HOW ARE YOU, REALLY? (Covid Edition)
2020 is long gone, and the world is slowly cracking open, with new, fertile earth beneath. As the world continues on this rollercoaster, we can feel freshly exposed earth beneath our feet, ready to be cultivated.
For many of us, this has been the worst year of our lives, for others the best. We have learned first hand that this is not the year to compete or compare. Yet despite the chaos and confusion around us, we have united and are coming out even stronger.
Now that we are seeking familiar faces again after a long time of strictly screen and digital interactions, we ask and ask again, the trivial, “How are you”? That question is so pre pandemic, isn’t it? It’s such a loaded question, because no matter who you ask, even a stranger, you know everyone has a story. Everyone has had their life turned upside down. Everyone has something to say about where they were and what they were doing in March 2020 until now.
It’s a lot, and we’ve had a lot of time to think about it. Too much time. Our stories are memorized to the point of resorting to theatrics as we tell and retell some of the trivial and superficial, heartwarming and shocking stories of this past year. We talk about how much closer we’ve gotten to our loved ones, and the hell we went through to get there.
We talk about how our jobs and lives and living situations changed, and we complain. Oh, how we complain. We have really sharpened our complaining knives this year, but in the midst of all this catch up chatter, asking each other how it’s been, how we survived, are we asking ourselves, “Hey self, great to see you, how are you?”
Lot’s of us in our restlessness and anxiousness have thrown ourselves into a radical wellness routine this year. In confinement (yikes just saying the word confinement gives me the chills) we had extra time to roll up our sleeves and do everything that we said we were going to do, and we did. We did it and overdid it, and in some cases, burnt ourselves out. And when we did, we recorded it, shared it and spread the wellness word to everyone we could reach. So now we have two jobs: self care and wellness, and showing how well we do self care, digitally.
Sharing is wonderful, and a great cure for loneliness, but it’s also work that requires energy, and often the urge to share right away, takes away from the self care experience in itself. The purpose of self care is to maintain the most vital energy we can to be able to do what we desire, to the best of our ability. We need to actually take time to reflect on ourselves, scan the calendar of our days, weeks and months, our mornings, afternoons and evenings and check in with how we are feeling.
After a few weeks of despair in the beginning of the pandemic, and too much news watching, it started to dawn on me how long it would be before I would see my family back in the states again and how sad that was. I wanted so badly to feel good again, to feel safe. So I did what any ambitious health nut from Los Angeles would do: I kickstarted a once in a lifetime bootcamp style spiritual wellness routine for my husband and I right away.
We got a white board and plunged ourselves into a sleau of challenges. We started a prayer routine, got into Wim Hof breathing daily, took cold showers, did kundalini yoga, cut out all the crap we were eating, and even had reading time on the schedule. We used all the tools we knew we always had lying around and they worked. We felt great. We made a very nice bubble around ourselves and the pandemic seemed like a blurry, distant event that only existed if we went outside or turned on the news.
We challenged and re challenged, upped the challenge, flipped and reversed the challenge to the point where we were doing 300’s (300 pushups, burpees and squats), 1 hr of yoga, writing 750 words, meditation day and night, waking up at 4:30 am, everyday. The whiteboard was like magic, anything we wrote on it came true.
Yet “Check in with yourself” couldn't be found anywhere on the board. Now that is starting to take a toll. Wellness had become a distraction, and I was doing everything possible to not face myself and how I was truly feeling in the midst of this global tragedy.
Sometimes even our morning routine, despite being designed for self care, can often be done on autopilot and you don't even realize the subtle tugs and alarms your body tells you as you go through it. Sometimes I find myself at the end of my morning routine, not sure if I’d done it or not. How was it over before it began?
The days I wake up with the intention of checking in, the morning routine is also done with intention and I take my time to breathe before I start anything. I start a conversation with myself, and I ask myself, how did you feel about doing this or that, when somebody said this to me, am I still carrying the feeling behind such and such that happened. Then I ask myself questions. How are my relationships really going, starting with my relationship with GOD and myself? How does it feel being a wife, a daughter, a sister, a member of society right now?
Am I getting to bed at a decent time? Taking time for creative expression?
This can’t be a little chat or a quick check in with yourself. We’re talking about YOU here. The most V.I.P. priority in your life. This is a meeting with your best friend, and maybe you haven’t seen him or her in a while. When was the last time you’ve really seen and spent time with yourself, just you two, alone? When you meet up with a friend at a cafe, do you sit down, skip ordering something, say everything you need to say and get up and leave in five min? You deserve a lot more than that.
I know the pandemic has made our living spaces hard to be in, especially if we have had to share, but now that things are opening up again, put a date with yourself on the agenda. A few hours for you and you to check in on how you’ve been feeling.
Maybe you will tell yourself something crucial to your life you overlooked, and can now work towards a solution for your health, relationships or finances. Maybe you’ll tell yourself something so funny, you’ll laugh until your sides hurt. Or you’ll relive a special childhood memory, and really be able to take your time and spend some quality time there. You may even spark creativity and innovation in this quiet private dialogue with yourself. Spending time with your marvellous brain and spirit uninterrupted is a glorious experience! You have all the answers because you have direct access to God, and in source you have all the answers.
It feels good to challenge yourself, and ask yourself the hard questions, too. Asking yourself how you felt when you were having an argument with someone, or behaving immaturely, acting out of anger, being reactive, or simply being your not-so-best-self is vital. We can’t just wash over the times we acted out of character, meditate it away. Face yourself! If not, you could fall asleep to the behavior and it could become a negative pattern that you’re not aware of.
In my last check-in, I decided to take a purposeless walk, not stop and do food shopping or errands or anything important along the way, no dog walk or phone either, just me. A walk with Christine and christine. I gave myself 90 min to do this, and I had to cancel a job to do it, but it was worth it, I thought.
I got myself dressed in my favorite clothes and took myself on a romantic walk and wandered off along the river. I quieted my mind and forgot who I was and simply observed the bark on the trees as I passed by, the marshy feeling of the ground after the rain, the leaves dangling from trees obstructing the path, dog hair caught in the reeds. I was so happy I’d taken myself there, until we found a new place to watch the sunset by the river. With no agenda but to spend time with myself, I found myself the most perfect patch of grass by the river, it was the perfect pillow for my behind and my behind alone.
I sat down and started the check in, opened up myself to really explore how I felt. How have I been treating myself, and how does that make me feel? If you are honest with your questions, you will get the answer right away. The first thing that popped up was how I’ve been feeling slothy not just lately, but especially during the pandemic. It was almost an excuse to throw in the towel and backslide into full blown I’m not doing anything mode.
Although I had a charged set of jumper cables by the bed in case that happened, in the form of a strict exercise and prayer routine, lately I have chosen not to use them. Why Christine, why? Have you been really present in all your prayers, or are you just dragging yourself through it? Is the energy you’re putting behind your daily tasks living up to your full potential? Why is that? No judgment, let’s just talk about why.
This went on and on until I got to how I felt sometimes in the morning. Dragging, lazy, not wanting to get out of bed, heavy hearted. Okay nothing new, but what about how you felt? Is there something different? Is this how you felt at other times of succumbing to slothiness? I breathed in a few times and thought out about it, without judgment. I mean, why would I judge myself? I love myself and this is a safe space.
I ended up laughing at myself a bit, seeing my past self run like a chicken with its head cut off, and how silly I was for making things harder for myself sometimes, hence resulting in a depletion of energy and sloth. I was depleting my energy unnecessarily and therefore, had less to work with.
So I felt really great about the past, identified the obvious areas that I could change to help my life run smoother, but still wanted to check in further on the root of all this. The heavy hearted feeling, in the morning sometimes. What else were you thinking about at the time? What was popping into your mental monologue? I go back and feel that feeling again, it was easy to identify. It was familiar. It was the same feeling I had when I was a kid sometimes. A lonely feeling. I missed my mom!
You miss your mom? I couldn’t really believe it and although I was relieved, I felt like a huge cliche. Though it was clear, that feeling could be contributing to my adamant sloth. I hadn’t processed how hard it was to be away from my family all this time, I wasn’t dealing with it. I tackled everything else but that. I felt like, okay, you’re a functioning adult, you don't really need your parents, your family, but that is not true, clearly. I do have a lot of feelings about it. Longing, sadness, mistrust because of the uncertainty, instability. I could really use a hug from my mom right now!
In this lovely, compassionate chat I had with myself, I realized I don't have to put up a front and was pretending that I’m not sentimental. That felt good, I felt a release. As I was spending time with myself, the authority of my past memories, we went back in time together and shared all the wonderful times I’d shared with my mom, and of course it was only a matter of time before I paused on some hilarious moments that I hadn’t thought about in years and laughed out loud on my perfect little spot with my best buddy, Christine.
This is one of many feelings well worth processing, revisiting, by taking the time to spend with yourself, checking in, and giving yourself love in the form of conversation and listening. You may not have all the solutions, and you certainly won't be satisfied with the answer all the time, but spending intentional time with God and yourself is something we can access at any time, anywhere.
With these sessions of spending time with yourself, you can revel in who you are when no one is looking, and start bringing more of that into your life, all the time.