Safe at home.
Firstly, I'd like to do a check-in.
How are you feeling today? Close your eyes and take a couple of deep breaths.
Whatever you are feeling is completely okay.
There is no right, or wrong way to feel and I just want to make that clear. It's also okay not to know how you feel, or to feel a million things all at once. The power of the act of closing your eyes and going inward, lies in the noticing. We don't need to make sense of what we find there, but the first step to any healing is awareness.
My name is Catherine and it turns out my years of hard work have paid off. I'm okay. I'm not wildy happy, but I am definitely okay.
I'm definitely not unhappy, and I listened to a fabulous podcast recently (https://howtofail.podbean.com/e/how-to-fail-mo-gawdat/) which hypothesised that happiness, is perhaps simply, the absence of unhappiness. We spend a lot of our lives seeking the rush of excitement, seeking the pleasure of highs, but I guess as these are fleeting experiences they could never really capture the essence of happiness which is a less transient state and actually more much more sustainable.
As a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist it's one of the top therapy goals that people come to therapy seeking. "I want to be happy". Which is fabulous, but quite a difficult thing to quantify and achieve without really tuning into the things that are making you unhappy. If I was your therapist and you came to me with that goal, we would start by breaking it down in steps, collaboratively figuring out the things you would be doing differently. Figuring out what things would help give your life a sense of meaning or pleasure, if we could take away or overcome the things that were making you unhappy.
It's interesting. I'm such an anxious person by nature, that when I'm not feeling anxious it can almost sometimes be a little unsettling and I've questioned lately (with my own support system, "the healers need to heal themselves" my yoga teacher stated wisely) whether my avoidance of the news is in fact a safety behaviour to protect me from the magnitude of whats going on, and maybe it is, but also, maybe that's okay. Anything really important will reach me, and I see my role in this crisis as a supportive one, and so I feel that, I guess honestly, just watching the numbers go up would frighten me, and I want to stay strong for others, and also myself. My brain has always found personal stories easier to understand and so I guess I find that I can't actually even really connect or make sense of the numbers. But the individual stories are what get to me and make me cry, or fill me with hope.
Now I will admit, what comes up must also come down, so when I am in this state for too long I do start to worry about my next blip, my next burst of sorrow, but I am learning (in my old age, I'm 33 on Monday, what is happening) that every emotion is welcome and to be accepted. I've started to think of my emotions like a rainbow, every one as perfect and essential as the next. We can't have a rainbow without a little rain hey, thanks, Dolly. But she's right. We wouldn't be able to experience the 'absence of unhappiness' without knowing what unhappiness felt like.
So after many years of utilising unhelpful coping strategies to try to take away my pain, instead I have found a new way of being. This new way of being is practising moving mediation, mindfulness meditation (as much as I can), being kinder and more compassionate to myself, being open and vulnerable about my own sufferings to help others and shifting my lens of perspective. And it's really helping.
So within my lens of perspective what I have realised, quite profoundly in these strange times that we find our selves in is this:
1. The only thing we can control is ourselves. We can not control the actions of others... we never could. We can't stop people not listening to good advice (there's always one.. million)...we never could. What we CAN do is learn to process our own feelings, responses and behaviours and we can start taking action from a conscious place. " Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." (Viktor E. Frankl)
2. You can chose to shift your lens of perspective. Are we "stuck" at home? Or are we "safe" at home? I'm fucking safe. I have a roof over my head. A beautiful garden. Access to food. Access to clean water. Central heating. The internet. Local parks. Netflix. I can read as many books as I like (can someone please send me over some motivation please?). Podcasts. Hell, I could learn a new language if I wanted to. I mean really, the list could go on and on. We can CHOOSE to notice what we do have, or we can choose to dwell on what we do not.
3. There is a space inside of us all that is peaceful. Some of us are more traumatised than others.But there is a space of peacefulness within that can be accessed, even fleetingly, and with practice, this can grow.
4. We can adjust. Habituation takes time but what feels weird at first can become a new sense of "normal". We are creatures of habit and we can learn from our power to adapt and shift like little human chameleons that we do, in fact, have the power inside of us, after all to change, even if sometimes we forget this.
5. The lessons we have learned, and will learn, during this time period can, and will, transcend into our futures, our children's futures and into the rest of time. You can unlearn unhelpful behaviours. You can't unlearn wisdom.
6. Find what feels good, and inject this into your daily life like you'd take a vitamin DAILY. Your vitamin of goodness may change day to day, but allow yourself something good every day. Your something good may be yoga, breathing in and out slowly noticing your breath entering and leaving your lungs, your toes in the grass, smelling the flowers, eating chocolate, baking, crafts, laying in bed for a day and doing absolutely nothing. Do things that feel nice and that are just for yourself. We have an opportunity here to get to know ourselves and find out who we really are.
7. The way we were living before was unsustainable and we are entering a new world. We have woken up and with waking up comes deep inward and outward reflection. If you're angry, why not channel that anger into making or doing or planning how to improve things in the future. Your anger will only serve to fester within and poison you if you don't use it wisely, how can we use the lessons we are learning to create a better world when we come out the other side? How would you like things to be different? What can YOU do to cultivate a change to the benefit of beings all over the world to help them find freedom and happiness?
8. People are kind. Yes, there will always be fraudsters and people who take advantage but people are innately good. My lens of awareness is choosing to focus on the almost 100 year old who walked 100 laps and raised 15 million pounds. On our front-line colleagues who have put their lives at risk to protect us. The communities that have formed to support the most vulnerable of society.
9. There is suffering. And there will be suffering. And some of us will suffer more than others. We will need to a develop stronger senses of connection through, and beyond these times. People will forget. Life will eventually go on. But we must not forget. There will be people that need us for the rest of their lives because of the trauma of this time. If you are one of them, thank you for all that you are doing, and I am here for you. Skype goodbyes, no goodbyes, seeing things that cannot be unseen, making choices that no-one should ever have to make. We need to ensure that we are there for the ones that really need us in the next few months and years. Reach out to anyone you think may be suffering now, and continue to reach out far beyond the existence of what we find ourselves in currently. Post traumatic stress is real, and we need to look after each other, compassionately and with love.
10. This too shall pass.There will be dark days, darker moments and there will be pain and sadness but everything in life is temporary and you will get through this . When this passes. How would you like things to be different, and what are you going to do to create this change? Change starts within. Start inside my darlings, it starts with you.
This isn't a perfect reflection. I will have missed many things and maybe this isn't even finished yet. But perfection is an illusion anyway and I like to think to think that my spelling mistakes and off-key grammar help you realise than none of it really matters. What really matters is my intention, and my intention is love. I am hoping that my connection reaches you from the world wide web, and I'm hoping that in this moment, you feel less alone and to inspire you to remember your own power, even amidst the powerlessness.
Now if you are still with me, thanks (and my inner critic is, of course, wondering, why?!) but close your eyes again, allow your awareness firstly, to become aware of your feet on the ground and your bottom in your seat and do a little check out.
How are you feeling now? In this moment?
It's all love.
You are deserving of love.
You are love.