Disclaimer: this ended up being longer than intended. I hope you will stick with me to the end, but if not:
tl:dr life is full of some pretty beautiful stuff and I am grateful.
Fact: We are living in unprecedented times. I am getting tired of hearing that word, and yet there is no other that describes the life we are currently living. The last 4 weeks have felt like a year, the world ever shifting, and changing. I am tired, and yet I don’t sleep well. I feel like I’m watching a train wreck I can’t look away from. And yet, the more I watch, the more it eats away at me.
Confession: I am not a fan of self-isolation. I didn’t think it was possible to feel this claustrophobic in my own home, my own life, and yet it is. I miss my freedoms to live and move as I please. Being a socially responsible grown-up sucks sometimes.
Reality Check: I have little control. And probably less than the little I think I have. I can make choices of how I will live each day, any how I will react to what comes my way. So each morning I wake up and decide what my day holds. Today, these decisions included fresh air and nature, sleep, finding a way to connect with those I love, Star Trek, a winning game, and ice cream. No regrets.
Truth: I have an anxiety disorder. One that was diagnosed 20 years ago, and has been with me my entire adult life. I don’t choose to talk about it often, because while I would be lying to say it isn’t part of what shapes me, I also don’t want to let it control me. It’s the reason I always need the end seat when I go to the theatre, and why I hate flying (surprising given how much I travel). It is the reason I chose to become a teacher, and the reason why I may decline an invitation to your party. I am have spent years carrying and controlling my anxiety, in fear of burdening others. It is a heavy weight. So in these season of self-isolation, it has taken on a new form – one I haven’t quite experienced in this way before.
Fun Fact: Apollo 13 is my favourite movie of all time. I have seen it well over 150 times. I wore out TWO VHS tapes in my teen years before DVD and iTunes came to the rescue. In the movie, (or for that matter, in real life), Flight Director Gene Kranz is trying to guide his team to deal with a crisis (explosion on the command module – seriously – if you haven’t seen this movie, take advantage of your quarantine and just do it – I mean, it has Tom Hanks. You can’t go wrong). And he says the following:
14 years old when I first heard those words. And it is tattooed into my bones. Let’s work the problem. Except, in a COVID world, the problem feels well outside my control. But then I realized that I got it all wrong. I’m working the wrong problem. The problem I need to be working right now, is my anxiety.
Action: I am not going to spell out some 7-point colour coded action plan to solve anxiety. Nope. Not that ambitious. But I am going to share how I am working the problem.
- I have a kick-ass counsellor. Like the Rolls-Royce of counsellors.
- Nature. I am trying to find some. My house is filled with plants that I spend a fair amount of time staring at and tending to. But going for a drive through the farmlands, walking next to a river, tending to my garden, and strolling under the neighbourhood cherry blossoms are all efforts to fill my life with a little more of Mother Earth.
- Sleep. I’ve been failing epically at this one, but today, for the first time in 2 weeks, I took a 3 hour nap and woke refreshed. No dreams. No racing mind in my sleep trying to plan for world peace. Just rest. This is probably connected to…..
- Detox. Like, news, twitter, social media and all other sources of fear, panic, and every shifting chaos. Drinking from the fire hydrant is (apparently) not very good for me. I’m trying to put it down. I’m like, 12 hours in and I’ve already had a good nap and ice cream. So apparently my Rolls-Royce of a counsellor knows what he’s talking about. Also possible that like 10 other people gave me the same advice earlier in the week – but none of them look like Jesus so I pretty much ignored them.
- Writing. Welcome to my therapy. Self-imposed I might add. I feel like I have been stifling my voice. For, maybe, years. I use to write. All the time. Every day. Every thought, and emotion. As a kid I wrote stories, and then journals. As a young adult, poetry and lyrics. And then I stopped. I couldn’t slow my mind long enough to form a coherent thought. Not sure these are coherent thoughts – but I hear you get better by practicing – so I’m doing it anyway.
List Time: I bought this book one snowy day in December, The 52 Lists Project. This is perfect for me, because I love lists. Like love lists to the point that Ray once (or twice) took to calling me “A-list-a.” So yesterday I was working on List 9, “List the Things you Treasure Most,” and honestly, it was the silver lining of this week. It was 5 minutes in which I was just filled with joy and contentment. The anxiety melted away for this small window as I reflected on all the beautiful things that I treasure. And so I wanted to share that list with you here. My original plan was to share the list, with like a 3-sentence explanation, but “the best laid plans of mice and men” and all that, and here we are, a few pages later.
The things I treasure most (in no particular order):
- The sound of rain. Especially the sound of it down pouring on the awning.
- The silence of snowfall
- the smell of fresh baking bread
- hugs from Ray
- singing in harmony
- Benji’s smiles and laughs
- plants and flowers in bloom
- fresh poffertjes from a street market
- quality time with my sisters-in-law
- road trips
- the sense of belonging to a family
- a new magnet
- smell of freshly cleaned linens (and crawling into that freshly made bed)
- board games with friends
- feeling like I made a different in someones life
- smell of lavender in the garden
- sitting around the campfire (even better if doing it while listening to someone play the guitar)
- the perfect watermelon
- Sitting next to water (watching the river flow, the waves lap along the shoreline, or a lake of perfect glass)
- warm cup of tea, next to the Christmas tree (complete with Christmas music, of course)