Our 2020 Theme Book for our members is Emotional Agility by Susan David. Little did we know that it would be so appropriate for the challenges we are now facing with COVID-19. During this time, we have invited our team members to reflect on their own experiences and how the book has been a helpful resource by asking them these two questions: What are you being invited to let go of right now? What are you being invited to hold on to?
If you love home, as I do, it can be perplexing to think why staying home seems to leave us exhausted at the end of the day. Then I am reminded of all the changes affecting me and the 3 other humans I call family. Nearly overnight, with very little warning, so much of life has changed. And for those of us who have experienced trauma, even a small change can be devastating as it prompts our fight or flight response.
Letting Go of Expectations
After the first day or so of more frustration and frayed nerves than I want to admit, I realize I need to relax or let go of expectations.
- Expecting others to be even-keel with emotions even though I’m not
- Expecting them to be able to articulate feelings.
- Expecting the household to carry on “normally”
- Expecting to know how long this will last so that I can plan for _________(fill in the blank)
- Expecting amazing levels of productivity personally: I will scour the house top to bottom, cook unique meals, work from home efficiently, have quality time with kids, step up the exercise program because of ALL THIS TIME.
Reality? It doesn’t seem to pay much attention to my expectations. Much of my energy these days is devoted to listening to an anxious child process her disappointment, personally grieving plans and hopes for the spring, learning the best ways to support older relatives and neighbors, moving a disappointed college student back home.
Embracing the Pain & Joy
This leads to what I embrace these days: the pain and the joy. I am praying and meditating on being open and able to recognize the losses to grieve, to acknowledge the general stress of the constant shifting uncertainty, and then to be aware of joy. Joy is everywhere! My little family not distancing on our couch, buds on the trees, a new pet, shouted talks with neighbors, homemade chai shared with my (home for now) college student, spontaneous conversation, the absurdity of all four of us humans on Zoom with 4 different groups. Making space for the pain, finding and savoring the joy, and being grateful in both is easing the tension.
These ideas remind me of Chapter 4 in the book Emotional Agility: “ Showing Up.” Susan David discusses self-compassion, reminding us that “forgiving ourselves for our mistakes or imperfections so we can move on to better, more productive things” (66) is a way to go beyond surviving to thrive. Later in the chapter, David reminds us to be present to our emotions and experiences: “[W]elcome these inner experiences (of pain and joy), breathe into them and learn their contours without racing for the exits” (77). My heart hears the part about self-forgiveness and being present; things I need to ponder anew each day.