I've always been deeply comforted when someone tells me to "take my time." It has the effect of opening up a space for me where I thought none existed. It gives me permission to respond to the anxious messages bouncing around inside me and slow down.
When c-19 first appeared on my radar it was a spec on the horizon. One that didn't demand a lot of attention. I remember talking to a nurse friend of mine and saying, "it is basically like the flu. What's the big deal?" She set me straight and explained the importance of 'flattening the curve'. It wasn't two days later that a friend was saying the exact same thing to me. But this time I was the one doing the educating about flattening the curve. This is how c-19 showed up, in my head as something that demanded me to set the story straight with everyone who would listen. My mantra back then was, "you won't recognize your life in 5 days."
But it wasn't until 4 am a week later when I woke up in a panic, a sweat soaked panic that c-19 entered my body-as anxiety. My mind was racing and I could see it all played out. Me alone in a hospital bed. My kids parentless. I woke up the next morning and wrote my living will, found my will and trust info, my life insurance, my passwords. wrote each boy a letter. This is how I was changed by c-19 the first time. I finally wrote a living will. As an end of life doula that might come as a surprise to you but I talk about it VERY frequently with my people so assumed I didn't really need one. c-19 motivated me to get my stuff in order.
In those early days I felt c-19 in my racing mind, and the anxiety that burned thru my body like a lit fuse. Unstopppable. Inciting panic in its wake. It stayed like this for several days. My strategy was to take long walks and awaken my senses. I would focus on the tree tops swaying in the wind. The soft sandy path along the river. The quiet forest with shafts of sunlight falling through it. I walked and walked every day until something shifted inside me. The panic gave way to... denial. I know you might have been hoping for something more positive. I once heard denial described as a cloak that we wrap around ourselves for protection until we are ready. I wasn't yet ready.
I watched a ridiculous amount of Outlander. I forgot all about c-19. I started saying things like bairn, lass and lad. The permission to allow myself to do this was not conscious. But I had learned a thing or two about grief the first time around and that knowledge lived in my subconscious. Mostly that during these times it is necessary to give yourself permission to do whatever feels right at the time. No judging, no explanation needed. To take my time.
The next thing that c-19 taught me was how to pay close attention to my body. In normal times it's messages to drink water, or go to the bathroom can go unheeded for hours. c-19 taught me to be highly attuned. At the first sign of a sore throat I gargle with salt water. When I start to feel a little fatigued and achey I immediately take my vitamins. I drink plenty of water. When I get a soggy headache I make sure to get outside for a long walk. This attention had a side effect. I started to live in my body more than my head. I was no longer anxious just practically attending to every message as it arrived.
Then I heard that John Prine was sick. And that was the tsunami that broke through the dike. I gathered candles and placed them around my darkened room. I lay on my bed and played John Prine songs over and over, epecially Summer's End. It was a portal for all the grief inside me. It felt good to cry. I was ready to feel. To feel the pain of all the medical professionals without adequate protection. The suffering of people dying alone. The anguish loved ones endure, isolated with all their love sitting in their laps. The fear I had for my own family and friends.
My focus fell across the photos of all my loved ones here and on the other side. Feeling my grief allowed me to be grateful for the whole arc of my life thus far. I am here wholly in my body. Feeling my heart softly pounding in my chest on this bed surrounded by flickering light. Knowing in the deepest way that I am not in control and have never been and never will be. And that's ok. I am here now.
Grief also lives in the body. It isn't as demanding as a sore throat but it is just as real. We can override its messages much more easily. We can stay busy. Grief is like a tiny woodland creature that we must lure out into the open with a trail of bread crumbs made of silence and vulnerability. Meditation doesn't do it for me. For me it's more like preparing a beauty bath and slowly inching in. So my message to you dear reader is: take your time. Grief is slow and lives inside you. And it's here to change you.