I thought I’d been handling everything so well. Like everyone, I’d been scrambling to figure out how to continue my work while practicing social distancing, which for me meant figuring out HIPAA compliant video conferencing options, adding telemedicine to my license, and contacting clients about alternatives to meeting in person. I’d managed to stock the fridge and assign my homebound kids meals to prepare, written daily missives to them about chores to do and ways to stay active, all while keeping up with the laundry/cleaning/extra disinfecting. I’d managed to make daily contact with my baby boomer parents, making sure they were heeding the warnings to stay inside. I was riding high on the wave, getting things done, Surfin’ USA, baby.
And then the wave crashed. All it took was some extra eyerolls from my teenager, and suddenly all my practiced calm came crashing down. Tears filled my eyes, and I stormed into my room, slamming the door like I was a teenager myself. I cried and cried, realizing that my tears weren’t about the contemptuous teen body language I was on the receiving end of (I’m relatively used to that), but that it was the catalyst tipping me into the well of feeling I’d been avoiding.
The well was filled with the what-ifs about the future—What if we get sick? What if we don’t have enough money to ride this out? What if this lasts over a year? What if my business can’t survive this? What if my parents can’t survive this? They are the same what-ifs swirling around in everyone’s mind right now, even if they are soldiering on and just getting stuff done. And I realized that in there with all those what-ifs was some mighty, heavy grief. And I had to acknowledge that grief or it was going to spill over into everything else in my life.
We are all riding the waves right now. Sometimes the sea feels calm, almost normal, and we’re just paddling along, doing our thing. Then a tsunami crests over our heads and crashes down, and we are left soaking wet and gasping for air. Part of being able to ride these waves is to be able to expect the tsunamis. Life is different now, and our emotions are going to be more volatile then we are used to. I was caught be surprise by the depth of my emotion because I was pretending that my emotional reactions were typical for me. But they’re not. They are big, and I need to make a little more room for them. I need to give myself time to cry, to laugh, to write, to nap, to talk to friends and loved ones about my fear and sadness.
Making room for these feelings doesn’t mean being taken over by them. If we can actually honor the range of emotions we are feeling right now, we are less likely to be blindsided by them, and less likely to spew them on others.
After my meltdown, my son came knocking on my bedroom door, asking to talk. We were able to acknowledge that we are both needing different things right now, and agreed to try to be more careful in how we treat each other. That little bit of connection helped me to pull myself back up to the surface, to feel the sadness and let it go. My awareness that the ocean is different now, and requires something different of me, helps me to carry on and maintain the relationships that sustain me.