More COVID musings because I don’t have the energy to do anything else and my brain never shuts down. I guess this will be my virus journal. What should I call it?
In the end of 2017, I chose to leave a wonderful, safe, good-paying nonprofit job in an organization that I loved, to pursue my lifelong dream of being a therapist, writer, and speaker.
Over the past 3 years with the support of my partner, my family, and an amazing community I have published my first book, completed graduate school ahead of schedule with a 3.9 GPA, won numerous awards, spoken and performed for many groups, joined a podcast network, built a bold, creative, therapeutic project that is empowering people to change their personal narratives; and last year I joined the staff of a truly remarkable counseling organization that I am honored to work for, and learn through, and grow with everyday.
It’s strange how the world works, lays out opportunities at our feet to be taken or not. The way our minds tell us what we can or cannot do, who we can or cannot be. For the majority of my life my brain has presented a dichotomous mixture of encouraging vision and mean-spirited criticism. I wish there were a moment when the switch could flip from self-doubt to self-assured and I could rush to the spot and cover it over with the strongest duct-tape (you know it’s my favorite) to prevent the switch from ever flipping back.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could reach peace and never look back? I mean we can but it looks different than we imagine. This year has taught me that. Peace isn’t about everything being as we think it should, predictable, and calm. Peace is showing-up and making the best decision we can in the moment and loving ourselves and others through the discomfort of not knowing.
Back in March when the world as we know it ceased to exist, I had to choose how to proceed. We all did. All of the plans I made for the year for The If You Could See Me Project were paused and I had to grieve my expectations and breathe into my fear. I had to finish graduate school, 5 classes between April and October. I had to find out why my body doesn’t work sometimes, I get sick so often, and occasionally pass out. I had to decide whether I would continue seeing clients in person in their homes and as a result make the sacrifice of not being with other people for myself and my family. I decided to continue seeing those kiddos in person because virtual counseling didn’t work for them. We had to decide whether we would send our children back to school when returning was an option. We had to be the mean parents who said no to parties, outings, and get togethers with kids whose parents didn’t wear masks or lamented the CDC guidelines as overreactions. Then the summer happened and we had to decide to lean-in and not look away from the gaping wounds of racism and injustice.
The message that has continued to return to me over and over throughout this year is that we need so little and we are capable of overcoming so much. Somewhere along the way in our society we have internalized the notion that things are supposed to be within our control and when they are not we get angry because “that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.” I get frustrated when I see this behavior. My first response is to tell people to stop whining, recognize all that you have that so many do not, and suck it up.
In case you are wondering, this is neither an effective way of getting someone to see things your way, nor is it kind. In my liberal, open-minded heart I am still inclined to judge and belittle the backward, angry, flailing of people I do not understand. I can be a snob and I have to fight my inclination to disregard the humanity of those whose behavior I am offended by. Behind the flailing of all those “Karens and Kens” is so much fear and sadness. This is no excuse for reprehensible behavior; it is a deeper look into the experience of confusion that accompanies an ever-changing world.
These individuals represent a portion of our society that has placed value on rigidity, self-interest, control, and external presentation above all else. These are people who have been taught that love is conditional and is dependent upon reflecting the one correct way of being a person. How terrifying must it be to feel that what makes you worthy of love can be so limited? What happens when you think you’ve done everything right and everything falls apart anyway and no one ever gave you the tools to learn flexibility because in their mind flexibility was weak?
I recently had to end a friendship with someone who I once considered family. Their angry, racist, anti-Semitic, conspiracy filled coping has become more than I can stomach. I don’t like to give up on anyone. I tried all the ways I know how before deciding to walk away. When I did so I did it with clarity and love. I don’t know why one person’s experiences result in openness, love, and acceptance and others results in darkness and mistrust. I suppose when we figure this mystery out there will be no more need for therapists, artists, or philosophers.
There is no figuring it all out and being done. Finding peace is about getting comfortable with uncertainty, dichotomy, the messy, blurry, incompleteness of things. We will never know if we have the answers, or the actions, right in advance. Wanting to predict the future does not mean that we can, and needing to know the answer before you ask the question will always lead to limiting beliefs about what is possible.
Certainty feels comforting but it is an illusion. Certainty and the need for it shuts down the possibility to learn more, grow, and open-up to the magnitude of what may be possible. I think I just said the same thing like ten times but I have been saying these things to myself and others for over a decade now in various forms, genres, and environments, and I have not yet ceased in needing the reminder of this reality on the regular. I will continue needing this reminder.
Yesterday Hanukkah ended and I was too sick for the final 2 nights to light candles, say prayers, or do anything more than lie in bed struggling to breathe. Those candles, whether we light them or not, represent the story of 2020 as much as they do the story of the Maccabees thousands of years ago: we will never know what we are capable of until we are faced with the opportunity to show-up and fight what feels to big to face. It is only then we can realize how little we need and how much we can overcome.