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COVID-19 & the War Inside

Life is shifting rapidly these days. I wanted to offer this sentiment of reality from my assistant Clara.

Busyness and its Distractions

We live in a culture that rewards us for our performance and achievements. We’ve learned to prioritize work above everything else. Many of us are constantly on the go, forced to juggle multiple responsibilities at once and left with a minimal amount of time in our schedules to engage in quiet time or self-care. Some of us are too busy to even notice this fact of life, and yet others yearn for some time and space to be still. Now, as we collectively face this pandemic, we’re all coming to terms with the fullness of the lives we were leading, pre-COVID.

Coronavirus and subsequent quarantine mandates have changed life as we know it. Our sense of normalcy is nowhere to be found. Right now, it seems that there is no end in sight. We know this isn’t a sprint, it’s going to be a marathon. UNCERTAINTY ABOUNDS.

For some, quarantine has been a welcome respite from the world; an opportunity to recharge your batteries and cozy up at home (I’m speaking to you, introvert). For others, quarantine has turned into a real-life nightmare we can’t seem to wake up from (can you relate, extrovert?).

Clara’s Perspective

I can’t speak for your experience, but I want to share some of mine – in the hopes that you might find yourself able to relate and feel comfort in knowing that the whirlwind of emotions bubbling to surface are very real, normal, and valid.

Personally, I love a hectic lifestyle. I’m a driven, A-type perfectionist. Staying busy gives me a much-needed sense of purpose, I find meaning in my busyness, and setting and meeting my goals makes me feel WORTHY. I thrive on a calendar with minimal white space. But this week, reality really set it.

Today marks my 15th day of quarantine. Some days have been good — filled with things to keep my mind preoccupied, and emphasized by much-needed quality conversations with loved ones. Other days have been really difficult — marked by feelings of despair and confusion, and punctuated by a deafening silence, as my list of things to do and people to talk to has begun to dwindle.

Nowhere to Turn but INSIDE

This week, no longer able to distract myself by staying busy, I found myself consumed by the war happening outside of my four walls. I began obsessively tuning into the news, reading one Op-ed after the next, and ferociously Googling anything and everything that came to mind. I think it’s safe to say many of us have fallen into this type of behavior by now – it gives us some sense of control in what is, by all measures, a situation that is wildly uncontrollable.

But here’s what I realized – my obsession with this external war called Coronavirus has been keeping me distracted from the war going on within. I finally collapsed this week … having nothing to do and nobody else to talk to, I began to sense the emptiness inside of myself. And there was nowhere to go but IN. I think many of us are starting to feel this way. A little empty, a little purposeless. I was swinging between feeling numb and feeling depressed.

If you can relate to this in any way, know this: we have an opportunity right now to make a life-changing choice: continue distracting ourselves with the war going on in the world, or finally tend to the war that’s been raging deep within us.

Grief is Good

Everyone is grieving of the loss of normalcy, so we all have COLLECTIVE VULNERABILITY! We are all facing the disappointment of canceled plans, longing for connection, and yet minimizing very real emotions because “things could be worse”.

It’s time to stop ranking your suffering. Fear, scarcity, and suffering cause COMPARATIVE SUFFERING, which is dangerous. We think to ourselves, “Who am I to be sad when people are dying? Why should I be tired and lonely when so many people on the front line are exhausted? Who I am to be angry that my wedding got canceled when my friend has Corona?” Comparative suffering is a way for us to deny our feelings.

Emotions don’t go away because we deny them, they actually double down and grow. Then they invite shame to take over, “I’m a bad person because I’m sad, lonely, disappointed or pissed off and other people have it so much worse than me. My feelings are wrong”.

When we push down our feelings — specifically those of sadness, dread, anger, and disappointment — we inevitably become depressed. Depression at its core is a pressing down of the self; it’s the unconscious act of not allowing yourself to FEEL things. Emotions are energy in motion and only stay lodged in the body if we don’t allow ourselves to feel them. When we can be with our emotions, then they are free to move through us. So, no matter how COVID has affected you, it’s absurd to think you shouldn’t feel grief, sadness, anger, and disappointment right now. It’s important to have compassion for our feelings and validate them.

The grief brought on by this pandemic can dislodge previous grief from our past that we have not yet fully processed. Our body and the emotions it feels are always looking to heal our hearts, how cool is that?

Meeting my Grief and Emotions

Personally, I’ve had to allow myself to grieve the loss of experiences – months away from graduating from UCLA, I won’t get to study abroad, I’ll finish my last term taking online classes, and I won’t be able to walk across a stage and receive my diploma. Specific college experiences I worked so hard to attain, gone.

It wasn’t until I allowed myself to feel the sadness of this loss that I began to also feel the sadness of other losses I’ve had recently. And allowing these feelings to move through me has enabled me to start seeing parts of myself and my life more clearly. This is an important process in our efforts to heal old wounds. It’s something worth exploring with the support of a professional and loved ones.

I’ve slowly started to face the emptiness that lurks inside of me. I’ve had to reflect on where my worth comes from, if not from my work and meeting goals. I’ve had to put effort into feeling my flurry of emotions and I’m slowly learning to validate my feelings and experiences. It doesn’t matter if things could be worse … they are what they are right now. Empathy and compassion are not finite. And having self-empathy and self-compassion enables and fuels you to have them for others.

You are not alone in feeling everything you’re feeling. There is a world of people out there feeling similar things, AND YET, the emotions inside of you are unique, and precious and valid. You are worthy of allowing yourself to feel anything you need to right now! The things you are grieving – no matter how big or small – they matter. Don’t minimize your experiences, validate them. Let yourself feel your feelings and keep going.

Acceptance, compassion, and love for ourselves are the last things we need to ration right now.




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