The last couple months have been a whirlwind. A whirlwind is “a very strong wind that moves in a spinning or swirling motion.” It is often a violent and destructive force.
This leads me to wonder, if I were in a literal whirlwind, would I be able to breath? What about in a hurricane? Or a tornado? I imagine that if anything, my breaths would be shallow, the air only available in fits and starts. I’d breath in as much as I could whenever I could, but it would not be regular breath, it would not be reliable or trustworthy.
This is how life has felt for the last eight weeks of pandemic, both figuratively and literally. Work was cancelled. School was cancelled. Events were cancelled. Activities were cancelled. Life as we knew it was cancelled. Suddenly, a scenario I have never imagined or bothered to worry about is playing out in the most disruptive way. All the basic assumptions are gone, every decision has to be considered without muscle memory.
Social distancing means lack of interaction, a lack of focus outside myself. There are so many expectations that no longer apply, and so many expectations that have been thrust upon me. I no longer worry about social stories that have previously driven my inner monologue: worry about procrastination in planning summer vacations, or the idea that I should be having more fun, events on my calendar. At the same time, I am now required to walk my children through lessons on grammar and money counting. I must motivate them to study subjects they have no interest in learning. I am not a cheerleader parent, this is not what I signed up for. How do I do this, and also work full time? How do I feel good about my work, both voluntary and involuntary? How do I live, knowing I’m not doing any of it well?
For the first seven weeks, I didn’t even notice that I wasn’t breathing in the middle of this whirlwind. But this week, I finally had enough room to notice my shallow, choppy breath. I finally noticed my tense jaw, my clenched neck and back. I noticed my anxiety and the million numbing strategies that make it easy to not notice.
This week, I’m able to notice, and to do something intentional to change it. This week, I am able to reach out to connect. This week I am able to be useful.