Not a day passes when I don’t look around at the world we’ve been living in for the past six months and pause to take in the unreality of it all, the magnitude, the grief. Sometimes I’ll think back to that first week after our county announced stay-at-home orders when I woke up on a Tuesday and felt relieved that the trash truck was still picking up our trash – the normalcy of it in stark contrast to the shock of how radically our world had changed in just a few days. I remember the panic of going to the grocery store to stock up and almost turning around because the line snaked through the entire store and another shopper told me it would take an hour to get through it. We, as citizens of the United States, had never experienced anything like it: the crazy rush for toilet paper; the anxiety that we would run out of food; and of course the fear that we would contract the virus.
These days, the strangeness of our new reality still hits me at the grocery store as I stand in line six feet apart apart from the other masked members of my community. We stand in silence when previously we may have chatted easily with each other, commenting on the cute baby munching on a banana or making friendly small talk about the latest crazy Colorado weather. There’s always an eerie pall at the store, a wall of fear that keeps us at arm’s length not only physically but also emotionally. And it brings me to tears. The grief of this. The fear of this. The uncertainty of this. This unprecedented experience which is going on and on and on. I let the tears fill up my eyes and roll down my cheeks. Nobody notices, so separate we’ve become.
But it’s all okay. I cry to honor the sadness, both individually and collectively. As a highly sensitive lighting rod, the communal tears that exist in the invisible field of the store magnetize to the rod of my soul and I allow them to fill me and move through me. I cry to honor the moment, to feel into what is true and real for all of us. And then I move on.
As many of you know, I’ve always been a big fan of the daily cry, especially if you’re a highly sensitive person. And by a daily cry I don’t necessarily mean a cry with tears; I mean pausing each day to allow the well of your soul to tap down into the aquifers of grief that are always moving beneath and around us so we can channel the energy through. For some people, honoring the song of the heart means sitting quietly and listening to music. For others, aligning with the rhythm of the earth means getting up and dancing. We can walk through grief. We can write through grief. We can cry through grief. There are many ways to tap out the language of the soul and allow it to find expression.
But grieve we must if we’re going to land on the other side of this global transition with our hearts and souls in tact. At the heart of my work on transitions over the last twenty-five years is the premise that the more we attend to the emotional storms stirred up by transitions on the front end, the more easily we’ll adjust to the new life on the other side. For example, the newly engaged woman who is willing to feel her grief about leaving behind her identity as a single woman is going to be able to transition more easily into married life than the one who is hell-bent on planning the “perfect” wedding to the exclusion of attending to the inner realm. Likewise, the man on the precipice of fatherhood who is willing to acknowledge his griefs and fears about becoming a dad is going to be more present for his partner and himself once the baby arrives.
Unexpressed grief leads to depression and anxiety. When we tamp down on any aspect of our inner life, we lay down the tracks for intrusive thoughts to take hold.
As Oprah recently said, “We’re not only longing for the normal that was – we’re grieving losses yet unaddressed and ignoring some of the most obvious. I know for sure: If we don’t find a way to consciously engage with our losses, when this pandemic is finally over, the soul of our country will still be locked down.”
In order to sufficiently process what we can on this side of the pandemic, we must have a relationship with our four realms of Self – physical, emotional, cognitive, spiritual – as well as a solid and loving inner parent who can take responsibility and work effectively with the character of Resistance. It’s the loving inner parent who sets aside time each day to attend to the inner world. It’s the loving inner parent who can learn how to call out Resistance’s tactics, like its reluctance to take responsibility for your well-being in the hopes that someone else will do it for you. The inner parent calls out rescue fantasies (“If only I were with a different partner or had a different job or lived in a different city I would be happy”), learns how to meet your thoughts with discernment and your feelings with compassion, and listens to the needs of body and soul in terms of what they need in order to thrive.
This is what I teach in my course Break Free From Anxiety: A 9-month course on the art of living. It’s the roadmap you should have received in your growing up years with the community of like-minded, highly sensitive learners that you wish you had met in school. Alongside the power of the group coaching calls (which I talked about in this post), the modules on Resistance also stood out in high relief for the participants of the first round of this course. As Ruth from the UK shared:
“The most illuminating part for me was the deep dive into ‘resistance’ in trying to understand all the complex ways she shows up and manifests for me, but I also loved the pace of the whole course.”
And Diana in Tokyo:
“I loved the organization of the course, the rest days, the steps, the loving actions, the questions. I loved the videos the most because it felt like watching a teacher or a loving guide. The pace was also really well thought out and I LOVED the modules on Resistance; they really helped give me that little (or giant) push when it was hardest.”
This is the time, my friends. This is the time to rise up, to speak out, to take action. Our world hangs in the balance, and while I know from my work in transitions that times of death and destruction are always followed by a birth and creation, I also know that we’re all – especially the highly sensitive among us – being enlisted to do our part, to soften our hearts, to act.
As I’ll be sharing more about in tomorrow’s webinar, now is the time to attend to your inner work so that you can do your outer work.
Now is the time to learn how to work with the character of Resistance that keeps you stuck in ineffective and outdated patterns, the part that prevents you from crossing over the divide of non-action to action, the one that tells you that it’s not safe to be vulnerable, to open your heart, to act from the truth of who you are.
Now is the time to harness the power of this time not only for your own healing, but for the healing of our world. We all have a gift to share. We all have our part to play. I look forward to meeting you in the field where we can follow the symptoms of your anxiety into the layers of healing that are asking for your attention and help you step up into the fullness of you so that you can bring that fullness into this aching, beautiful world.
This second round of Break Free From Anxiety: A 9-month course on the art of living will begin this Saturday, September 27, 2020, and it’s almost full. You can learn more about the course structure, read testimonials from the first round, and sign up here.