I didn’t go into this pandemic looking to learn anything. My only goal was to get through it, if not unscathed, then the least scathed I could manage. To do that I’ve used my well (some say over) developed sense of gallows humor, my ever present desire to do no harm (but the Covidiots are making that difficult at times), and my burgeoning (if somewhat inconsistent) practice of self-care in the midst of chaos and turmoil. These skills had ample opportunity to be honed last year for many reasons, the specifics of which don’t matter for my purposes today.
So, with that very short intro, let’s look at what I’ve learned.
I Need Some Structure to my day – Until the shutdown, I’d had plenty of structure. My workdays were structured around seeing clients and getting office work done. My days off were structured around getting things done that couldn’t be done on a workday. After the shutdown, I didn’t have any time constraints or anywhere to go so there was no time-based impetus to complete anything.
I was incredibly unproductive, unless you count reading, baking, cooking, and spending inordinate amounts of time on social media and playing games on my phone. There was no good reason that very little else got done. I was very… let’s say unhappy… with myself for failing to even keep up with the simplest tasks.
It wasn’t until I reopened my massage practice that I realized how much structure was inherent in each work day. When I was home all day, there was no structure and nothing but time. Not in the mood to clean out the cupboard under the stairs? There’ll be time tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.
I could blame it on the depression and anxiety that crept in regarding all the uncertainty surrounding the shut down and I’m sure they played a role, but they can’t take all the blame.
Take away: If I can conform to the self-imposed structure of my work days, I can find a way to self-impose structure in other areas of my life. I may have to experiment to find a way that works well for me, but it’s doable.
I Tend Toward Over-functioning, Except When I Don’t – When hard times hit, I usually move into what Brene Brown calls “over-functioning mode.” This means I’m a problem solver on steroids. I check out all the options then check to see if any of the options have options. Then I make a plan to do all the things, and then I do all the things. Last year I was finally able take my over-functioning down a notch and take things one step at a time, by asking ‘what’s the one next thing I have to do’ and then focusing on just that. I can’t remember where I got that perfect tidbit of advice, but it saved my sanity last year. Thanks to this episode of Brene’s podcast Ulocking Us, I realized that I’m an over-functioner. Just naming it helps to reduce it’s power over me.
When the pandemic reached my state, I couldn’t default to over-functioning mode because this problem required collective effort. All I could do was my small part of staying home and wearing a mask whenever I went out. I’d never been faced with a situation like this before so for the first time that I can remember, I became not really an under-functioner, but in contrast to over-functioning it sure felt like under-functioning.
Take away: Some times I have to be like Elsa and Let It Go. This may take a lot of practice, but I’d prefer to practice with something a bit smaller next time, thankyouverymuch.
It’s Finally Preferable to be an Introvert – Introverts don’t get nearly enough love. Our society values extraverts more than introverts, partly because there are so many misconceptions about us out there.
To that end, let me clear a few up: Introvert does not mean shy, although some are. Introverts can be very outgoing, just not with everyone and not all the time. Introversion is a spectrum, so while some introverts would be perfectly happy as a hermit others would go out of their ever-loving minds *raises hand*. We’re not all quiet all the time; if we like you or share an interest we can talk for hours.
That said, literally all the extraverts I know are having a much harder time with pandemic restrictions than the introverts. That’s the downside of getting the bulk of your energy from being around others. Unlike extraverts, we introverts don’t get the bulk of our energy from being around lots of people so our main source of energy did not dry up overnight. Although… some of us do get a huge influx of energy from specific situations involving lots of people, such as concerts of our favorite musicians or festivals celebrating a hobby or love. I really miss concerts and festivals, but I don’t always have the time and resources to go to them as often as I’d like. This year, and probably next, the missing resource will be the concert or festival itself.
Take away: Imma let my introvert light shine as bright as I can and take advantage of finally being the one who adapts more easily to the situation at hand.
Gen X is NOT Collectively Better Able to Withstand a Pandemic – Despite some wonderfully funny memes, I can guarantee you that there is no generation that was made to easily withstand this situation. Even my latch-key kid, middle-child of a generation has more than its share of COVID deniers, you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do’ers, and I’ll-just-spend-time-with-my-extended-family-and-50-closest-friends-at-home-instead-of-going-to-the-bar people.
Take away: I’m gonna laugh at the memes about Gen X being the best generation to withstand a pandemic even though I don’t believe them… Because laughter is good for the soul.
Do Not Taunt, Tease, or Try the Universe – On New Years Eve 2019, my husband and I said a very emphatic goodbye to what had been a very challenging year. The words, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out” may have been uttered, followed closely by, “On second thought, I hope it does hit you and leaves a mark.” Apparently, it didn’t like that little jab.
While it’s true that the coronavirus had already begun spreading in China over a month prior, it’s also true that I have no power over what the Universe does or doesn’t do/allow to happen. However, It sometimes doesn’t feel like that. Therefore, I’ve come to the pragmatic conclusion that it doesn’t do anyone any good to go poking the Universe
Take away: In the future, when I’m finally moving on from difficult things in my life, I’ll stick to celebrating that I’m moving forward.
Unlike some people, I probably won’t come out of the pandemic with a new skill. I will, however, come out of it with some new insight.
Have you had any positive insights? Please share them in the comments below if you had.
PS I lied. There is one more insight I want to share.
Bonus Insight #6: I absolutely miss giving massages to my wonderful clients when I’m prevented from doing so. Bless my husband’s heart, he was more than willing to let me massage him as much as I wanted, but it just wasn’t the same thing. I’m glad the current “pause” only involves businesses and services that require someone to remove their facemask.
PPS Have a happy, and safe Thanksgiving. Tell your family you love them by not getting together. Because Insight #7 is this: I want as many people to come through this pandemic alive and without (possibly) lifelong complications as possible.