Identity and The Pandemic
It's April 2020, and life remains ... different?
As the up and downs of emotions surge, I ride the wave of what I'm feeling.
Some moments, feeling calm. Other moments, feeling nervous about the tickle in my throat. Some moments, I sit and wonder, what does this all mean? And others, I try to stop thinking and get lost in a favourite activity, reminding myself I have the agency to add moments of joy into my day; pandemic or not.
I've been taking a social media break for a few weeks, posting my blog from a third-party platform to remain present online while keeping my sanity.
So if you've messaged me on social media about anything - maybe about that malfunctioning blog link or two - I didn't get it (but, I thank you just the same). Feel free to email me!
Having this time away has been good for me.
Although, I do miss looking at posts of people's breakfasts and laughing at people's quippy jokes, and the memes! God, I miss the memes.
However, overall, I feel calmer offline as much as possible.
Checking the news on my own schedule, and making sense of this experience without the endless clickbait that I inevitably fall prey to.
After already being confined on bedrest for 5.5/6 months, having my mental and physical health and being able to function at a high level during this self-isolation time feels amazing. I have a tremendous amount of gratitude during this time.
I know, it sounds very Pollyanna.
But it's how I feel.
Cool, Laurel. You feel emotionally and intellectually free in a Pandemic! Great for you.
Thank you. I feel great about it.
But if you're feeling like shit, that's okay too.
It's all valid.
Let's be honest, the world is a wild place right now.
The longer I am on this planet, the more I realize how little control we all have over what happens to us.
As someone who LOVES to feel like she can will anything to happen, I will be honest that feeling powerless is not my favourite experience.
And yet, when I resist what is actually happening in my life, or rage against the world for (insert circumstance), I do feel worse.
So here I am, inside. Ideally, not where I want to be, but it's keeping other people (and myself) safe. And that's all that matters.
Luckily, since I am a writer, I enjoy alone time.
If I wanted to be super silver-lining about this, I could say this is like an indefinite writer's retreat. Yeah... just a high-stress, potentially life-threatening writer's retreat ...that certainly won't have any economic, mental, or social impact.
Any-who. Back on topic.
This week I wanted to talk about identity.
Something that I've noticed about this self-isolation period is that a lot of people are reckoning with their lives and, as a result, reckoning with their sense of self.
And it's making people lose their shit.
It makes sense! We're stuck inside, either spending too much alone, or too much time with the same one or two people, and our stuff comes up.
An amazing podcast I listened to, talked about how the pandemic is magnifying people's already-present anxieties. Essentially saying, what you were worried about before the pandemic is probably, in some way, related to what you are focusing on now. So if you were feeling angry or sad or worried about money, your relationship, your purpose, or your health before, you're probably worrying more about that thing now.
It does seem like an inevitability. Having to spend the vast majority of our days focusing on ourselves, our problems, and the endless circus that is happening in between our ears is less than ideal. Add the fact that we are nervous about leaving the house, and it's no wonder we are having issues.
This "downtime" is holding up a mirror to each of us, revealing our thoughts on how our lives "should be." Not only that, but many of us are also wrestling with who we are now that our lives look so different.
We are taught that we have value as individuals based on what we produce in this world. We are taught that we have value by being seen, respected, admired by others, and we are taught that we have value because we succeed at (insert your thing here).
But now that most of us are at home alone or with one or two people, and the rest are either very sick, or managing the rest of society's basic human needs (medical staff, grocery store workers, custodial staff, etc), we don't get to accomplish. We don't get to be seen (in person or in the same way). We don't have the shield of "busy" to deflect that self-work we probably "should" have been doing all along.
Our current reality doesn't support our old value system.
We get to survive, and wait, and it's just not as cute as the self-help books make it seem.
Our social media posts are not filled with pictures from trips, fun nights out, or anything flashy. Those projects we've been working on are halted or stalled, or we're slowly piecing together a new way to work on them. Our lives have been stripped down, and that causes a ripple effect.
We are left questioning:
Who are we when we are not accomplishing? Who are we when we're not succeeding or working? Who are we when we're not being seen?
Who are we?
I don't know.
But, in a beautiful (and horrible way), we have time to figure it out.
Before I had my accident, I had never taken proper time-off in my adult life without feeling guilty. At least not more than a day or two (unless I was travelling in a different country). I had a real identity crisis when I was hurt because my only job (and the only thing I was able to do) was to heal. To get up, feed myself, do my Physio, go to my doctor's appointments, and then sleep. Sleep, and sleep until slowly, I started to heal.
It took so long. I wasn't a patient person. I had to accept that I didn't know who I was with my new reality, I didn't know what my life would be like down the line, so I had to stay curious. Or else, my tremendous sadness would swallow me up.
I had to keep living. Occasionally, letting my head bob underneath the water, because some days life is hard, and it's hard to care. But then, returning to myself and asking:
What will I do if my life stays like this forever? Could I handle this?
Some days, it would be yes. Other days, it would be no.
Slowly, the ups and downs became normal. Not fun, or what I would have wanted but normal. I saw micro wins, and I felt so grateful.
I walked for 10 minutes. I can lift my backpack. I can bend my neck without sharp pain.
I see now how much my accident has helped me feel (more) grounded in this pandemic. So although I would never say it was a gift (blah), there has been healing in other areas of my life because I experienced this shitty time.
This pandemic has and will continue to impact us on a global level. We don't have to like it, but this will influence how we will think about things, and hopefully inform how we behave in the future.
That doesn't mean we have to feel great about what's happening. It doesn't mean we shouldn't mourn the events, the plans, or the people that we've lost. But we can be intentional about how we move through this.
So, who do you want to be during this time? Who do you want to be after this?
The choice is yours.
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