You are on a plane and you’re just sitting. The plane is not running, it’s getting hotter. It is crammed with people, and you are not supposed to get up. The air feels heavy and close, your heart races. These are moments when I go into panic. Strangely, sometimes all it takes to help me breathe is looking at another calm human. I recall looking at folks thinking “They are just sitting there. reading. patient. calm. serene. How do they do this?! I want to scream LET ME OUT OF HERE!! but they are ok. Perhaps I am ok. Maybe I’ll take a deep, slow breath and open up my book.”
Suddenly the engine roars and the plane starts moving. Sweet relief. The moment has passed.
Every day is different now, and it will be moving forward. There is no going back to the way it was. The framework was uprooted, thrown into the air (which is where we are now) and will fall back to the earth with new patterns and construction. Whether we succeed – finding peace and happiness – depends on if we adapt.
In the current moment, it’s as though I’m standing still and a ring of choices are spinning around me. I can choose which to engage (or can I?). Some clamor for my attention more than others and some are repeated. There is fear (the primal kind), hope, joy, comfort, sadness, gratitude, doubt, confusion, anger, fear again (the clenching teeth kind), love, humor, faith, despair, uncertainty, and hope, again. They orbit around my body, entering and exiting my spirit. I tap into self-agency and permission to dispute non-rational thoughts and fear, in general.
“There is no illusion greater than fear”, Lao Tzu.
In psychological science, Confirmatory Factor Analysis is a process used when creating and validating a novel measurement tool. It involves rigorous trial and error, locating problematic areas and outliers in the data and then readjusting the model to better fit the data. Sometimes, in working to create a better fit, we can actually make the model worse. It takes patience, persistence, and grace. Sometimes, the model does not work at all, and you have to start from scratch. It is a process of ‘more of this’, ‘less of that’.
In this new landscape lies an invitation – to ask ourselves: what is working? For me? What is making me feel better? (within social and self-responsibility) What is making me feel worse? More afraid?
It’s Spring in Central Illinois – when I go outside, even in the rain and see the buds on the trees and hear the birds sing, I can breathe.
Are you a healthcare worker? You don’t have the option of turning the volume down on any grim reality. With all the humility and gratitude I have, I hold you in my heart and pray you find space, too. I hope you find space to scan your own body – not just theirs.
When I open up Facebook and read another article, my breathing stops. I hold my breath. My jaw clenches.
Notice your bodies. Notice your responses, and adapt.
More of this, less of that.
If reading a book or listening to jazz music or having sex or going for a run or writing run-on sentences on your blog or laying with your kids on the carpet feels good to you – do more of it. If watching the news and having non-stop conversation about COVID is making you feel worse – do less of it.
This is not a suggestion to shut yourself off from useful knowledge from the world. But we need to start listening to our bodies, our faith, and our inner spirit.
During this time (more than ever), we have an opportunity to be better stewards of our minds and bodies. What do we want to let in? Is that deserving of my energy? Will that feed me in a way that, in turn, allows me to give back? Or will that cause me to spin out or feel more fear or get angry and exude negativity?
Intentionally, deliberately, and carefully selective – more of this, less of that. We can do it. But it all has to come from within.