Shew. We made it.
It was questionable at times wasn’t it? It was the proverbial rollercoaster ride for sure, but even worse it was one of those rollercoasters IN THE DARK.
You know the kind—you just start to lean to the left and all of a sudden you are pitched to the right with no warning. You can’t see the track. There’s no anticipation of what’s to come around the next turn. Your eyes can’t tell your brain what to expect. Are you going up? Are you doing down?
Nope, upside down!
And you can’t catch your breath between never-ending jolts until you finally feel the lunge and the brakes, and the track catches hold of the barf train. At last you slide into the station to the unloading platform—you exhale, brush the hair out of your face and find yourself reconsidering that corndog you had for lunch.
We were on that ride for over 12 months. —except Disney didn’t design it and it wasn’t fun.
This time last year we were forced to take a sabbatical from most everything we rely on in life to bring us happiness and to sit alone with our thoughts. Sitting alone is one thing, but sitting alone with our thoughts? No, no. Humans hate that. We don’t do that.
At first, after we got over the initial toilet paper panic, we started to question it all. Information was coming in like rapid fire and as we processed we also quickly realized we had to “pick a side.” In the United States, you either believed the science behind the pandemic/quarantine/pathogen or you thought it was a mass media driven hoax/over dramatized/politically motivated. So now, not only were you alone with your quiet thoughts but you had warm cozy feelings of outrage to comfort yourself with.
Jerk to the left.
Wow, this is…getting fun. (nervous laugh)
Then you fought it. Pushed back against the reality of it all. Refused to accept it.
“I’m sure we’ll be over this by summer when we can all go outside, it’ll go away.”
Jerk to the right.
I’m the emotional one here, so sometimes the frustration (or wine) would overflow out of my cup, and spill all over the floor and I’d cry to be let off the ride much like I did at the Mid-South Fair when I was in fifth grade riding The Spider. The spinning cups on the end of The Spider’s arms were making me sick and I wanted off, but no one was listening to me from 30 feet up in the air, and everything just kept spinning.
Motion sick girl was just going to have to ride it out.
We were all following along as best we could and trying to keep up and take in the bits and pieces that made sense. But at some point, we had to throw our logical and emotional compass into the mix—a.k.a good old-fashioned gut instinct—and just go with that.
A lot of my personal turmoil came from my need to fix the situation, for me and everyone. If everyone would just “stay home, stay six feet away, stop traveling, wear masks, stop having parties…” made up a great deal of my thoughts. I was stuck in a loop of “I can fix this,” but the reality was I absolutely could not and even thinking about it kept me in that nauseatingly spinning cup on the arm of The Spider.
I couldn’t write anything. I could hardly work on my books. I couldn’t even write a blog entry because my anger and frustration were clouding my ingenuity. They were clogging up my creative flow and my inspiration.
After a while, I noticed that the news didn’t change or make anything better so I stopped reading it. My social media was cleaned out of anything that didn’t bring me joy. I realized that no one’s opinion (including my own) political or otherwise, mattered to anyone else so I stopped engaging. I figured out that my attempts to check in on my friends might have been somewhat selfishly motivated as an excuse to have my own connection with them that they didn’t necessarily need, so I stopped. Anytime someone thought they needed to tell me how I needed to manage the pandemic for my family I bowed out, departed from the interaction. And I finally called myself out on doing it to them too even if I was only doing it in my head—it had to work both ways. That energy was toxic and felt like just another whiplash in the dark.
So I started to embrace the situation and just sit alone with my thoughts more and more (the horror). Instead of trying to lean into the next turn that I couldn’t see coming and getting jolted every time, I loosened my grip on the handrail and exhaled. I prayed more. I meditated some. I sat outside alone a lot, even in the winter. Instead of wrestling with healthy choices constantly, I cooked and ate what I felt like eating. I relaxed. I quickly realized that much like relaxing your body when you’re in labor, or getting a Covid vaccination, it just hurt less.
That’s when it began to turn. The rollercoaster started to slow down. The curves in the track started to become smoother.
I started to notice the drama fading. My outrage calmed. My resentment waned. The voices in my head quieted and took the turmoil with them. I started sleeping through the night with no anxiety stomach aches. My body released two kidney stones (maybe not as efficiently as it should have) and I was feeling emotionally unburdened of all the angst of being quarantined. My body was relaxing, but so was my soul.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to say “maybe the pandemic was a good thing.” It wasn’t. Millions of lives lost, businesses closed and so many lives negatively affected will forever be its legacy. I’m just wondering what we might carry with us from this wild ride as we move forward. I certainly know what I learned.
In addition to the misery of sitting alone with our thoughts, the strength that so many people had to find over the past year was agonizing. I had several friends lose parents or spouses during the quarantine. They couldn’t have their funerals. We all know weddings, graduations and other joyful milestones that were taken away. Kids had to attend school virtually. Marriages suffered. I know I reevaluated some of my relationships, and sadly ended some, that I never thought I’d have the strength to do. “Bumpy ride” doesn’t begin to put the past year into words.
Two days ago I got my second Covid vaccination. Afterwards it felt like that year-long jarring rollercoaster in the dark had gently pulled into that station on the sunniest, the brightest, of spring days more like the peaceful little kiddie train at the zoo. I was finally offered a hand and asked to get off the ride and exit to the right.
As I walked out the soles of my feet were sliding inside my sandals from nervous sweat because I hate shots, but I was also overjoyed and felt like kissing every stranger in that store. I was actually a little teary-eyed thinking of how far we’ve come this past year, how much strength we had to find to hold onto the handrail at times, but maybe just leaning into the quiet, as much as we hate it, is where the real strength is found—that place where we can’t ignore our own voice over the sound of the rickety coaster on the noisy track.
Maybe that’s why we hate it, because now we know how strong we can be.