Navigating Uncharted Waters

Around the end of this past summer, the 18 month mark of the pandemic in the US, there was a lot of framing in news articles and social media posts of how we’re approaching the “two year mark”… incredibly we are actually still not quite at that point yet but it feels like way more than 6 months has gone by doesn’t it??

The news of Omicron, especially in the NYC area has brought with it a rather defeated mood and I have felt it too. More and more I observe that on the level of mental health we are truly in uncharted waters. Unlike many other regional collective traumas that have occurred in living memory, this one is inescapable.

There’s no where to go to forget about it, take a break, or start over. Lately I keep having the feeling that, as is mused upon in Station Eleven, there is no “before.” Or more neutrally, there is no “going back to normal” because everything has changed. But we’re still not sure exactly how because waves of more acute trauma and fear keep coming. Some of us have been lucky enough to also experience conditions that lead to changes that were needed, but it is not as reassuring as one would hope.

Frequently in my conversations with others we return to this curiosity, and concern, about not recognizing ourselves. Mood swings, lack of interest in doing things, inability to picture the future, difficulty making plans or goals, wanting to move perhaps, not being happy at your job, not wanting to work at all, and all interspersed with moments of lifting out of it somehow but only temporarily.

We’re in a new world here. Whatever was your “normal” in terms of emotional health, self-care, relationships… it’s different now, somehow. As many of you know, connecting to spiritual practices and energy work can provide an effective reprieve and ability to zoom out on this whole experience and remember that everything changes… Two years is not a very long time, more will be revealed, and just because you don’t know a lot doesn’t mean you don’t know anything. Those states are transient and maybe the new normal is that along with accepting so much unknown we are privy to shifting feelings that can’t be escaped completely.

In the new year, as I’m contemplating “what are my goals…what do I want to focus on…how do I want to feel and be this upcoming year… I’ve realized that I don’t want to wait to make plans anymore. For so many of us much has been on hold, waiting for some key piece of information to inform the next best decisions. What would it mean to just keep striving and pushing forward even while knowing that some plans may need adjusting? For all the talk about living in the moment it seems more accurate that we’ve been living in suspended animation. Or at least I have.

How much could things move and shift if we were willing to be wrong and get excited anyway? Or to grieve more fully, let go, and emerge into something new so we can begin again? If there’s a desire for pause, how would it feel to surrender to that completely and not feel like it’s a failure to say “I have no idea what happens next?”

The line between fear and excitement is a fine one. But also, maybe there isn’t a line at all.

On the level of the body, the feeling of crying and laughing are almost identical. Perhaps the desire to categorize these experiences into positive and negative is a self-imposed barrier that blocks us from contentment.

For the next couple months I’ll be exploring these themes, of following the heart, following the body, listening and trusting through being willing to be wrong. Cracking the heart open and seeing what you find. Or surrendering completely if you’ve been holding onto something that’s not “alive” anymore.  I’m certainly not an expert in that but I’d like to wade through it with you.

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