By Krista Lample, MEd
I don’t know about you, but this is the title of my life over the past 6 months. It’s like we are all starring in our own sad, anxiety-ridden, paranoid movie and just waiting for the bad thing to happen. Life seems to be put on hold in so many ways. Weddings postponed, travel cancelled, job descriptions completely altered to work from home, distance learning, 50% capacity, masks required. This is reality for most of us. And most of us hate it. Oh I know there are a few that have shown us heavily curated inspiring fitness journeys, cooking accomplishments and home improvement projects on social media, but for the most part we are all in the same boat, just waiting for “things to get better.” Not really feeling that productive. Roller coaster of emotions. I haven’t seen my Dad in almost a year. I missed a milestone birthday for my best friend. To put it mildly, this year has been a lot.
This should be the part where I drop some tips or wisdom for “how to deal” or lessons I have learned. Put the positive spin on it. Share some hope, faith or signs that “things are looking up.” My eternally optimistic and very spiritual sister-in-law posed this question to me a couple of months ago. “What in your life has Covid (and being in quarantine) made you appreciate more or be more thankful for?” No, I didn’t throw rotten tomatoes at her, but if I am honest, I am no closer to answering that question now than I was in early May. Netflix maybe? Grubhub? Amazon? These answers feel a little on the shallow side. Trust me tv or delivery services are not what she was going for.
But here is real life…..I am sick of looking for silver linings or feeling like I always have to….for me, it just adds to the stress.
Covid fatigue is real. Also Covid is real. Both things can be true so you don’t have to take sides. It’s possible to be tired of it all AND still take precautions. It’s possible to be sick of it, but still do what you need to do to keep those around you safe. Someone who expresses that they are growing weary of dealing with Covid doesn’t necessarily mean that they will no longer take it seriously. And just because someone takes a lot of precautions doesn’t mean they aren’t “over it” as well.
Family members, friends, and acquaintances of mine have all tested positive. They have ranged from “sickest I have ever been” and “wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy” to “didn’t even know I was sick” and “had no symptoms.” Some are still suffering months later. I know people who have lost loved ones, lost their livelihoods, lost business and lost jobs. My mother was forced to retire before she was ready. I think it’s more than okay if you (or I) struggle to locate silver linings in this dumpster fire of a year.
That being said (and here she goes with the silver lining even though she said she gave these up), I had to find a way to live in this Covid-19 world. For me, living at a 10 was not sustainable for my mental health. Waiting for Covid might sound like the title of a sassy post 2020 sitcom where we make fun of all things quarantine, but I just couldn’t stay there. I tried projects, binge watching, exercise, journaling, obsessive cleaning, connecting with friends/family, counting my blessings, reading, cycling and aromatherapy. Nothing helped. I couldn’t just live today and not worry about the future. My very patient therapist listened to me for months and then finally suggested that I consider acceptance. Not liking. Not thriving. Not accentuating the positive. Just accepting.
My brain tried to reject this idea almost immediately. ACCEPT WHAT…THAT I MIGHT GET COVID? Yes. THAT SOMEONE IN MY FAMILY MIGHT GET IT? Yes. ACCEPT THAT THE WORLD THAT I KNEW MIGHT PERMANENTLY CHANGE? Yes. ACCEPT THAT MY HAWAII TRIP MIGHT GET CANCELLED? Yes. ACCEPT IF MY HUSBAND OR I LOSE OUR JOBS? Yes ACCEPT ALL OF IT? Yes. ACCEPT IT ALL, LARGE OR SMALL, SIGNIGICANT OR INSIGNIFICANT? Yes. ACCEPT LIFE? Yes.
I can’t explain why exactly but this thought exercise was actually freeing to me. It started to make sense. It doesn’t mean I want any of the bad things to happen or am trying to make them happen. Acceptance is not passive. It doesn’t mean I like or agree with the situation. But instead of spending all of my brain power and energy worrying about what might happen in the future, I acknowledge what could happen, and I move on. It doesn’t occur all at once, I have to consciously make a choice to accept when I am feeling anxious. I slip up. I regress. But I have the tools to go on…to move on. I have to acknowledge that much of life is out of my control. Covid or no Covid. I’m not talking about choices, or consequences or decisions…those are real and I have some say. I’m talking about life in the larger sense. I have to let go of the idea that I can control the future if I want any peace. And I don’t know about you…. But in this crazy year I am definitely seeking peace.
I know I know… this sounds suspiciously like a silver lining right? Accept what is happening and you will feel better. Wrong. You may or may not feel better, but that’s not the point. It’s okay if you feel better and is also very okay if you don’t. Acceptance helps you to see reality. If you can’t see you can’t adjust, change, adapt, problem solve, or find your way. It’s not about liking what is happening or an attitude adjustment even. It’s not passively going along with whatever life brings you. It’s a continuous choice we make to see clearly our reality and all the decisions that go along with that. It’s acknowledging that I feel anxious and sad today AND I am going for a walk AND I am going to call my best friend AND I am going to sit and look at the lake and maybe cry a little. I’m not covering anything up or glossing over anything. I see things as they are AND I also have some choices in how I live in that reality. Acceptance is one of those choices.