Time. It can crawl along or it can pass in the blink of an eye. It can torture. It can heal. It can seem like forever or it can slip through your hands.
These past few months have been strange times. New normals were forced upon us as we navigated our way through scenarios we only ever expected to see play out in a science fiction movie. Life has felt surreal, but we have staggered forward, onward and still we wait for time to heal, time to pass, time to return our lives back to us and perhaps to teach us something too.
For me, these past months have provided my husband and I an opportunity to spend a lot of quality time with our children. We’ve had many family dinners, movie nights, games, puzzle making, and long deep discussions. This aspect of the pandemic has been a gift.
But as for everyone, there were also difficult moments. Watching the news, reading and hearing about all the loss and sadness everywhere….I could feel the anxiety rise upward inhabiting my body, ready to suffocate me. At times I thought I would never feel normal or joyful again. Sorrow, worry, anger, and hopelessness became a familiar theme to my days. Methodically, each day arrived and left. One month melted into the next as the waves of time rolled in and out shifting my emotions around.
I like to be in control…which is why I dislike flying and am a terrible backseat driver. Early on during the "shutdown" months, I didn’t make the connection to why my anxiety was increasingly getting worse. I tried to blame it on menopause. Of course I knew it was normal for people to feel anxious with a worldwide pandemic going on, but I could not accept feeling like a prisoner to anxiety. One day I reached a point where I truly felt helpless and I decided to seek guidance dealing with my anxiety. I am no stranger to therapy since I have worked with several shopping addiction therapists. But this time I was not seeking help with overshopping..this was different. I began weekly online sessions with a new therapist, and with her help things started to become clearer for me.
In working toward understanding my emotions and escalating anxiety, I ultimately needed to let go of what I could not control and focus on what I could.
I was surprised to uncover and begin to understand that my feelings of “not being in control” have been there from early in my life, and most often caused anxiety which I dealt with in various ways. Of course, as an adult, my “go to” when dealing with undesirable feelings has been shopping.
I shopped a lot during the early weeks of Covid-19. I wasn’t buying shoes, handbags or dresses, but instead I bought stacks of toilet paper, Bounty, disinfectants and masks in every color. Shopping for cleaning supplies to keep my family safe was how I tried to remain in control.
Now, I am learning how to recognize and manage my feelings of not being in control. I’m slowing learning how to accept things that are “out of my control” even if I don’t like how it feels. I am trying to “lean into” the scary, the unknown, and unhappy feelings instead of running away. I can not predict the future, I can not control it, but I can accept that. My anxiety is lessening, my happiness and inner peace are increasing and with that my unnecessary shopping is decreasing.
These days, as the world slowly begins to come alive again, I have gained a new appreciation for so much that I once took for granted. I am grateful for sunny days where I have time to enjoy a long walk or bike ride and pay attention to the beauty of my neighborhood. I appreciate seeing people and enjoy making eye contact with others and waving, nodding or saying hello. We don’t eat out as often as we use to, so I truly enjoy when we do venture out to a restaurant. Even if it does feel different, I am grateful to be there.
It wasn’t visiting the malls, or nail salons, or my pilates class that I couldn’t do without these past months. There were only two things I desperately yearned for and I hope will never take for granted again. The first was Church. Although, we watched mass every Sunday from our living room, when I was finally able to return to “in-person” mass service, I was overcome with emotion and gratefulness. I had no idea how much I needed to receive the Eucharist.
The second thing I desired was to socialize with my friends. Sure the phone calls, texts, and ZOOM meets were fun, but that first day when I spent real time with my friends was amazing. It didn’t matter that my clothes were to tight, or my hair was in desperate need of coloring, and my nails were a mess. None of that mattered..only being together mattered. It is our contact and connections to others that is essential and this pandemic has made that evident for me.
For now, that contact and connection will need to exist with distance and masks, but I can accept that. I will not, however, accept an attitude of waiting for time to simply pass. I intend on trying to live each day fully, with gratitude, the best way I know how, and trusting that I can handle even the things I can’t control.
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
― Mother Theresa