I Am Not Okay
+ the 5 Questions Pushing Me Through Covid-19 Isolation
Look. I have to be honest. I am NOT okay. I have been in quarantine for 3 weeks with an asthmatic toddler, an overly intelligent kindergartner, and a husband who is still working 65 hour weeks from home. So frustrating.
I am an extrovert, a talker, a hugger, a dreamer. I am a creative with a sensitive side who is VERY affected emotionally whenever I see the news.
…and I am NOT okay.
I feed on people. I love people. I thrive in deep, meaningful conversations about the meaning of life with people. Sound like you?
I miss eye contact, handshakes, and waking up knowing I could meet someone random today.
People are dying and there is nothing I can do about it. People are losing their jobs and there is nothing I can do about it. People are losing their hope…
I know those feelings are completely normal. It’s okay that I am not okay. It’s okay if you are not okay, either. You are not alone.
Role Modelling From A Place Of Pain
I am trying really hard to focus now on what I CAN do, despite so many people telling me what I can’t do: I can’t jump on the medical front lines. I can’t save the economy. I can’t create supplies in bulk.
I can, however, be a role model from a place of understanding. I do struggle. I do cry a lot. I do mourn co-working. I also know that I can take my pain (physical or emotional) and make something good out of it. I can show people that through pain comes growth. I wouldn’t be able to model useful behavior if I didn’t experience the same struggles as the rest of the country. So here I am from the same place of weakness and isolation – giving you my best advice. I hope it helps you do the same.
I can’t say I have all the solutions because I don’t know your situation. I can, however, tell you the questions I am asking myself every day to make it through:
What limiting beliefs do I have? Are they true, are they relevant, are they serving my mission?
I won’t tell you to think positive. Positivity is not a cure-all, but the conversations we have with ourselves DO impact our physical bodies in very real ways. If you believe something that is making you depressed, sit with it for a minute, and ask yourself some hard questions about those thoughts:
Is it true? I have always struggled with telling myself I am lazy. If I don’t get to everything on my list, I often feel like a waste of space. I rarely give myself a break without guilt. For me, it is just not true. When I can prove that to myself, it helps a little.
Is it relevant? We focus on things that really don’t matter all the time. I focus on the fact that I am not a great preschool teacher and have very little patience with my children’s learning. It is true, yet, it really does not matter. My best effort is the best school available for them right now – so if I screw them up or slow their progress, it’s okay, cause I still gave them the best option they had. Wasting time worrying about it only takes away from my ability to be present with them. I still worry, but it helps to know it is truly irrelevant.
Does it serve my mission? Every year, I choose a word to define what my year will be. This year, it is “intention.” Read my article about it here. This is what I consider my mission. I have set these intentions despite my shortcomings and my misgivings. I have to revisit this mission WAY more than I ever expected this year. If you don’t have a mission, I highly suggest you get one. Having a purpose can help you look past your own internal dialogue to one that is bigger than you and has meaning. You can create that meaning.
Who needs me to be healthy and whole today?
This one is really hard for me because right now the answer is my kids and husband. They are doing better than me at the moment. How long will that be, though? Am I taking away their happiness reserves by being a complete wreck? When I think about who needs me to be on my game first thing in the morning, I usually have a better day.
The truth is that right now, so many people need us. Each community has leaders who pull people up and naysayers who pull people down. You have to decide which you will be. Whom are you hurting by not mustering up what you can today? Yes. It is okay to ask for help. No, you can’t be the pillar of strength all the time, but you can do what you can do. Maybe the one person who needs you today is actually your future self.
What can I do today to make an incremental change?
I truly believe that you are either growing or you are dying. Every day you wake up and decide what that is. One book that has really helped me understand this concept is The 1% Rule by Tommy Baker. Humans need to see themselves moving forward and creating change. They need to see their progress. Set a goal. Any goal. Check-in on it every day and make a system to see your growth. Your purpose propels you. If you fail today, challenge yourself to push through tomorrow. You will build the muscle of choosing growth. It seems so simple, but honestly, this is one of the hardest things for me. I see the world in grand gestures, not tiny steps. The tiny steps are what really matters toward my sanity, though.
What is the root of my pain? What can I do to help it?
Sometimes despite my best efforts, I am still not okay. I ask myself, am I doing everything I can to help my body be okay? Am I eating well for myself? Am I taking time to meditate and give myself space? Am I setting healthy boundaries? Am I searching for laughter? It is hard to be honest about where my emotional pain is coming from. If I am doing everything I can and still hurting, maybe I need to stop fighting it. Maybe I need to be kind to myself as I go through it. Emotional pain is a part of the human experience. It sucks, but right now it’s real and it’s valid. It’s going to be okay. Sometimes you just have to sit with the pain to process it. Close your eyes and tell yourself what you need to hear as you experience it.
What 6 things can I be grateful for today… however small?
There is a small part of your brain called the reticular activation system. It controls where your focus goes. Most brains can only focus on 6 different things at a time, consciously. You can train your RTS with intentional thought processes. A daily gratitude ritual has proven scientifically to help people become happier and healthier over time physically. Don’t just think positive, focus on what you appreciate so you can start living with positive input daily. If you focus on all the bad things going on right now, it is very possible you will totally miss those good things that may save your life. What would I be grateful for today if those were the only things I could bring into tomorrow?
Today, I am writing from the parking lot of McDonald’s. (Their wifi works outside!) I needed to leave. I needed my own workspace. I am trying really hard to make space for myself, my thoughts, and my personality. It’s hard. I am still not okay. Every day I work these muscles and it hurts, but every day I also become stronger so I can show up when I am needed.
I hope we can work together to spread more hope. Please share, comment, or send out your own story so we can spread hope faster than the virus.
Author: Jess Kelly