A series of entries to offer insight, hope, and ways to cope
Beauty in the Broken
June 22, 2020
I blush and snicker to myself, as I recall my inspired optimism of a few short months ago.
Setting out to “finally get that blog started!” seemed like the quintessential key to slacken my internal gridlock caused by Coronavirus.
The world bore no resemblance to any previous period in my lifetime. By embracing the beauty of this global struggle, inviting myself to rediscover nature, and perhaps unleashing some female Walt Whitman hidden mysteriously within me, I suppose I imagined I may somehow be able to soothe my own soul and bring hope to others by conjuring up regular doses of inspirational “silver linings.”
I initially anticipated this blog would be a weekly (or maybe even a daily!) endeavor. Like others, who perhaps set out with lofty goals to learn Italian, teach themselves the harmonica, or finally de-clutter their basements during the pandemic, I imagined I would write reams with “all this spare time at home.”
As the reality set in of juggling two virtual practices and supporting two children with online school from home, my aim to transform feelings of powerlessness over this virus into poetic inspiration for the masses was quickly thwarted.
Moreover, rather than easing my way into the clouds and keeping an eye out for the sunlight, as I’d set out to do with this blog, I found myself consumed with worry and plagued by a nagging tendency to compare myself to others. Was I doing a good enough job quarantining - being a good enough mother, a creative enough baker, an efficient enough time manager, a diligent enough worker? – all whilst simultaneously trying to convince my clients of the utmost importance of unfaltering self-care.
When we feel overwhelmed - when reason is ejected out of the driver’s seat and powerful emotions spilled out all over the dash - parts of us fervently rush in and attempt to regain balance. I felt out of control, so my perfectionistic overachieving part endeavored to muscle its way in and DO SOMETHING!
I baked, I puzzled, I took up guitar lessons. I tried to develop the perfect color-coded schedule, complete with daily exercise and family time, I searched for ways to volunteer, I obsessively ordered stimulating activities to supplement my children’s online learning, I developed a COVID-19 resource list for my website and set out to... write a daily blog! Yet, as I was forced to learn once again this year, feelings that result in overwhelm cannot be managed by simply thrusting them into activity.
Overfunctioning leads us to engage in a habit of perpetual avoidance of feelings, such as fear, self-doubt, uncertainty about the future, sadness due to lost opportunities, loneliness caused by isolation, etc. This may result in a sense of temporary relief, sure, as we take a break from how we are feeling. However, in the end, emotional avoidance related to chronic busyness can likely result in an exacerbation of the initial feelings, a state of extreme fatigue, or eventually a state of burnout.
I began to notice that I was becoming sharp with my kids and my partner, my mood was dropping, my sense of hopelessness and worry growing, and my ability to complete even the simplest of activities was beginning to be impaired.
And so, the actual result of my overzealous blog was the re-discovery of my own humility. A reminder that even therapists are not immune to the impact that this pandemic has upon our sense of peace.
That writing for others perhaps was not at all what I needed to be doing; that hunkering down with my kids, my home, and myself would be far more valuable in the end than a highly rated podcast, a prize-worthy knack for baking, a pandemic-perfect home makeover, or an inspirational blog.
Truthfully, I was only trying to regain a sense of control and balance, striving to achieve something measurable and meaningful at a time when everything around us had suddenly come to a screeching halt. But, maybe our ability to cope with these uncertain times can be much simpler.
As I look at this photo, I am brought straight back to the morning that I took it. My youngest daughter, face beaming as she balanced herself along a fallen log, piped out, “We’d be at school and work by now, but instead we get to walk in the forest!”
We cannot control this beast that is life; we can only learn to ride it.
All the best,
Other articles that may be of interest, related to these topics:
Half way through last year, I chose Watershed Counseling as the name of my budding private practice to mark the poignancy I've always found in seemingly pebble-like moments that cast ripples into the river of our life and eventually alter its course forever.
Little did I know, that 2020 would deliver a watershed moment as epic and wide stretching as the coronavirus pandemic.
Rather than stay stuck in my feelings of defeat, disappointment, and depletion, I have discovered that COVID-19 and its impact upon my family, my community, my clients and myself has indeed been the single most motivating factor to compel me to dive in and begin my blog.
No wonder! I feel like I’ve never adored and abhorred my screens more than I have this past month. Never felt so disconnected from others and, yet, plugged in 24-7. But, this love-hate relationship so many of us have fortified with technology this spring has also sprung so many opportunities – so many examples of lemons made into lemonade - the chance to slow down, to give thanks, to cherish what we’ve taken for granted, to learn anew.
It’s from this place that I begin writing today. In hopes of growing my own daily gratitude practice as well as share something hopeful with others, I intend to sit quietly at least once a day and mindfully take note of the tiny silver linings that act to dispel the clouds of uncertainty and discomfort and to mark this watershed moment not only with the bad, but with the beautiful.