Courage in a New Normal
My thumb stings with each letter I type on my laptop. My knuckles and fingertips are cracked and dry from the constant washing and sanitizing. A low-level knot of anxiety has persisted in my gut for the past 3 weeks and regardless of how much yoga or breath work I practice it still seems to find its way back into the cozy confines of my chest and belly. Each morning when I wake up for a brief moment my mind believes that all that’s recently happened is simply a bad dream and that later today I’ll be driving my kids to gymnastics or taking a unnoteworthy trip to the grocery store where the checker will ask if I found everything OK and my answer will be yes. Reality sets in as I flip on the lights in the kitchen and I’m reminded of our new normal after I see the rearranged furniture in our living room set up so that the 5 humans that live in our small, 2-bedroom condo will have enough room to move and play without feeling like we’re living on top of each other. It’s 5 am, everyone is still asleep as I type. Should I stop and practice yoga? How long will the peace and calm I feel while I’m in my moving meditation last? Will I snap at my husband again after another distressful and anxiety ridden trip to the grocery store where traumatic thoughts race through my mind when I see the empty shelves and can’t find the ingredients I need to make my daughter’s first birthday cake or discover there’s only one jar of baby food for purchase? Will I find my kids favorite snacks this time, or have to deal with their reaction when I tell them that they’re going to have to eat something else? I can’t fix this for them. Too much is out of my control and I desperately look for something, anything I can control in this moment.
The last time I felt like this I was engulfed in anorexia. I thought my days of feeling this overwhelmed by anxiety were gone, turns out all I needed was a global pandemic to bring it right back to the surface. The desire to numb the anxiety and overwhelm has begun as thoughts of restricting and controlling my food or pouring just one more glass of wine become louder whenever I’m reminded of how helpless I am. The anxiety dampens my hunger, it always has, but now I know better and I eat all the meals and all the snacks even if I’m not really hungry. I breath through the frustration that my favorite foods aren’t available. It’s not easy but as the days pass, our new rhythm of life begins to set in and I know we’ll make it through. I know those old harmful behaviors and thoughts fueled by diet and fitness culture are standing in the wings and ready to jump into the spotlight whenever I experience another reminder that I’m existing outside of my normal exercise routine. I quickly push away any thoughts about my body and what it looks like and remind myself that none of that matters in this moment, but they resurface whenever I wonder how long this will go on. Life in this moment is so quiet and yet so noisy at the same time.
As I was told the other day, this is the yoga ya’ll. And nothing in this moment can be truer. Sitting in discomfort and staying present through it all. As someone that’s been in the depths of an eating disorder and has come out the other side to tell about it, I know in my heart, I’ve been made for challenges like this as anyone who’s recovered from a mental health disorder or addiction can tell you. But although I know this, it doesn’t make the situation any less scary it only makes it familiar.
Thank God for my kids and for intuitive movement; dancing, taking walks outside, jogging through the park across the street with my husband and kids, or a healing yoga practice amidst the peace and quiet in the early morning hours when everyone is still in their beds. There are ample opportunities for joyful and healing movement as well as connection and laughter to help move through this unprecedented time. I’m beyond grateful for the years of recovery I have under my belt for understanding that every single part of this experience is simply a chance to grow and a challenge to stay present through it all. Although it isn’t easy to remember this when the anxiety peaks and tension fills my body, I do my best to ride the wave and come out of it as smoothly as possible with forgiveness and compassion; apologizing to my husband and kids when I lose my patience, closing myself in a bathroom to release some much needed tears, or a moment of stillness to show myself compassion and remind myself of all I have already survived these 39 years on this earth and that this is just another chapter. This is simply part of the journey and I will one day look back on it and say I can’t believe that all happened, and I can’t believe we made it through.
We are existing in a time that will go down in history. This is something I often tell my oldest child in order to help alter his perspective on this strange and stressful situation we all now exist in. And it just occurred to me that maybe I tell him this not so much to calm him down but to also remind myself that all of this is only temporary and part of our collective journey.
This new normal, as everyone is now calling it, is something I hope never becomes a permanent normal, but as I listen to the messages each night form our local government officials and as the return date to school gets pushed back and pushed back again, I can’t help but think life has permanently changed for all of us.
Regardless of how long this new way of existing lasts, I know there is one thing I must determine in order to stay above the thoughts and exist above the anxiety and fear.
Some years back I was taught that in times of overwhelm and wondering “why is this happening to me?” it becomes essential to flip the script and ask, “why is this happening FOR me?”
So why is this happening for us and why is this happening for me? I’ve been asking myself this and am leaving it open ended for the time being. But even though I don’t have a clear answer right now, asking myself this question opens up a space within me for acceptance and peace to begin to take root. And in this moment that is all I know I need before I take the next step.
So why is this happening for you?
There is so much to still be grateful for. I encourage you to feel all the feelings, be honest with where you are, seek out connection with others but don’t forget the most important space within yourself that needs nourishing right now. Don’t numb out the fear with dieting or fitness; they’re false fixes and will only create more anxiety. Sit in the discomfort with courage because it won’t disappear with counting calories, trust me, I know.
We are all in it right now, may be just knowing that can bring in some comfort.
Sending you all love and healing vibes in this new space we call our new normal.