From digital overwhelm to joy to vulnerability and how to just. keep. going.
This article is cross-posted from my weekly newsletter, The Sunday Soother, a newsletter about clarity, intention, and useful tips for creating more meaning in your life that goes out every Sunday morning. Subscribe here. I am also a coach who teaches you mindfulness and thoughtful self-reflection so you can stop second-guessing yourself, make decisions confidently and live the life you’ve always dreamed of. You can learn more about working with me here.
The Sunday Soother: A weekly newsletter about practical spirituality, living life with intention, and more
Hey everybody, welcome to the Sunday Soother. I know we have lots of new faces here and on my Instagram thanks to the lovely Claudia from the Recomendo newsletter. Welcome! I’ve tried so many times to describe myself and my newsletter and what I do that I’ve just about given up, but let’s just say I reflect on what mindfulness can look like in modern times with practical spirituality and throw in a good dose of skincare and humor while I’m at it. Like every other schmo out there these days, I’ve got a podcast, too. Officially, I’m a life coach and writer in Washington, D.C. and today, I am also A Person With Several Incoherent But Surely Meaningful Thoughts Because I’ve Been Alone Alone for Many Days and That is a Lot. Let’s examine them, shall we?
Oh but first, if you’re new here, my last issue was my encyclopedia of self-care resources for you; go back and give it a click. You may find some things in there that can help you.
1. I have been alone for 12 days at the time of writing this to you, and yet, I am exhausted by extroversion. The deluge of free content and offerings and creations and multiple virtual happy hours and Zoom dance parties are just the delight of my soul and also, wow, no I can’t get on a FaceTime with you right now. I’m toast. I spent two days this week canceling all calls and meetings and hangouts, which I felt terribly guilty about — shouldn’t I be doing ALL these things because what if each Zoom is THE LAST TIME I WILL EVER SEE ANOTHER HUMAN FACE?!?! — but it was just what I needed. I deep cleaned the apartment, danced, continued my Harry Potter reread and didn’t talk to anybody except texting my boyfriend and family. Introverts who live alone, it’s okay if you’re drained right now even if you’re not with anybody. Digital overwhelm is a thing.
2. Every single evening I create a “virus schedule” for the next day and this has been really helpful for keeping me organized, purposeful, and in the moment. For some reason I do this in a Slack channel in my friend Slack group that I created and I’m the only person in the channel, lol. But I block out every. Single. Hour. 6–7: Wake up, do Morning Pages, make juice and coffee. 8–9am, answer emails. 9–10 walk around the block. 10–11, shower and primp (cuz I still try to look human every day). 11–12: Lunch (I was so taken with this tweet from Jasmine Guillory about how she can only be bothered now to eat one late breakfast and one early dinner a day because that’s what I’m doing, too), etc. Anyways, my Virus Schedules ensure I get done what needs to get done day-to-day but not beyond and reduces fatigue for my addled brain AND most importantly prevents me from looking at Instagram in one moment and raising my head and 5 hours have passed.
3. I’m not scared, honestly. (At least, yet). A friend asked me how I was staying so calm in this time especially given I have struggled with anxiety and depression. I mean, if I REALLY think about it, of course I can get scared. But luckily, I am ENORMOUSLY practical and efficient (Capricorn sun here y’all with a Virgo stellium). Being scared just doesn’t… help. It doesn’t DO anything. I want to DO. I want to be HELPFUL. I want to be PRESENT for this time and more than anything I want to continue to serve my clients, my family, my friends, my community and my own soul. I very much want to be a lighthouse of calm and helpful resources in this time. And tbh I’m also consistently delighted by humans and what we’re capable of and I’m taking great joy in watching all the unfolding humanity, humor, creativity, service. I’m not going to meet the amazing leadership and creativity I see in others with panic and despair. I’m just not. Also, when the hell else in my lifetime am I going to get the chance to say I displayed more moral courage and leadership in a time of crisis than our PRESIDENT? You think I’m going to let THAT opportunity pass by? Hell nah.
4. I’m continually surprised at people’s ability to be extremely hard on themselves EVEN IN THE MIDST OF AN UNPRECEDENTED GLOBAL PANDEMIC. Consider that capitalism and productivity worship and parenting shame culture have broken your brain. Please, develop empathy for yourself in difficult times and the 1,000 imperfect ways we are all going to mess up just to get through. You are absolved.
5. It’s not a suffering contest. Every complaint I see from a friend is prefaced with an acknowledgment of privilege or how bad they don’t actually have it. Guys, I make sure to lodge at least 1–3 meaningless complaints with my friends and family a day or else I’d be going truly bonkers. It’s a release valve to an extent. Vent a bit. Your struggles are valid and they don’t need to be qualified or compared to others. Also, check this — every time you deny the validity of your emotion or pain 1. you increase it — it’s just how it works when you subsume feelings 2. you TEACH YOURSELF THAT EMOTIONS ARE NOT VALID OR REAL and do you REALLY think that’s how we are going to get through this into a world that is more compassionate and kind? Denying OURSELVES compassion for our situations or our feelings? That’s a nah from me. Let’s instead put the energy we’re using on qualifying or denying our struggles into one small action item a day to help those who are also struggling. Donate $20 a week to a food bank. Check in on a friend who may struggle with mental health. Just — something. Action over feeling shame about whatever your sitch is, okay? Don’t make the lesson out of this time that emotions are not valid and that you don’t deserve compassion. Promise me. If you need more here, Brene Brown has a really good rant on shame, empathy and comparative suffering on her new podcast.
6. It’s also important to cry. I believe in energy work, and when we bottle or suppress energy it simply burrows into our bodies and it does NOT like to be stuck or burrowed in our bodies. Crying is an energetic release. If you feel tears well up, lean into it. I cried the other day when I found out the Arboretum — the place of nature that has been my refuge in these few weeks — had been closed to the public. At first I told myself — despite my messaging above — it was stupid to cry. But then I remembered my learnings: lean into the crying. I did. And I felt so much better afterwards.
7. That said, don’t let yourself go into despair mode. This can be a fine line for some people but I urge you to give yourself space to learn the difference between feeling and processing your emotions and struggles and tipping over into what I call “despair mode” for my clients. You might already know the difference. Despair mode is a full-tilt panic spiral that has your freaking out toddler chaos brain spinning out about dreadful scenarios six months from now: “EVERYBODY I KNOW WILL BE DEAD AND ME? I OH I AM STILL ALIVE SOMEHOW BUT DEFINITELY HOMELESS AND I’VE HAD TO LEARN TO WIELD A ROLLING PIN AGAINST THE MAD MAX GUYS ON MOTORBIKES AND ALSO MY 401K IS ZERO!!!” You know — the ridiculous horrible negative fantasy places we all go sometimes. Every once in a while a despair mode freakout happens. But don’t let it become the norm. It’s not helpful. I have some self-talk resources on my Instagram that can help you; this emotional regulation workbook from Dr. Stacey Schell is a godsend, too. Check ’em out.
8. Consider your life philosophy and where all this fits into it — and if you don’t have one, create one. I’m a very spiritual person and have a strong spiritual belief system and philosophy that’s helping me anchor into and through this. So many people still recoil at the concept of anything “spiritual,” and I get that, but what about creating a … life belief system? A moral philosophy? Something to center yourself, your beliefs, your actions, your choices, particularly in this time right now. Like, if you think humans’ purpose is to get a job, make as much money as possible, buy things, and then shuffle off this mortal coil into the equivalent of a black hole of nothingness, you may not be doing so good right now. I wrote this on my Instagram and gave you prompts to think about this stuff: “While I don’t think spirituality is a must for everybody, one thing I do believe that is deeply good and useful is creating a cogent life philosophy, or foundation of why you are, who you are, and what you are for. Knowing those things about yourself can be a steady rock for you to lean on in times when nothing else seems to make sense or stand still. To that end, you may want to consider creating a life philosophy or belief system during this time. What do you really think about the world? What is within your control? WHY are you here? Why is that dumbo who won’t stop going out to bars and posting selfies of himself during this time here? Is it all random? Is there meaning behind circumstance? Do we have free will? If you’re here to learn a lesson so far based on life experiences what do you think it might be?”
9. Draw on the strength of those who came before. I am doing this a lot especially with my matrilineal descent. My mom made it through breast cancer while parenting three children. Her mom grew up half-Chinese in Wyoming, became the wife of a diplomat and had to raise kids and make friends in the Middle East, which couldn’t have been FURTHER from her upbringing. HER mom was a farmer’s daughter in the early 1900s in Wyoming, that sounds chill and easy, who married a Chinese immigrant and faced all the attendant crap that came along with that while raising 5 kids. My grandmother’s grandmother was a Chinese immigrant who at age 15 was married off to my 30-something great-great-grandfather. Great, cool. Wow. So many of these things were unjust and difficult and incomprehensible and yet they kept on going. And so shall we.
10. Remember: this is an FFT for all of us. Again to Brene Brown (HERO!) who coined FFT for this particular moment: effing first times. She writes: “It’s hard it is to be new at things — from small things to global pandemics. When we have no relevant experience or expertise, the vulnerability, uncertainty, and fear of these firsts can be overwhelming. Yet, showing up and pushing ourselves past the awkward, learner stage is how we get braver.”
So, Soothers: let’s get weird. Let’s get awkward. Let’s learn and let’s be brave. Let your vulnerability open up not like a black hole, but like a glowing light that you step into so you can expand its size to envelop the person next to you, then your family, then your neighbors, then your town, then the world.
We got this. We got it, not through false bravado and panic and shaming ourselves and others, but through presence, through empathy, through compassion, through trying, even if it feels hard and weird and scary and not even remotely close to perfect.
I’d love to get notes from you all on how you’re doing and dealing. Shoot ’em my way by replying to this email and I’ll share them with the community going forward.