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There’s nothing I would like more than to take away the ache inside each of us that has been left by lack of closure, though it would be irresponsible for me to do so.
I look back at the last times I went to work, to the gym, or took my children to school without knowing these daily rituals would be a void in my life by the next day.
It’s so weird how it seemed to happen for me.
What’s even stranger is how I attempted to fix my inner world by addressing related issues for those around me.
In the first few weeks when schools closed, I enthusiastically set up FaceTime calls with the teachers of my first grader and preschooler in hopes that a quick check-in could reassure myself that things would be back to normal soon. In the beginning, it was easy to fall back on false bravado and a “can-do” attitude.
I jumped on Zoom with my family and friends and pretended video conferencing satiated my need for social connection, and I kept my eyes forward instead of looking to the left or right to see the playgrounds encircled with yellow tape and large signs in front of every restaurant advertising new curbside service.
When weeks turned into months and the announcement came there would be no school for the rest of the year, the 32-mile trail race I had trained for the last year was cancelled, and my job had swiftly become obsolete.
I had to drop the “this is temporary” safety pretense and switch over to one of the most terrifying spaces of parenting and living: that where you are not in control and have no idea what’s going to happen.
Furthermore, it’s going to be a long haul and the most central pillars in my life will be restructured at least through next fall. That’s when the ache set in. I also realized I need to embrace the transformative fires burning all around me.
While teasing through the important work of deciding how much to protect my psyche, I must hold in the front of my mind the awareness that the parts of life that cause the greatest deal of uncertainty are the same parts that will ultimately facilitate our growth the most.
Last summer, ultra-endurance athlete, vegan activist, and millions-strong podcast host Rich Roll interviewed Dr. Zach Bush about how the greatest mental clarity can be achieved by everyone through examining the least exposed realms within ourselves.
“I guarantee to you that each of you who are in a relationship right now are in some ways palliating your partner and you’re trying to salve their pain, and therefore, keeping them from transformation. We do this out of altruism, but it’s a broken model.
Bush said that while well-meaning, attempts to swoop in as a rescuer are often misguided.
“We show what we think is compassion to one another, which in the end is selfishness, because we are exercising our moment to redefine our self-identity as a compassionate person, or as a giver, or as a server. We are using that person’s pain to buoy up our self-identity.”
Instead of engaging in vampiric energetic patterns, we should approach every interaction—whether in person, virtual, or imaginary—with the mindset we are warriors in this together.
I will carry my weight, you will carry yours, and we will use our collective strengths to weather these times.
I have reflected on how I’d tried to blunt the traumas of social isolation for my family, my friends, and myself by distracting, minimizing, or pretending they weren’t there at all. Going forward, I resolve to honor my feelings and those of others by making use of more genuine sentiments.
This is hard. It’s going to take a long time. But this is the work we are here to do.
I begin again now.