Moving Forward While Staying in Place

How the world has changed. Outside, spring is re-painting our landscape. Inside, mirroring the foliage, people are itching to push out of their buds, to unfurl into the world. But not yet. Still not possible. In my area, the lockdown rules are slightly relaxing, but we still have shelter in place orders.  Good news (GREAT news, actually) for me: our condo garden has opened up, as long as people stay sensible, keep social distance and mask up.

It’s hard to reconcile the contrast of vibrant spring days together with the worry of how/when we are going to unlock ourselves and re-emerge into the world.

Unlike other countries which might be more disciplined on a collective level, here we are known for our cheerful individuality and creative force which, on one hand, has brought so much beauty and talent to the world, but on the other hand, often translates into heated temperaments and lack of discipline. To minimize chaos, we are all going to have to navigate new rules, and they need to be understood and accepted by all. I worry how this will happen in a methodical way.

What we all share right now is that we are in different stages of our grieving: for the collective loss of a world we knew, but also for individual losses we each carry – of routine, of celebrating milestones, and unfortunately, of the people that are not with us anymore. Now almost two months into lockdown, everyone I know – friends, colleagues and clients – carries with them a sense of heaviness, of malaise. Many are having difficulty sleeping. Many feel emotionally fragile.

The topic that keeps coming up for me these days is one of polarities. For me, a skill that has always been important, but in times of long and sustained crisis is indispensable, is the ability to accept and reconcile polarities. How can we start living into the notion that two opposite feelings or experiences can be true at the same time?

On one hand we are asked to stay physically distant, to limit interactions. On the other hand, we need to connect with others. I strongly believe that this is a time to go deep within, to enter an inward reflective state. At the same time, I also believe we need to feel part of a bigger community and to hold space for each other, to bear witness to each other’s lives.

In myself I can feel the battle raging between needing to hear news, updates, and to express myself, but also not wanting to be drawn into the world of ranting and raving. I want to disengage from things that drain my energy, and don’t give me more clarity.

I also feel the tension between letting go and taking action. Part of me wants to shut down, let go of control and just stand with the flood of emotions. But an equally strong part of me wants to be more purposeful in where and how I spend my energy, in a way that is more aligned with my values; to behave today in a way that I will look back on and feel comfortable with, if not proud.

And finally, how do I merge the gratefulness I feel for what life has given me with the sense of helplessness we all share? I am immensely grateful that I am (relatively) unscathed. I have a roof over my head and food on my table, the economic stability to withstand months without income, and a network of friends and family around the world with whom to share my burden. I also feel helpless in the face of so many frightened and worried people who have lost livelihoods, health and family. I feel powerless that my support is limited to micro actions, and that many in power, all over the world, aren’t always making what I consider sound decisions.

But in the end, I think that all of this is OK. I cannot but remind myself of the Chinese concept of yin and yang, the cosmic duality – opposite and complementing energies which combine to create a whole; or yoga practise, which is comprised of opposing poses to balance the body.

It’s the same for us: we need to practise holding and being comfortable with different and conflicting thoughts and emotions at the same time. Every one of us is longing to move forward, with strength and steadfastness. We want to somehow catapult our way out of loss and closure and shutdown.

Perhaps, in times of challenges, the best way to do this, in the words of my High School friend Alex, is to look for ways to engage with the world – not with single mindedness, but with open-mindedness.
All the best,

P.S. If you’re in the mood, this is a beautiful Brandi Carlisle song that resonates for me in these times “You can dance in a hurricane, But only if you’re standing in the eye”

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