I just completed my third week of social isolation and my second week of online teaching. Everything is closed except for essential businesses like grocery stores, and every day brings a new flood of stories about COVID-19. I have a long list of self-care hacks memorized:
- Limit news consumption, especially right before bed.
- Get outside for a walk everyday even when it is cold and rainy.
- Eat real food
- Maintain mindfulness practice
- Connect with friends and help each other
It’s good advice and I’m doing a decent job following it. And I’ve been reading a ton of self-care stuff about how to turn the current lemon-y situation into refreshing lemonade. Apparently, sheltering in place allows valuable time for introspection, for spring cleaning, and for reading all those books that one had always meant to read.
The chirpy advice on how to stay positive is making me increasingly cranky. Can we all please just acknowledge that the situation is terrifying, that we’re all frightened and that all this talk about positivity is starting to feel like we’re whistling in the dark?
I worry that we might be using all these positive resolutions to cover up our feelings. So let’s stop and get back in touch with those feelings. Self-compassion teacher Chris Germer recommends focusing on three questions:
- Do I know what I’m feeling right now?
- Can I respond to it with kindness?
- What do I need right now?
My sense is that many of us have lost touch with what we’re feeling. It’s too scary to think about that, so we’re ignoring our feelings and looking for positive ways to cope instead. I understand the temptation. But if we do that too much, it becomes impossible for us to respond to ourselves with kindness and to figure out what we need right now. And we set ourselves up for a meltdown later on when those feelings get too strong to be ignored.
So do I know what I’m feeling?
After tackling that question in an online workshop with Chris Germer last night, I can report that I feel tired. Exhausted. Drained. And scared. And tired of being scared.
I’m tired of being at home and I’m tired of worrying about small and big things. I’m tired of worrying every time I hear someone cough and I’m tired of the surge of fear I experience every time my throat itches (it’s allergy season, so my throat itches a lot). I’m tired of looking at human beings and seeing them as sources of germs and contamination. I’m tired of washing my hands. Really, I’m mainly very tired.
I don’t want to clean, introspect, or read all those books I’ve been meaning to read. I hate cleaning and I don’t think I’ll get through Middlemarch this time either. I saw the movie; isn’t that enough?
I’m tired. And cranky.
The normal procedure is to end a piece like this with an uplifting message and a microstep that people can take. But I’m not in the mood. So please insert uplifting sh*t here.
I’m going to go feel sorry for myself now.
And take a nap.
And I’m going to be okay with that.