Last week was a heck of a week – I was on the Space Mountain of emotional roller coasters.
It was the second week my husband was away. He’s in NYC taking his skills where they are most needed and being of service. We’re often flying off to faraway lands to serve but this time our country gave the call so he answered,
The first week didn’t’ seem so bad, I guess it was all the adrenal and stress of him leaving and the reality of our new normal. The second week, last week, that’s when the emotions hit the fan and set in hard for all of us.
When Bill and I were just entertaining the idea of him going to New York we called a family meeting. We wanted to know how our girls felt about it and their thoughts. They’ve already been through some big emotions just weeks before with my breast cancer and treatment. So we sat down with our three daughters ages 12, 12, and 8 and asked them questions and talked about what things might look like with their dad going to New York City to help with COVID-19. Their response was astonishing. “Dad it would be selfish if you didn’t go. You know how to help and can help so you should go and help”
Now that reality has set in they miss him very much, they worry about him, they’re scared for him and the cherry on top is the uncertainly of it all.
Last week I was having to cope with not only my own emotions but to also be there for each of my girls’ emotions and of course be supportive of my husband’s emotions as well. And let me tell you they were all the big feels. My husband calls typically once a day and recounts the tragedy and trauma he’s seen during his last 12-hour shift. It’s a lot, so much to take in. There’s so much suffering. You can read something he wrote here.
Then to top off the emotional roller coaster of last week there was the mass shooting in Nova Scotia, my home province. I’m so very grateful my family and extended family were all ok but I did know one of the victims and it just hit too close to home. This roller coaster ride just got scarier. I couldn’t take much more.
For several days I didn’t’ or couldn’t respond to phone calls, texts, or emails, other than my husbands of course. By the end of the week, I began reaching out and connecting with others who I knew would be good listeners, supportive, comforting, and kind. This helped.
Here’s what I noticed from last week’s conversations and connections.
We Can’t Compare Emotions
Things are super tough right now and we’re all feeling the big feels. We’re all experiencing self-isolation and social distancing due to the coronavirus but we’re also experiencing all the other things too, life stuff, like the stress of uncertainly and the unknown, some of us may be experiencing the loss of a job, financial burdens, a cancer diagnosis or illness, the loss of a friend or family member, it could be anything at all because life still happens during a pandemic. We’re all feeling the emotions of it all and processing it the best we can.
As I talked with friends and others over the last few weeks I noticed something rather odd, they began to compare or rate their feelings “Well my bad day is nowhere near as bad as yours or my bad days doesn’t seem so bad compared to yours.” “I shouldn’t feel bad I still have a job when so many others don’t. I shouldn’t feel bad because at least I have a roof over my head and food in the fridge when so many others don’t. I should feel bad because I’m not an essential worker on the frontlines face to face with COVID. I shouldn’t feel bad because I’m in good health and so many others are not.
They are feeling guilty for their feelings on top of feeling them.
Stop. Just stop it already. Breathe. We can’t compare feelings. Your bad day is your bad day. Your hurt is hurt. No feeling can be rated as either worse nor better than the other because we are feeling them and our feelings are our feelings. You can’t rate your suffering.
When you’re trying to get through a pandemic your emotions will certainly rise and fall and sometimes multiple times a day or even by the hour. No one’s feelings are easier or harder we’re all just feeling the feels and trying to ride the wave of emotions to make it to the shore where we can hopefully find a few moments of calm and respite.
We have to start with Empathy
Starting with empathy for ourselves first, then having empathy for others, we then can create more empathy all around. Empathy is love and kindness and if there is anything we need more of right now and something we need not ration right now is love and kindness. So please pay attention to your feelings, name them, be with them because they are real and they don’t go away even when you don’t acknowledge them they just burrow in creating more pain and suffering. Letting ourselves feel these hard emotions is important and essential.
When we respond to ourselves and others with empathy the healing that results affect all of us. ~ Brene Brown
“Give permission to feel and be brave to let your children see you feel and let them watch you navigate your feelings in an awkward, brave, and kind way.” (Brene Brown). My children have seen it all from me this year. They’ve witnessed me telling them with a brave face that I have breast cancer, and then cried when I hugged them the night before my surgery. They witnessed my husband bravely packing his suitcase for NYC and then all of us crying as we hugged him goodbye at the airport. They witnessed me getting angry with people who were gathering in groups of 20 or more just after a phone call with my husband who had been crying because he lost 2 patients from COVDID-19, then witnessed me going back to the group and apologizing for my outburst.
Cut yourself some slack. During a Pandemic is no time to live your “best life” it’s a time to live in the moment, take care of your basic needs first.
Emotions aren’t always pretty but life is messy and it sure is a mess right now.
We just have to do our best and we start with just the basics.
Are you showering?
Eating well-balanced meals?
Getting some fresh air and sunshine?
Maintain a semblance of a sleep schedule?
Be gentle and abundantly gracious with yourself.
This week we’re back onto our regularly scheduled program.
The girls and I are:
- Walking, biking, and doing yoga.
- Journaling in our Morning Mindset Journals
- Cooking healthy meals together (our weekly meal plan)
- Trying to make each other laugh
- Attending an evening “Prayer on your Porch” with our neighbors
- We go to bed at a regular time.
This routine has served us well when we experience a lot of change when we travel and it is serving us now as we ride this emotional roller coaster. We know the ride will end we just never know when it will stop so we use our tools – our breath, our routine, and a lot of grace until the ride ends. Knowing full well that we will be, inevitably, on the ride again at some point. But every time it may get a little easier or it may feel that way because we made it through the last one and the knowing that at some point we will get off the ride.
We will get through this and right now getting through is absolutely enough.
Brene Brown Podcast “Unlocking Us” Episode on Comparative Suffering, the 50/50 Myth, and Settling the Ball.
I listened to this podcast after I wrote this blog and went back during my edits to add some of her lovely nuggets or wisdom.