The COVID After Times are like becoming a mother. Never was there ever an experience so common, so universal, and so bewilderingly isolating. Everyone’s doing it. And everyone’s doing it alone.
When I became a mother, I thought I was becoming part of a club. Part of a whole. Part of a unified conglomerate. So I was mystified when I felt disconnected, instead. Separate. Detached. As if I was forging a path through the jungle, unsure what dangers lurked around me, equipped with a malfunctioning compass that refused to point me toward the village. I knew one was out there. Somewhere. The elusive village where the other mothers laughed as their children played. Where there was sleep and respite because there was someone willing to hold the baby.
Imagine my surprise when I figured out the village wasn’t very populated at all. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across the other mothers with their own broken compasses, as stuck in the jungle as I was.
I’m not sure there are many things harder than change. Especially when the changes alter the course of a life, the course of a plan, the course of our expectations of How Things Will Be. Especially when the changes cause our old lives to die and plunge us into grief and force us toward rebirth.
I planned for motherhood. I didn’t plan for a pandemic. But I’m finding my reaction much the same. An old life gone. The Before Times full of joys and flaws, but familiar. The After Times full of joys and flaws, but unfamiliar, so unsettling. I catch myself doing the same things now that I did then—telling myself I have it easier than some, that I ought to be grateful, that I’m weak for the grief and confusion I feel. I should adapt better. I should be more able to flex. I should focus on the good.
It takes energy and time and conscious effort to slow that reaction down. To remember this isn’t the Suffering Olympics. To remember I don’t have to have it The Worst to have permission to feel loss. To remember sad feelings don’t undermine The Good or make it lesser. Sad feelings are just sad feelings. They exist simultaneously with The Good. They’re valid. They’re allowed. It’s rough in the jungle, trying to cut a path forward.
I told you I’ve been doing some Real Things lately to treat myself as kindly as I treat my dogs. Yoga is one, and I will tell you the hardest part for me. It’s not getting my ass on the mat. It’s not the twisty shapes. It’s not the waiting or the quiet. It’s not the dogs chewing my ponytail and licking my face or my kid bellowing from the stove that he doesn’t know how to scramble eggs while I’m supposed to be resting in corpse pose. It’s that Adrienne the yoga teacher keeps telling me on the YouTube to move into positions “with ease.” Adrienne the yoga teacher keeps telling me on the YouTube not to sit in any sharp pain. Adrienne the yoga teacher keeps telling me to slow down and be gentle with my body.
And I have that running around my brain on repeat. Because every time Adrienne the yoga teacher reminds me to move “but with ease,” I realize I’m clenched. My muscles are taut. I’m squeezing and squeezing, trying to hold myself rigidly in place. “Table top position,” she says, “but with ease.” And that’s when I release the tension. That’s when I remember releasing tension is even possible. That’s when I realize even my face is tight, and that I can choose to relax my cheeks, my jaw, my forehead, my neck. The weird part? I can hold positions of strength longer when I’m doing it “with ease” than I can with my body tight and shaking.
And none of this leads me to write you with kind of conclusion or any kind of Knowing or Deeper Understanding. It’s not that kind of Look at This Lesson I Learned blog. Instead, it leads me to wondering.
I wonder how we might adjust to all this change. I wonder whether there’s a different way to exist in this Strange Communal Aloneness. I wonder if I can learn to approach more things with ease and without sitting in any sharp pain.
I just… wonder.
P.S. That’s a stock photo. I just thought it looked like she was at ease while looking into the unknown. I also realize those are probably her footprints, but I like to think they’re buttprints and she just scooched one little butt-hop at a time because walking in deep sand is really, really hard, and now she has sand in her pants. But she has sand in her pants with eeeease. Because, honestly, if you can have sand in your pants with ease? I feel like you’ve officially arrived at zen.