Since lockdown I have grown to love my daily walks, walks that sometimes are just around my neighbourhood. When I can, I go to our local park, which is a bus ride away, and the feeling of being in green space brings me a lot of joy. Going shopping has become an outing rather than a chore and we got rid of our car, saving quite a bit of money per month because we didn’t go anywhere, or more truthfully didn’t have anywhere to go!
I must admit, the first lockdown was a bit of a novelty as I had loads of free time. But I observed, with all that free time, I was still feeling anxious. Strangely, it was the same feeling I got when very busy and overwhelmed, the one that has me craving a break. How could this be with no job, furlough money coming in, and nothing dictating what I should do with my time?
I have been exploring this feeling and why am I so uncomfortable allowing myself to feel it? I knew it had something to do with my distractions: with no gym to go to, no restaurants to dine out in, no blockbuster movies to watch on a big screen with surround sound, no holidays or mini breaks to look forward to, no art galleries to wander around on a rainy Sunday afternoon. With so many things being stripped away from me what was I left with?
What is life all about without them?
Who am I without them?
Why do I feel the need to be occupied all the time?
Why am I not settled?
Now I’m not saying all the above are bad, and I welcomed being able to do them again as soon as lockdown restrictions were lifted, but is it possible that the feeling of unsettlement is our inner knowing that the way we are living is not it? Is it possible that being still brings up all the things we don’t want to feel because they are not right, and rather than deal with them, we book another holiday, enrol for an evening class, scroll through social media for 2 hours etc.? And what if I felt settled and then did all the above – instead of doing them to stop myself from feeling what is underneath my need to keep busy?
When I sat with this, what came up at first was the feeling of being worthy, deserving and being enough. I uncovered a belief that if I ‘do’ lots of things then I can feel I have some value. The more I do, the more satisfied I feel about earning my right to take up space here on this planet. I know I can be wracked with guilt if I put aside my list of things to do and simply rest because I feel tired. Gosh even going to the loo is something I make wait, putting my project or tasks ahead of my bodily needs.
But don’t I have any intrinsic value? Just for being me?
Sitting with the discomfort has not been the most fun activity, but it has been the doorway to healing some deeply held hurts. It’s been like opening the door to the wardrobe where I thought I’d find the bogey man, but he wasn’t there. What I found was a frightened, vulnerable and protected version of myself. I got to know her during lockdown, and it was a time of discovery. By allowing myself to sit through the discomfort, I uncovered some of the things that make me nervous and that I’m afraid of. I discovered that being honest about the things that frighten me doesn’t destroy me, but sets me free. Shining a light on them exposes them and somehow diminishes them to something that can be looked at and handled. So, do I still go to the cinema? Yes, and I love going on holiday and I’m currently studying. What I do differently now is check in with how I’m feeling and observe if my choices are initiated by a need to avoid something that I would be better off examining.
Sharing my vulnerability has been a gateway to a deeper connection with others because I’ve let myself be seen – fears, warts and all. And on the other side of the discomfort was freedom. Freedom to be me with less pretence and more honesty.