Within my style of therapy, we focus on enabling our clients to learn to live well. One of the analogies I use is that life is like sailing a ship- to navigate well we as humans need a map and a compass. Without these, alongside a sense of purpose and direction, life can not simply take us into choppy waters, but we can find ourselves reeling, or stuck or always searching for an unknown destination.
In these last few weeks my compass appears to have broken – as does the world – and a new map is being written. Many are doing all of the above – reeling, feeling stuck or searching. As a therapist I am still supporting clients through this time but also working out how to live well and navigate through these unchartered waters myself. This series of blogs looks at my own journey whilst hopefully offering guidance to others ... but do I have the answers for a smooth passage... no I am like everyone else – taking it one day at a time.
‘It is early as I write this – I have been meaning to get my ‘blog ‘ back on so as to speak for a while and life was too busy. Everything was full on- the business was a wonderful mixture of events and clients with corporate work nicely picking up and brand new ideas to explore. I had joined our local gym and was getting back into the swing of early morning work outs now our son was of an age he didn’t need me straight away on waking ( can I say his very much older sister still lives at home – this was not a home alone situation!). I had recently said to my husband I felt like I was in that stage of firstly having the business look long term sustainable coming into 4.5 years in practise and feeling a bit like my old self in the world of ‘me’ versus ‘ mum’ again. On top of this I was full on heading into the last 3 /4 months of my degree which had taken 4 years hard slog…. Life was full on and a I was loving it ! whilst also saying – ‘oh wow – I am tired – can’t wait for a break !
I would get up early doors to make use of the extra time and enjoy the quietness of the morning before it all got going.
Now I am sat here early doors also enjoying the quietness of the morning and writing this because life is suddenly very different… and I am holding onto the quietness of the morning at this early time because it allows me to hold onto a feeling of normality – because when the day starts today .. it really is a whole new world. I don’t know when I should have officially started counting but today is Day 1 of a whole new normal when it becomes apparent, without any way of avoiding it, that we are living through one of the most challenging times in our lives.. COVID19 is here and nothing is the same.
I write this knowing for many their world is already turned upside down and I have been fortunate to have felt some sense of normality up to this point – up to Friday my young son was still going to school, I was already doing much of my day on video call but husband was still working ( he still is at this time) and I could keep a fairly normal routine and still see people in person during the school runs. We spent the weekend home based with a careful socially distanced dog walk on each day in the first glimpses of spring sunshine and busiest ourselves making the house ready for change…. but we love spending time in our own property so again it wasn’t such a big thing.. Whilst all the time I felt an underlying sense of anxiety , found myself in tears on a number of occasions and whilst we felt like things were still fairly normal my psyche already knew different . Like the fact we were meal planning differently and waiting for 5 o clock to watch the live announcement on TV.. extra things in our day which like an irritating stone your shoe would not allow you to relax and every so often would be remind you that there was something wrong.
Today my young son does not go to school, we start home-schooling for an unknown period of time.. I am juggling work early doors to ensure I can look after him during the day – there will be no trips out to museums or parks, no play dates to break up the routine ... and a whole new routine to try to create. My work is on- line and like many my work is already impacted and reduced. Hubby is still going into work as his industry works out what this new world looks like for them and attempts to keep a workforce of predominantly self- employed individuals afloat. During normal holidays my mum and step dad would be gladly be involved in childcare – we haven’t seen them in over a week which is unheard of and I am feeling the loss both for myself, for them and for my son who misses them dreadfully but understands the need to keep them safe. Additionally, it is unlikely we will have our blended family together again for a long time and whilst hard for me is heart-breaking for my husband.
My emotions are all over the place at this time – disbelieve – I feel like I am in a one of those movies you watch like Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman, frustration, sadness, anger, confusion.
My thoughts are something like this …
1. I am not sure how to work through this?
2. How selfish to panic buy and leave others with nothing…
3. Stop it Ali – people are scared and this drives survival behaviour
4. But who needs that much stuff.
5. Yay we managed to get fresh eggs today…
6. I am not sure I will be a good stay at home mum – it’s never been my thing..
7. Come on you – let’s create a schedule and buy educational books and set up on- line material.
8. Oh god this feels big..
9. Seriously people are still buying stuff?
10. I want the old life back...
11. It’s going to be Ok make a plan and get ready to serve your clients...
12. WTF is happening – is this really happening – oh my those poor people ...
13. I am scared …
The roller coaster of life is well and truly in action and I like most others am clinging on for the ride.
However, I am thankful that the work I have done with myself in the last few years is what is needed now. I tell my clients that when therapy gets tough, that’s when things happen and it’s when we dig deep and get brave and lean in.
There are lots of reasons why we feel like we do but today I will end this blog with the most practical of suggestions to help you sail your ship.
1. Create a new routine rather than trying to hold onto the old routine. See it as a totally different experience – it will feel less like you are holding on.
2. Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel – make a note in a journal of these emotions and then spend time later processing what created the emotion and how you feel about that now.
3. Practically go back to basics – make new to do lists and pick your top three things to achieve each day.
4. Take 5 minutes to mediate or practise mindfulness to calm the nervous system and boost your immune system.
5. Be kind to yourself – be patient and compassionate.
We cannot deny that everything I changed right now. We need to take things on a day to day basis, work together and most of all stay safe. It’s Ok to feel scared or anxious – it’s also OK to find joy and happiness in these times in the small things you do. Like the people I have hard are embracing technology to keep connected with loved ones.
Life is never constant but it’s also never dull... change is inevitable. It’s time to fix the compass and create a new map.