to have alone and with my children. And let’s not forget about the decrease in cars on the roads giving us and Mother Gaia the gift of cleaner air!
Fear is not here to limit us from living life. Fear is here to teach us… to make us uncomfortable, so that we are forced out of our comfort zone. Forced to grow. To change. To be better. To wake up to all that life has to offer us, even if we can’t see the value in it yet.
Think of us humans as growing trees. As we reach “young adulthood,” we admire our tall, sturdy trunks and sprawling limbs. We love our full head of leaves and beautiful buds. We have experienced this many times before, through many seasons and years. This is who we are. This is how life goes.
But now let’s say we are pruned for the first time. Our branches are cut back. Gone are our many sprawling limbs, leaves, and buds. All that we have come to know as us is gone. We are left only with our trunks. We don’t understand why this is happening to us. We feel exposed. We feel vulnerable. We feel scared.
Because this is the first time this has happened, we don’t yet know the benefits of pruning. We can’t see them nor experience them yet. We are in a state of fear and not-knowing. Will this happen again? Will it get worse? Quite frankly, we are in a state of panic.
In the body, this shows as the fight-flight-or-freeze response. It’s the body’s way of protecting us and directing all available energy to our vitals to keep us alive. It puts us into survival mode. Without reassurance that we are not dying, the body stays in this constant state of stress, thereby weakening the immune system. This then makes us more susceptible to all that we fear – actually happening – to us!
It’s a terrible cycle… BUT, it’s a cycle we can choose to end. Yes, it takes courage to stand up to fear. To face it. To let it in. To embrace it as a powerful teacher. But if you can see the bigger purpose, it makes it a bit easier. For every time you can embrace fear, that energy helps grow your trunk thick and strong, with deep and hardy roots. With continued acceptance of fear as a natural part of life, you will begin to experience less and less of the negative feelings it once conjured, allowing you to embrace life to a much fuller capacity. And isn’t that what life is truly about?
So as things are getting back to “normal,” I dare you to question, “normal.” Should our concept of normal really be a life shielded from fear? Should we really live doing everything in our power to avoid anything that could provoke fear? And if so, how does that benefit us? Is staying “safe” and always the same a benefit to us? And what are we really staying safe from? A fear that is new?… or one that has always been present, but we are just now granting more power over us… letting it control us, keeping us from enjoying life, or worse… making us weakened and sick? Or is it worth feeling a bit of fear to come out of our comfort zone, challenge the norm, and be forced to change…? Be forced to grow…? Be forced to live bigger than we are today?
Humans always have a choice. And many choices are not easy. Choices bring change, and change produces fear of the unknown. But another gift I got during this pandemic was an underlying sense of peace. And that sense of peace greatly soothes any fears that come up for me. This peace came with an awareness of the bigger picture of life… that life is about growth: physically, mentally, and spiritually. Life is about questioning reality and searching for more. Life is about exploring all this beautiful planet and our amazing bodies have to offer us, and then making peace with whatever we discover. Life is about acceptance that certain things will always be out of our control, and this is ok. I have learned to trust and have faith that everything is ultimately going to be alright.
I hope you took advantage of the time and space COVID allowed to go inside yourselves, deep into your subconscious, and to ask and learn more about who you really are. And if you didn’t… it’s never too late! There, I hope you find the love and spiritual connection that brings a deep sense of peace. Peace that allows you the courage to embrace fear. Peace that brings an innate knowing that there is a bigger picture happening that although you can’t see, you can trust is happening for your greatest good and the greatest good for all and our planet.
Namaste. Now go live fearlessly!