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March 31, 2020

What a Friend’s Post taught me about Shame & being Prepared for the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Elephant’s Continually-updating Coronavirus Diary. ~ Waylon

~

I read my friend’s post, looked at the photos, and seethed.

With the Coronavirus tide coming in, she shared how her heightened anxiety was alleviated by making double-sure that her family was going to be prepared with masks, regular prescriptions filled, and all the food her freezer and pantry could fit.

She asked readers to show compassion for the variety of ways people were responding to the anxiety they might be feeling during this uncertain time. The photos were of a completely packed-full freezer and food piled up outside of a pantry door. As she closed the post, she assured readers that if/when the virus hit her town, she would be anxiety-free because she was prepared.

I was absolutely not showing compassion about her post. My thoughts were riddled with judgments, but the last sentence felt like a sucker-punch, and I realized those judgmental thoughts were actually against myself.

She was going to be prepared and anxiety-free. And you know who wasn’t going to be? Me.

I wasn’t going to be prepared with a fully stocked freezer or pantry. Not because I wasn’t taking the pandemic seriously. Not because I wasn’t feeling anxiety about the uncertainty. But because the extra money I was setting aside wasn’t to get that many groceries at once. It was to pay the taxes I owed, which had been a total shock to me. I hadn’t planned for that, either.

I also didn’t have three months of income in a savings account for emergencies like this. So I definitely wasn’t prepared when my full-time job needed to close, and I needed to stop taking appointments in my side hustle, which supplies almost 40 percent of my family’s income.

My self-judgment gained momentum with these juicy bits of ill-preparedness and started airing my life reel of failures, on repeat.

You’re never prepared, it showed me.

And it wasn’t lying.

I wasn’t prepared when my spouse had a health crisis and our breadwinner roles reversed. I wasn’t prepared when the housing market crashed, eventually making our businesses take a plunge, and our best economic decision was to file bankruptcy and foreclose on our home. I wasn’t prepared when we learned we were pregnant with our second child. I wasn’t prepared when a job I had—one I thought would finally save us—was terminated. I wasn’t prepared for my self-employed husband to become disabled for several months. I wasn’t prepared to pay taxes. And I wasn’t prepared to make sure I would be anxiety-free by stocking up on supplies that would make our life feel normal during a public health crisis that shut down the economy.

I burned in the flames of jealousy, fear, disappointment, and shame for a week.

On the day I canceled my side hustle appointments, knowing that it meant the bills I had planned to pay would be late, I messaged a trusted friend and shared my sorrow. 

I fear I’ll be living my entire life climbing out of the holes I fall into when the Universe pulls the rug out from under me. The consistency is that the rug gets pulled and I try to climb out. What if I lived at the bottom of the hole instead?

She understood the feeling all too well, but wasn’t convinced living under the rug was the solution. She said it was an interesting thought, one she’d have to chew on awhile.

I typed back.

I’ll chew on it, too. What does that look like to me? What does that feel like? How would my life be different? What rug do I keep believing is my solid foundation?

That evening, having nothing to offer my anxiety but my presence, I chose to stay with it. 

I felt the small spasms of pain gripping my low back. I observed the smallness of my breath. It felt as if I got the wind knocked out of me and my diaphragm was afraid to show the threat I was still alive.

I noticed a sensation in my chest center that felt like little paper embers flying up from a campfire: stinging hot and swirling. My heart fluttered and pounded high in my rib cage. My thoughts burst like popping corn.

I gathered my spiritual trinkets around me, put my earbuds in to listen to my favorite prayer-song, and bowed my head in surrender. As I prayed along with the song, the most gut-wrenching, truthful verse squeezed its way through my tight throat, and I burst into sobs that wrung my body out.

Hot, salty tears wet my cheeks. My body bent forward, and my face turned up to the ceiling. I pleaded for comfort from these horribly dispassionate self-judgments.

I wept over my fears.

I was afraid to be a failure. I was afraid for my kids to learn from a failure. I was afraid not to belong to the category of people who were prepared. I was afraid to be hated for never being prepared. I was afraid to be hated by people I wanted to belong to. I was afraid to be different.

When my cries subsided, I felt the ease return to my body. My breath was smooth and steady, massaging my internal organs with a soothing rhythm. My mind, relaxed and high on neurotransmitters, felt like the surface of glass. I could think clearly.

I wrote until truths were uncovered that revealed an inner landscape that was solidly attached to the Universe and could never be pulled from under me. Truths about my worth as a human in this world. Truths about my connectedness to all that is and all who are. These truths showed me I am not a failure, nor could I ever be.

The Universe consistently pulled the rug out from under me and I consistently landed in the most secure knowledge that I still belong here. I leaned in to my anxiety and I learned I will never truly be prepared for all the ways the Universe can pull the rug out from under me. It doesn’t matter what rug upon which I make my life. There are big enough disasters to get us all. But the hole will always catch my fall, and I will find my center there if I stay long enough.

My friend’s post helped me realize where I still cling to some limiting beliefs. It helped me comfort my real fears of social isolation. It helped me let go of an illusion of control and step into the present moment. 

~

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