I am an extrovert junkie. When I felt too ordinary or sluggish, I seek adventure. I yearn for the energy of a crowd. “Self-care” for me when I feel resltess is to look for a place for connection with others. Attending a lecture, watching a movie in a crowded, dancing in a busy night club. Even when I needed to work, I would reconnect to my mojo by sitting int he middle of the busiest coffee shop and feel the buzz of the people around me.
I was proud of the way I would take care of myself in the pre-COVID world. I could reset by surrounding myself with others.
The pandemic world offers a few opportunities for that sort of energy injection. I miss the spontaneity to go into the world and pull some energy out of it. It was the way I knew to rev up my engine. To find some sparkle. My “go-to” tools for self-care have vanished.
I struggle with what exhilaration looks like in the world of fewer human interactions. I hike with one person instead of running a race with thousands. I picnic with a friend instead of hosting a dinner party. I ask for hugs my teenagers more than they might like because I haven’t hugged a friend in seven months.
In the first months of COVID, I felt these losses deeply. Even when I thought I was embracing stillness, I was actually numb. Numb is not the same as open.
On a solo hike last week, I started trekking up a steep ridge. Suddenly, I remembered the value of surrender. I asked out loud what I need to learn from this time of stillness. How can an extrovert thrive in this new world? How can I embrace life right now, rather than fight it?
As I pushed myself up that ridge, I tapped into my body and found it struggling. My limbs were telling me that they were suffering from the effects of the adrenalin hits that I had asked of it for so long in my life. In the pre-COVID world I would push my body by attending high-intensity fitness classes that would drench me to the bone. I would dance the night away with friends while drinking alcohol. The endorphins in the moment felt wonderful. But afterward, I wouldn’t sleep well those evenings. I was stiff and sore the next day. In the COVID world, I break my exercise into multiple smaller efforts throughout the day. It gives me structure to my day and my body doesn’t scream back at me the next day. I am changing.
I also acknowledge that, while I am yearning to see my son shine his light on the soccer field, I was tired of the endless travel to games hours away every weekend. I had come to hate being in a car. I had secretly yearned for weeks of nothing on our calendar on the weekends (be careful what you wish for!)
I almost feels like the universe is playing a joke on me of asking me to show up and all of the ways that I’ve coached on for so long about trusting the process. Seeing the same walls in my house day after day has caused me to dive deep into the reservoirs of what peace and inner wisdom truly mean.
I remember a Quaker elder teaching me the value of discipline. The need to face truth and to seek guidance from places broader than our minds daily–even when we would rather not. Discipline means seeking and making habits of opening up. It means trusting that the truth that is bigger than ourselves is safe and diving and can be more beautiful than what we fear.
Much like the birthing process that my doula taught me long ago, I have to remind myself to say “open” through this time of great change—even when I want to shy away and stay closed down. When I consciously open, I find myself more able to trust the process.
It’s not about being an expert at this. It’s about being okay with struggle. It’s about trying.
I try to stay curious. I try to find wondering in the smaller spaces. I try to write in my gratitude journal at the end of each day.
By promising to try I am finding ways to remember that I am not alone. In fact, this is probably one of the few times in history where our greatest stressor is shared globally. We are sharing a collective grief, but we also are sharing the grace of collective healing and purpose amidst the chaos.
I am trying others how they are doing more. I am trying seek spaces to talk about how others are struggling but even more, turning the conversation to how they are learning to thrive in new ways of being. I ask others what opportunities they are finding. What surprising grace they experience. By holding others “in the light” as we Quakers say, can try to lift others up, and in doing so we also lift up ourselves.
By finding connectivity, in connection as well as in silence and meditation, I can find a calmer, more steady replacement for my energy hits that I crave. I can find that inter-web of relationship with the broader world. Through spirit and energy, I can seek the synchronicity and grace that are a mystery. The space of curiosity and seeking—that is the magic that will get us all through these days.
Ready to open up to possibility? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.