What a year (plus) it has been. I’m finding it difficult to even sit down and try to write about how I am feeling these days, but I imagine I am not the only one. As we are experiencing the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and the re-opening of businesses, gathering spaces, and events, I sometimes feel like I am being left behind in the dust of all of those around me rushing back to “normal.” In that cloud of dust, a sprinkle of amnesia for all that we have both individually and collectively been through seems to inform the decisions of our lawmakers and neighbors alike. As I try to reflect on the lessons learned in quarantine, I can’t help but feel like there is still so much wildly unknown in my future, and that I can, and should, take care when determining my next steps… if only for the reason that I feel we all deserve to take our time in this transitional, wild time.
This whole year has been a balancing between our individuality and interdependence, as the latter has become even more poignant in all of our everyday lives (whether we choose to acknowledge it or not). I want to hold onto that, prioritize taking care of my community, and keep in mind that the struggles are not over… far from it for many folks—myself included in some ways. While I am seeking to incorporate more joy into my life, I find it important to also keep in mind that we have learned we can’t go “back” to not caring for each other if we want to truly heal and make it through to something greater. I do believe we have the opportunity to do that.
I work in the service industry— in a restaurant as a hospitality professional. Prior to mid March 2020, I would serve folks 12- course, 3.5 hour, wine-paired, meals. As lockdown began, my employers pivoted quickly, changing 2 entire restaurants into socially-distanced carry-out only operations. It was an act of devotion to our safety and the safety of all of our guests the way they embraced this new reality and stayed steadfast in the decisions to continue carry-out, even after the Mayor of D.C. changed the laws to allow some indoor dining. Now that indoor dining is allowed again at 100% capacity, they have decided that for the time being we are still sticking with carry-out. The job that I once loved is now a distant memory. As we shift from survival mode into what is next, I find myself mourning many losses of these past months, despite the return of other things.
Finding New Balance in Change
That is not to say that I do not find joy in what I am doing now, or that I even want the lifestyle I had before. What is true though, is that I have had a lot of time to reflect on what is really important to me, and the work-life balance I have been able to cultivate is one of those things. Another truth is that I am trying to adapt to the world changing around me while I grapple with my own values and professional/personal goals. We are all trying to shift, yet again, while completely depleted and exhausted from a year of anxiety, uncertainty, and loss. We are doing this amidst the questions, and sometimes frustration and pressure from very privileged folks who want us to already be meeting their expectations of what the world should look like now… who have been waiting for their favorite places to be “back to normal” finally.
There is so much I am excited to be able to do again, and still many things that I have to work through the protective layers of anxiety and hyper-vigilence to be able to enjoy. I am constantly asking myself, is this trepidation still necessary? What is the risk now? Is it worth the anxiety if I push through before I am ready? And like I have been unconsciously practicing for over a year, the answers are full of judgement and comparison to what other people are doing. Spending all my energy thinking that some people are moving too fast, and some are too slow, and I am “lame” because I am unsure, is exhausting and not sustainable. While I feel it is reasonable to question and not blindly accept laws and rules (because the people making them usually have money in mind), where am I holding on to fear out of self-righteousness and craving control? How do I make the best decisions for my well-being and the well-being of others?
Tipping the Scales with Spiritual Practice
That’s when I turn to spiritual practice. I seek support in prayer that I am safe to take my time deciding, and that I can be gentle with both myself and others as we each navigate our own experiences, decisions, and transitions this summer. I consciously hold space for those who need a little extra nurturing and reassurance, and allow those who are able to fling themselves fully into a busy, active schedule again to do so at their pace too. I remember that I can be both people at different times of the day. I give generously where I can to those who need extra help, to no fault of their own but the pandemic and systems of oppression. I meditate to practice listening to my inner voice that tells me what is right for me to do in each moment, and continue to try to focus on that moment, one at a time. As the world speeds up and continues to convince us that success is only in the hustle, I am choosing to prioritize the stillness that I cultivated when I had no choice but to do so. In all of the uncertainty, I have learned that we truly never know what is coming next, but can have faith that we will learn and grow through it anyway. In that space I allow myself and others to grieve and celebrate, rest and play, and find balance again and again.
Re-Enter... With Grace.
I guess all that to say: I still have to take it one day and moment at a time. It is okay to move at our own pace, even when all the things around us say otherwise. We have to remember to be patient and loving with ourselves and others, now even more than ever, if we want to re-enter a world that more fully encompasses a vision of Oneness. Even when things look differently than we hoped, we can feel disappointed, and then let it go. Everyone is still experiencing their own struggles, and many have not had a chance to rest at all in the last 15 months… or maybe longer. Let’s have grace with others and create spaces to share and support each other. Let us remember each lesson we have learned as we continue to learn more things. Let us keep talking about it and listening about it. Let us commit to continuing to be conscious and prioritize our mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health. Let us re-enter with grace.