In the beginning of this year I chose a word to use as my intention for 2020. The word that I chose was lightheartedness. As I sit here now and type this, I think about how much has changed from the time that I chose that word up until this very moment. We’re in our fourth month of this year, and I would say that we all feel the duplicity of how much longer it’s felt than that rivaling how quickly April has come and gone.
Here’s a brief summary of what life has been like for me in my little corner of space during the quarantine.
In the short few weeks since the pandemic truly hit our area here in New York state I went from going about my job, my classes, my life as usual, to every aspect of life changing. As a hairdresser, I have had to stop working entirely. I am now doing my art classes virtually and my projects are being made from my one bedroom apartment. My husband has also had to shift his senior year of his bachelor’s program from full access to Syracuse University’s many resources and labs to our one bedroom apartment. In case I didn’t mention our apartment has one bedroom, and four occupants, two of whom are shedding like crazy, and have no regard for personal space as it is (oh to have the life of a dog).
Needless to say, home life, school life, work life, and marriage life is all currently overlapping and having to be adjusted, bent, flattened, and folded to make room for it all.
I also found myself dealing with hardships that had nothing to do with the pandemic, but that have been perhaps exacerbated by it in unexpected ways. Someone that I love dearly, but whom I wish not to name for their privacy, had a mental health crisis that led to them being hospitalized. This brought me face to face with one of my greatest fears, having to watch as someone I love goes through pain and suffering.
My initial reaction to the news was to pull away, to recluse into my inner world, while maintaining a normalcy on the outside. I did this by avoiding making a phone call and instead going grocery shopping like I had planned. The entire time I was distracted, and my anxiety felt like concrete was slowly filling my lungs. I got home and told my husband how I was feeling and that I was scared to make this phone call. He told me that doing the thing scaring me was the very thing that would help me feel better. He was right.
I picked up the phone and made the call. I cried with this person on the other end, I heard the story of what happened, and I felt an enormous flood of anguish, despair, and grief mixed with relief. At least now what I was feeling was honest and true in response to what was happening.
In that moment I decided with my whole being that moving forward it will always be better to confront the feelings that I fear most with openness and honest communication. Every minute I spent putting off the phone call was another minute that I felt imprisoned by my fear and anxiety. I thought I could put off the despair, but in truth I was only set free once I opened myself up to the very feelings I feared talking about.
Since having that first tough conversation, I have since had many more. It’s not easy to be honest with the people you love, and have them be honest with you. This experience has taught me that I have more work to do in how I communicate, or fail to do so, and in how I still default to wanting to feel other people’s feelings for them.
All of this to say, that as I thought back to my intention of lightheartedness, it seemed impossible to see how I could connect back to this same intention. It’s taken me a few weeks of processing, and of truly looking inward and working on what this experience shed it’s light on. And it’s in that inner work that I’ve begun to connect back to my intention.
I see now that this period of so much change and disruption that we are all experiencing right now is in fact shedding light into areas of life where we’ve been avoiding looking into. This time when we are forced to slow down is showing us where we feel sticky, what we feel uncomfortable looking at. Before when we were so busy, it was easier to just keep on going right by.
So here’s my perspective shift.
For me to feel more lighthearted, I have had to unpack some pretty heavy stuff. I have had to face fears I couldn’t even name aloud. I have had to feel feelings that have been stuck within me for so long, that when they left I felt physically ill. This work isn’t easy of course, but when you make an intention that aims to make your life better, you have to trust the process in which it comes to fruition.
I trust that amidst the heaviness and the chaos, I will continue learning lessons in lightheartedness.