UNCERTAINTY AND HOPE IN TIMES OF CRISIS

We are in strange times, indeed. The pandemic has stretched seven months already and there’s talk of its extending at least another six. The days seem endless, yet the time flies by. Where are the projects that we so eagerly began in the spring? Gardening, painting, reading, gourmet cooking—some started, many still in a state of incompletion. This isn’t the time to get angry at yourself, however. There have been enough ups and downs in our world that we certainly don’t need to create more in our own lives.

Some of us feel locked-in to our home. Children need home schooling due to the many hybrid models of education. And yet childcare is almost non-existent. Work needs to be completed, yet the needs of our kids trickle, sometimes flood, into our workspace.

A colleague of mine related a story in which he began seeing an elderly man via remote therapy. The man wasn’t comfortable using this new technology but agreed that this is the safest way to work. At the end of the first session, my colleague’s 5-year-old son ran into the room yelling and demanding attention. My colleague smiled sheepishly at the gentleman, anticipating that he’d understand the nature of work at home contingencies. However, instead, the patient explained mournfully, that he really needs the therapist’s undivided attention and so will not be continuing in therapy with him.

The story does not end here! My colleague understood how depression and loss can get exacerbated by the solitude engendered in enduring the quarantined times of Covid-19. And instead of feeling hurt by the patient’s rejection of him, instead, empathized with the jealousy that his patient was feeling in seeing the life in the therapist’s home, compared to the quiet in his own. Ironically, teletherapy offers this kind of closeness that in-person sessions cannot and thus, on-line space can afford an intimacy that in-person sessions might take much longer to achieve.

Unexpected outcomes arise even when we feel prepared for them. Patience runs scarce when we’re interrupted for the umpteenth time, or when we forget our mask or when we need to get out of the house, hoping to center our minds, only to realize that movie theatres, shows, cultural centers are not yet conducive to safety, and we return home to Netflix.

It’s easy to feel down and confused, scared and powerless during this seemingly endless time. But there are ways to circumvent and prevent these feelings from overwhelming us. BE ACTIVE! Don’t let passivity dictate your state of mind.

MOVE YOUR BODY. STRETCH ANY WAY THAT FEELS ENLIVENING.
  • Go outside and take a walk into a different neighborhood.
  • Take an online yoga class.
CHALLENGE YOUR MIND BY ENGAGING IN ACTIVITIES OR BOOKS THAT YOU HERETOFORE HAVE AVOIDED.
  • Learn a new language. There are many online opportunities offering instruction.
  • Take a course with Coursera or another virtual learning environment.
DOUBLE DOWN ON THE GOOD STUFF. 
  • What do you currently enjoy? Exercising? Gardening? Do it some more.
  • There are fall flowers that can be planted now that are just beautiful.
  • Take a drive to a winery or a nature preserve.
MAKE FUTURE PLANS AND ENGAGE IN HOPE. 
  • Write a list of places you’d like to visit. Or restaurants that you have loved and that you will again visit.
  • Which museums have opened? They often have sculpture gardens or roof deck exhibits.

I’ve been seeing a young woman in her twenties prior to the pandemic’s arrival. She was frustrated that she hadn’t had a boyfriend in many years. She was disappointed in her life and frustrated with herself. Then came the pandemic and her worst fears were realized. She was alone in her apartment for the foreseeable future. We continued our sessions remotely and Lizzy allowed me to see the world in which she lived. Her apartment seemed barren of “things.” Things that represented her, things she loved that remind her of friends, family, travels. There were hardly and photos or artwork and even the lighting was dim.

We explored the ways she kept her life empty, inside as well as out. She didn’t feel worthwhile or connected to her friends and family and always felt alone. She never realized, however, how these inner feelings permeated her life, even to the point of her maintaining an empty apartment. As she was able to speak about her feelings and our observations, we began to notice a shift in her energy level. She wasn’t feeling as trapped as she had been. She was able to speak up more at work, and didn’t experience “all eyes on her,” as she had during in-person work meetings. She took her dog to the dog park, something she had heretofore avoided, and met a few regulars there. She began to live a fuller life and even began to do some online dating.

It’s never too late to reengage in life. While we can’t live in the future, we can indulge some fantasies that will be viable in the next year or so. And thereby keep the present alive.

People are adopting puppies and kittens, making room for new houseplants and even renting chickens! You might think that you can’t take on any more life, but life is what we need now. It keeps us looking toward the future when we will finally be able to reemerge.