I still remember crying outside my high school gym, my thumb in a cast after surgery my senior year, while everyone else practiced. In the third and last preseason tournament of the year, I dove for a ball and my thumb got caught between my body and the floor and I tore a ligament that required surgery within 48 hours of the tear or I would lose the mobility in my thumb. I missed my entire senior season. That’s just my own little story of loss, that few people remember or know about at this point of my life, but at the time, it felt monumental to me. Life moved on and that injury taught me about my love for sports and movement, especially volleyball. It only made a comeback in my mind this week as I reached for an optimists lens while watching my kids deal with the disappointment that they feel over the cancellation of games, in Lauren’s case the rest of her season, and Kate’s over the loss of two Broadway plays we had tickets for in the next few weeks because of the COVID-19 protocols. We are definitely having a hard time finding our flow around here but they are discovering what means the most to them as individuals on the deepest levels.
Today’s story is one of historic proportions, not just a story from my life. Because of the social distancing and the quarantine feel of the instructions we are encouraged to follow, there is a feeling of collective loneliness that hits hard. I have always kept a running tab of the news stories that have shaped my consciousness, the big ones always pull on the threads of safety and even mortality, but had a way of rallying us together as a nation…I’m confident this one will be no different. My earliest memory was of Reagan being shot, then Libyan air strikes in 1986, the Challenger Disaster, Operation Desert Storm in 1992, and of course 9/11 to name a few of the “I remember where I was when…” historical events that have shifted perspective in my life. Being part of a collective conscious has a responsibility that is still sinking in. It’s easy to be helpful and supportive when things are humming along, business as usual, but how we choose to respond when the deck is stacked against us is the real measure of how humanity comes through difficult circumstances. In a matter of weeks, my mindset has gone from:
“Why is the media trying to panic everyone?” to “This is serious, everyone get on board and lets slow this train down.” The story is so much bigger than the games and events we miss. The optimist in me says that we have the power to change the curve on this pitch we’ve been thrown if we react with proper caution. This was one of the articles that shifted my thinking:
It feels eerie out there. I caught my last yoga class yesterday before the email came in that my studio is closing for a minimum of two weeks. The weekend that looked packed from beginning to end with my own tournament, two high school rivalry games, a travel tournament, and an event with my favorite inspirational author Ann Lamott were all striped from the calendar and suddenly the weekend turned into a sea of nothing with a lot of time to think, but a mind that couldn’t seem to focus…not to mention online learning that starts for all four of them, including a college student, by Monday morning. The uneasiness is sitting right under the surface, so I’ve had to remind myself of a few things that my mindfulness practice and my faith have taught me, but seem a little further from my grasp in some of these moments.
Stay Present: Find calm and rest in the quiet. Let go of the things that are out of our control, and that feels like so many things right now. In this moment, we are ok. We don’t know the answers of how long this will last or how challenging it will get. These are unprecedented times for all of us and we need to work to do the best we can with the information we have, without letting it spin our minds out of control. While I am practicing social distancing, I am also practicing media distancing. I take in news articles and short media segments, but the 24/7 isn’t going on at my house. When I project forward, I feel the anxiety rise up, and that isn’t going to change anything. I’m grateful for the faith I have to catch me in the moments where I feel my calm slipping away. Yes, there is comfort in routine and it is unnerving when that is taken away, but there is greater peace in the present knowing that I am a small piece of a much bigger plan and I’m still more than capable of doing my small part to better a difficult situation. That starts with my own mindset and habits. There is time to focus on the little stuff and in my life, so I’m going to work on getting that right.
Sharpen intrinsic motivation: I’ve always been aware of and grateful for the motivational boost that I get from a solid community. It’s why I enjoy being a part of a team, group exercise, and connection with other people. But this time of social distancing gives us an opportunity to dive deep and see where our own motivation lies, without feeding off of other people and their ideas. With all that has unraveled, and the uncertainty in the air, I’ve struggled this week to tap into that strength in solitude and have had to coach myself to bring it back around. We can’t stop the routine, we just have to find different ways to get it done. That means rolling out my yoga mat at home more often, getting out to feel the sand under my feet alone, and taking the time that has been created by the lack of scheduled events to dive deeper and learn more in the areas where my passions lie, so that when we emerge from this, I will be steeped in greater knowledge for the life comes at me. There is time to read, write, and parent with greater intention, but if we let fear and uneasiness take over, none of those things can happen.
Embrace Solitude: As someone who has always valued alone time, this is actually what I have struggled with the most. Single parenting is hard, when things get quiet or your mind is stirring on the right way to address something, there isn’t someone to collaborate with or bounce your perspective off of. The absence of a school community, a yoga community, and social gatherings with like minded people, what used to feel like the gift of solitude starts to feel too quiet very quickly. This takes me back to the slow down, and the lessons I’ve learned on my mat. Bring it back to your breath, feel the calm and let the creativity and ideas flow so we are ready to come back stronger for the next chapter. I have to believe this too shall pass…but quicker if we all find our own quiet corners.
Despite the lack of clarity today and the gaps in leadership, everything in my optimists spirit tells me we will emerge stronger from this struggle we face today. My prayers are that it is sooner than later, with the least amount of health and life taken from this earth. Until then, I hope we can find the calm and collective spirit that I felt at the store as I stocked up this morning. Shelves empty, but people who were calm and settling their nerves by telling their stories. This is how we beat collective loneliness, we are in this together, even if it has to be at a distance.