To get out of bed.
To get dressed and go outside.
I know. Your mattress is comfy, the thick down comforter keeps you warm, safe, secure.
And today’s weather report is so damn uncertain. Some forecasts call for thunderstorms, perhaps even hail. Yet there are those who claim that there will be clear skies after a few showers.
Last week I was having a lot of trouble getting out of my own bed. Bella was nestled by my feet, Scott slept soundly next to me, and Mac was gently snoring in his dog bed. Everyone was snoozing away, content in their slumber. But for some reason, I could no longer sleep.
That’s when I realized how my sleeping patterns had changed since the stay-at-home status was declared. But, a part of me knew it was now time. I’ve rested, I’ve paused, I’ve looked within and learned quite a bit. I could not stay inside – “asleep” – forever, in my thoughts, in my own world. It became evident that I must take this new knowledge and begin interacting with others – in a responsible way. In essence, it was time for me to awaken and leave my safe nest. I was ready to fly once again.
Yet, I had to be honest with myself. Another part of me craved to remain protected in the cocoon I’d built around my family and me. We’d grown tight and had such beautiful, unexpected time together. I didn’t want to lose that. Besides, I’d been isolated for so long, what would living look like now?
But once I crawled out from under the covers, put my bare feet on the hardwood floors, and shuffled to the bathroom, I felt more confident and realized that it was indeed time to arise. Then, as I made my way downstairs to start the coffee, I saw the sunlight stream in through the windows. The sky was not filled with clouds as was predicted. Birds chirped, squirrels scurried along the branches, and bees hovered by the newly blooming flowers. Everything outside was thriving, alive… and now it is time for me to do the same.
If one emotion is present throughout our world, no doubt it is fear. After all, as we begin to open businesses, restaurants, and recreational facilities, isn’t there a lot to be afraid of? Yet, there’s nothing new about dealing with fear. It’s been around for a long time, and many of us have struggled with it throughout our lives.
For the past four years I’ve been peeling back the layers of my own fear. While there is still work ahead, I now understand the cause of so many of my past thoughts, actions, and reactions. Even as a little girl, I was easily frightened, afraid of the unknown. Then, as I grew older, I learned how to mask my fears, creating excuses that kept me safe but also prevented me from fully experiencing the world.
My fears traveled with me into adulthood. 9/11 paralyzed me, taking my fear to an entirely new level. I even went so far as to purchase two humongous rolls of plastic sheeting along with enough duct tape to secure our entire basement, just in case the attacks happened again. The financial crash of 2008 terrified me as well, but for different reasons. I feared losing everything and never fully recovering.
But then a series of life experiences helped me see how so often what we fear, never happens.
In November of 2011, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My treatment plan included a double mastectomy, chemo, and multiple years of tamoxifen. While I was one of the lucky ones, I still had to undergo some serious stuff to get better. Then, right after my last chemo session, my husband, an incredibly fit individual, noticed how difficult it was to get through the warm-up of his workouts. He said that it felt like a huge weight was on his chest. Luckily, due to his own body awareness and an incredible team of physicians, he learned that his left anterior descending artery was ninety percent blocked. Immediately, he received a stent, preventing a widow-maker.
This was a very stressful four months – from my diagnosis to Scott’s stent. Let’s just say that our family faced a lot of fears. I’m not going to sugar coat it and say it was no big deal, but what we learned is that often, when you are dealt some bad cards, you discover the strength within to rise and face your fears head on.
No doubt these two big issues, along with a series of other unfortunate life situations, helped us begin the arduous task of dealing with our fears. In no way have I conquered them all, but my level of stress has gone from an “eight plus” to a manageable “two.”
This transformation didn’t happen overnight. It took a lot of hard work to release the fears that have plagued me for so long. And while I’m still terrified of running into a bear when we’re hiking in the forest, I no longer go into panic mode when something feels physically wrong or when there is a worldwide threat. Of course, I have concerns and do not ignore things that require attention. The difference is that now, I try to drive my own bus, delegating fear to the last row of seats. No long do I want to allow it to direct my thoughts and actions, preventing me from fully experiencing life.
Maybe you, like many others, are not quite ready to embrace the new normal. If so, consider what fears are holding you back. Maybe you’re afraid of getting sick, or perhaps it’s the fear of passing on the virus to older family members that concerns you most. Your fears may not even relate to the pandemic, but they’ve been triggered, nevertheless. And we all know that ignoring them won’t make them disappear. They’ll only resurface at a later time, perhaps even stronger than before.
Much anxiety has been created by the media, as it has been inundating us with worst case scenarios, the true tragedies that are not the norm for those who contract COVID. Monitor what you read and watch. Then, find a reliable source of information and educate yourself on best practices. And go at your own pace. There’s no rush, no finish line to cross. No one gets a medal for being the first person to eat at a recently opened restaurant. But take a step forward, out from under the covers. I think that after you do, you’ll begin to feel energized, hopeful, and perhaps even a bit curious as to what might be waiting ahead.
Some may think I’m a Pollyanna, but I don’t believe that major calamities await us. Yes, more people will get sick, and we must be respectful of others, maintain our distance, practice healthy habits, and take care of the elderly or others at risk. But we can still move forward and live our lives. We don’t need to remain inside our cocoons forever.
The sun is shining, and slowly, we will shed the protective layers that we’ve built around us, trusting that we are safe without them. Instead, we’ll allow the sun’s warm and the love of others to nourish us.
The shift is occurring. We are shedding our cocoons – on our own timeframes – as we become ready to fly again. And when that happens, I can’t wait to watch the kaleidoscope of butterflies soar through the blue skies. What a magical sight that will be!