Peeking beneath the protective layers we wear (literally and figuratively) — we can navigate our discomfort and reclaim our power
We try to cut life off at the pass, get out in front of it — be prepared. Translation: do anything not to feel pain (can you blame us?). But as you know, the best laid plans…
The problem is that when we attempt to block feeling, we miss the boat. We don’t just get to sign up for the good stuff and disregard the rest — fear, vulnerability, insecurity, the squirm-worthy that makes us face off with our wounds, etc. That’s the rich soil from where all our breakthroughs, expansion and hidden beauty emerge. And yet, despite knowing that deep within our core…we still try to dodge discomfort (even when it’s not so obvious that we’re doing it).
Speaking of discomfort, witnessing people out and about wearing masks and gloves is actually jarring (really jarring) to our nervous system and has an impact upon us psychologically, even eliciting trauma for some. Masks signal danger. Bank robbers wear them. Surgeons wear them. Now neighbors wear them too. I’ll admit I was late to jump on the mask-wearing bandwagon — not in an attempt to be reckless, but rather because I think it triggered something within me. And I was right.
Last week I ventured out to food shop donning my above-mentioned accessories. Aside from the inconvenience and annoyance of getting used to it all, I experienced something else — a great disconnect. Granted, it was still cold out so I had a winter hat on and was wearing sunglasses. While the complete getup may have prevented the spread of germs, it also felt like a disconnect from humanity. It made me feel more isolated than when I was at home. No one looked at one another, no eye contact, no smiles, no speaking — people just scurried through the store aisles like robots. I couldn’t wait to get back to quarantine.
Social distancing doesn’t mean disconnecting or detaching from each other and our humanity.
But this blog isn’t about pandemic protocols, it’s about emotions and processing our experiences — and how masks got me thinking about it all.
The reality is that masks are nothing new to us. We regularly wear invisible life masks out into the world, ones that we think protect us and tell the world who we are. The irony is that they’re not only blocking the world from our truest selves, we’re blocking ourselves from it as well.
So what happens when we are home and mask-less?
This global pandemic sure threw us a curveball, didn’t it? And it likely brought up different things for all of us. We didn’t really have time to prepare or realize the magnitude of this current reality that kind of feels like a black hole with no end in sight. Along with it, you may be witnessing lots of emotions bubbling up — some may not even make sense.
I know I have days when I vacillate between worst-case scenarios, conspiracy theories and total calm.
I’ve written in previous blogs how, after the initial provisioning and resettling into this new norm, I pouted about my birthday and had to relinquish the ways that I usually celebrated it. And at the end of the day, isn’t that a great metaphor for life?
I’m not making light of this situation by any stretch; no sugar-coating, no rainbows or unicorns. I know people are suffering, losing jobs, losing financial stability, even losing their lives. Fear abounds. Yes, there is loss amongst us. There is no need to quantify or judge it — to hold your pain up against that of another or to diminish what you are feeling. Whatever is coming up for you is valid and real to you. Pay attention to that and know it has something of value to reveal to you.
My recent birthday situation was a total exercise in surrender. There was no business-as-usual, no matter how I resisted — same for the rest of us right now. I am delighted, however, to report back to you that it was perhaps my favorite birthday after all. And I think, had I entrenched myself in the suffering of what I couldn’t do and have, I would’ve missed it all. Again, a timely life message.
First off, Mother Nature threw me a bone — the most glorious day — and after a long, cold, gray winter, that was salve for my soul. Blue skies, sunshine, bright yellow daffodils and forsythia in bloom, warm breezes…aaaah, thank you!
When we peel back the layers of our lives, our distractions and the things that keep us in perpetual motion — our senses heighten dramatically. We see, hear, taste and feel differently than we did before. And trust me, your entire being delights in this state. You breathe, you relax, you shed tears that have been held in, you expand in ways you couldn’t have imagined.
This is not about denial. I know that perhaps you may be faced with things that are triggering, you like finances. I get that. Clearly, we should all be responsible and aware. However, we also need to be clear about our ability to change it in this moment.
Ask yourself: Is there something I can be doing right now that can shift this situation? If the answer is yes — by all means do it. If the answer is no, ask yourself: What can I do to feel better, to support and calm myself as I navigate these unchartered waters?
For me that is usually simple; all roads lead to self-care. Take a walk in nature. Meditate. Pray. Stretch. Plant something. Journal. Create. Write a letter. Paint. Read. Cook. Connect. Just nourish yourself.
After an early morning walk in nature on my birthday with a few dear friends (and social distancing), I came home and asked myself, What do you want to do? Don’t roll your eyes…I actually decided to vacuum. I know, exciting, right?! I had an internal dialog that went back and forth, Seriously? That’s what you want to do on your birthday?
But here was my reasoning. I like my house clean. The house needed vacuuming. It would make me happy…AND, I felt blessed to have a house. Done. I vacuumed and went on with my birthday — and what a day it was.
When you allow yourself to go with the flow of what is unfolding, you will begin to see your playful self peeking out from behind the corner.
You will begin to notice things you had rushed by before and taken for granted. So many little unexpected gifts surrounded me on that day because my eyes were open.
I was grateful to be able to spend it with my son who is unexpectedly home from college. And in a week, I will be able to spend his birthday with him too.
When I walked by a certain window in my stairwell and caught a glimpse of my wonderful neighbor sitting on a bench in her garden soaking up the sunshine, something inside beamed. It was as if I had witnessed a moment of pure grace. A few minutes later I headed outside to stand in my yard to chat with her over the fence, beneath the trees and the chirping birds. This is exactly the kind of thing I would have rushed right on by just a few weeks ago.
At the end of the day, I had a Zoom call with a few girlfriends to toast my new year. My only request was that everyone put on some earrings, lipstick and some mode of party decorations. Needless to say, we had a good laugh or two — and got out of our quarantined-garb. Laughter and creativity are medicine.
Yes, there was birthday cake (it was divine), a delicious home cooked meal with my guys, cards, flowers and even a few gifts. So many heartfelt sentiments. And I don’t know about you, but the more time I spend at home, the more I realize I don’t need a lot. In fact, I’m sensing a great purge coming on. I wear the same clothes, use the same things and feel like I’m surrounded by a lot of ‘stuff’ that could be repurposed, re-gifted, re-imagined. What if we all got resourceful — think old school: handmade cards, gifts of intention, etc.?
Here’s what I want you to know:
These are unprecedented times. Some people are being motivated to change the world, others are struggling to get through the day. We don’t have to be uber-achievers during this moment, but we do want to stay grounded in our faith and trust. Wherever you fall in this equation, simply do the best you can to show up for yourself. Cut yourself slack when needed. And know that this may look different each day.
I urge you to explore the opportunity to use the experience rather than be used by it.
Do the best you can to create a new normal for yourself; a new routine, a new way of connecting to your work, relationships and desires — but most of all, to your feelings.
In this time of being stripped down, we are also being given so very much. Remove the masks you have been wearing and take a good long look in that mirror. Connect to the things that are feeding you, inspiring and exciting you — even scaring you. Redefine who you want to be in this life, who you want to do it with and what it is you want to be doing.
If this pandemic has revealed anything to us, it is that anything can be toppled over without a moment’s notice. What does that tell us? That there are other ways to navigate it all (we’re doing it right now). And if that’s the case, why not choose to see and release the things that aren’t working for us — to take off the masks and step into the fullest expressions of our Best Selves? Sounds like a plan to me.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.~ Viktor E. Frankl
What’s coming up for you during these times of uncertainty and disruption — are you sensing an internal nudge to shift into a more authentic version of yourself, to take off your mask? Please share with us in the comments below where we can support each other in the un-masking.