This is not an “I have all the answers” self help blog post. Sorry. I know I just lost some readers there but clearly none who know me. I don’t have all of the answers, I don’t even have some of the answers. I have questions inside of questions and curiosities inside of curiosities, and even if I feel like I’ve answered SOME of the big questions for ME, I wouldn’t begin to presume that those answers would all be true for you. In my experience, that’s rarely how it works. So if you’re looking for answers, I can point you to some of my favorite authors, teachers, scriptures and passages of text, but this right here is merely a meandering from my own realizations to your dear reader eyes. If the journey awakens some resonance of truth for you, then I’m glad for it, but also sure it has more to do with you than me.
Onward: A virtual friend on a women’s forum recently asked “How are you staying present in the face of this pandemic?” I asked her to unpack her question and she added, “How are you staying grounded, present and true to yourself in the face of news reports, needy kids, working from home and the fear and failure that goes with all of that?”
Her question made me realize that I wasn’t. I wasn’t staying present or true to myself, I was showing up and getting the “job done” but I was also already feeling the pressure and burnout compounded by the guilt because who the heck is gonna burn out working from home?! Right?
So thanks to someone I hardly know coming to me for answers, I was able to come face to face with the fact that just 5 days into the new normal, I’m already doing it all wrong.
I’ll save you the details of my inward journey and skip to the key learning because that’s why we come to the internet: digestible chunks of learning and cute animals, babies and decorating ideas.
To me, being present means that I’m fully grounded in who I am, what I need and the purpose of the energy I’m expending. I know what to do and why I’m doing it. I move in confidence, speak with patience, and have grace for myself and others. I am grateful, whole-hearted and ready. I am paying attention. I am here.
For me, that presence is most easily found first in true isolation and alone time. It’s in my nature to lose myself in the needs, wants, and expectations of others. I know how to operate in that space the way fish are born knowing how to swim. It’s the alone thing that I’ve had to learn my way into. It’s the being still, the listening (to myself, to God, to breezes in the trees), the deep and inner knowing that I had to train myself to find. I spent years forcing myself to grow comfortable in that space and was surprised to find that with practice, that alone space became a kind of soul salve to me. I started craving the stillness more and more, and with too much time away from it, I start to feel untethered and disconnected the way I once only felt when I would spend too much time out of community with my people (the family and framily I love so much.) These days, I need a delicate balance of together and alone. If I’m not pouring into others and allowing them to love on me in return, I feel disconnected. If I’m not alone enough to hear my own inner hum I feel lost. In the face of this pandemic, I dove into familiar waters of getting lost in what others needed from me. My days became filled with consoling and corralling, organizing, stressing, showing up physically but feeling like I was coming up short again and again. I wasn’t finding stillness, I wasn’t letting go of control. I was managing and offering and worrying and comforting and worrying some more. I was eating all of the carbs. I was feeding my face but I wasn’t feeding my soul. I wasn’t being fully present, I was functioning in fast forward, trying to be all the things for all the people who I believe count on me in some way, and coming up baffled at how it all seemed harder and less productive than usual. It took the stillness for me to see it, and to start again.
So this week I’m focussing on presence. I know now that the kids are all right and that the structure we built last week works and now this week with those structures in place I’m going to make time to really see them and walk alongside of them in this new normal. I’m going to keep showing up for my students, but in the ways that they’ve shown me they need me and not in the ways that I think make the most sense. This week I’m going to get up early to pray and meditate and move my body while I open my mind and heart. I did this toward the end of last week and there was a marked change in the energy and stamina I had through those intentional days. This week I’m going to feed my soul- through creative breaks and quiet moments alone and gratitude mixed with grace for all the ways I’m still becoming. I’m going to try again to be present for my loved ones in the face of this pandemic, but I’m going to begin by being present for and with me too.