It’s crazy, isn’t it? That sometimes we literally have to leave our physical space that we call home, when we have a few days off, to find peace? There’s been so many increased stressors entering into month #5 of the pandemic in the US. I’m marking this from when we were called to shelter-in, and I began working remotely. There is such a huge spectrum of experience going on from those who have lost their jobs, to front line workers, to those who are sheltering in and working remotely (with people or alone) to those whose lives have actually had an improvement in the midst of the devastations going on all around us. The latter certainly is a surprise.
Yesterday I was walking down to my neighborhood tiny beach to sit and let my brain come down at the end of my work day and after a couple of very difficult weeks, both at work and personally. I ran into my neighbor and I asked him how he’s doing navigating all that is going on because I always try to stop, look people in the eyes, and check in with them. His answer totally surprised me. As I have been so thankful that I still have a job and am working remotely, naturally there has been a lot of stress for a variety of reasons, and I have had to ramp up my self-care, so I was expecting something along these lines, but his response was, “I’m having the time of my life! I’ve been on furlough this entire time, and getting paid.” He’s been swimming in the bay, running, and spending his time exactly how he wants to.
I couldn’t help be envious and my mind starting to shift to that place of “poor me…wish I didn’t have to work right now and could just spend all my time doing anything I want”. Whaaaa Whaaa Whaaaa. Oh boy. I reeled that one in fairly quickly, because I always want to go to a place of gratefulness and recognize the many things that I’m thankful for which include still having a job, and the amazing place that I live. However, I don’t know if you feel this way, but I am just the type of person that carries a lot of concerns, and the clatter in my mind seems to always be talking and interrupting. It’s very hard for me not to get consumed by all the thoughts, especially when there are multiple, hard situations going on, difficult decisions to make, and concerns for family. On top of that, navigating alone adds stressor if we don’t have someone to bounce ideas off of and lean on for support, if needed. Somehow, when my weekend comes, even though I live in an amazing area, I find that I have to leave home sometimes for my mind to fully rest.
The sea has been such a healing, life-giving place for me these past five years, but my neighborhood has a lot of road and air traffic, so it’s never quiet. I lived in the country in Oregon for 15 years before I moved here, so I was used to only hearing river sounds and crickets. But the truth is, I’ve been like this my entire life. I have always greatly valued, and needed, total quiet at times to find balance and peace, and to really anchor my perspective when my mind wants to go down that negative, dark hole.
I live in a vacation destination, and one of my regular, soul-giving, self-care activities is paddle boarding in my own neighborhood, but I find when there is paperwork waiting for me, my work station set up in my home, boxes of storage I have to go through, projects waiting and several difficult decisions in the back of my mind that have been waiting for my work week to end, that when the weekend comes, I still can’t fully relax, or get my mind off the stress. It’s in this moment that I know I must find a way to spend time in a quiet forest. This was one of those weekends, almost a desperate feeling to get somewhere quiet, away from home and the lovely place where I live that I love. And so here I am writing this from a very quiet, secluded cabin in the pine trees.
This next bit of advice may sound a bit drastic to you, perhaps not. If you're like me, you may need to give yourself permission to go completely dark for a day or two. I’ve realized that to truly be able to relax my mind, it needs to be okay for me not to answer the phone, or feel any sense of obligation to connect or help others on particular days. Last year, I had a friend tell me that he does this. That he doesn’t respond to texts or answer his phone on certain days, and honestly, I never really got it. Then recently, a young woman I know shared that she and her husband choose a day (likened to a Sabbath) where they don’t even get together with their friends, if invited. I sure wasn’t like that when I was 25 years old! This is such wisdom to plan and take care of what you need before you feel desperate for a reprieve and have to run away. It resonated so much with me in all that I’m experiencing right now. If I don’t completely turn it all off, the thoughts keep tickling the back of my mind, reminding me of when I need to do something, what is waiting for me, or what I “should” do. Those “might happen” thoughts are like chihuahuas nipping at my heels and keep me from really being able to enjoy my weekend and get refreshed and rejuvenated for my coming week.
We are complicated, psychological creatures. Do what you need to do to find peace. I anticipate this radical way of handling this is going to help me, and I hope it helps you too. It feels so good to love myself enough now to know that this is okay. The thing is, many people will not understand this, and you may even offend someone because of their expectation of you, but it’s not their job to decide what you need for your own wellness, that’s your choice. As for me, I’m going where the peace is and I just learned how to love myself a little more.