We’re well into the second month of the pandemic, and the cracks are starting to show.
At first, people genuinely tried to “put on a good face” and make the best of their situations. People have been (mostly) gracious about the “new weird” where kids streak through conference calls, cats crawl across keyboards mid-Zoom, and people routinely forget what day it is, or that they’re not actually wearing pants.
As somebody who whole-heartedly endorses happiness and positivity as healthy and crucial parts of daily life, I appreciate people stretching to find “the good” in their situations, especially in societies that are more usually known for tripping warning bells and seeking out the DOOM AND GLOOM (after all, that’s where the profits are, right?).
Quarantine comes with some pretty uncomfortable realities, though. We’ve got the normal human condition of end-of-life happening, and I see people unable to be with their loved ones as they succumb to natural aging, due to locked-down hospitals or nursing homes, so they are unable to approach those life transitions as they would prefer. And there is an increase in “out of the natural order of things” loss, as well, as people in all stages of life and across all strata of society are losing their battle with a virus that we still don’t really understand, adding fear to the grief and all its associated additional emotions.
Add to that the pressure cooker of homeschooling, working in unfamiliar conditions, perhaps not working at ALL right now, and all the other “stuff” that is part and parcel of Life As We Know It Right Now, and it’s HARD, and we’re TIRED. “A weariness of the soul”, I’ve heard people call it.
And we don’t really have a good language for dealing with the HARD stuff, especially in public forums, so when somebody starts to cry on a conference call or seems scattered in their thoughts because they’re processing the uncertainty of a complicated situation, or whatever their personal challenges are, we do no one any favours (ourselves included) to adopt a “Girl, go wash your face!” attitude, or to brainwash ourselves in some weird pandemic Stockholm syndrome, or try to become perpetually pleasant robots like in the movie “The Stepford Wives”, where we pretend everything is ok. Nor do we need to spin every — freakin’ — thing that happens to find the $@&^%! silver lining. It is not only healthy, it’s crucial to acknowledge when things are difficult, painful, or just downright suck.
This is ALWAYS true, actually. Pruning our emotions and only showing Socially Acceptable Smiles all the time is a terrible approach to life. We don’t necessarily need to “emotionally vomit” on people in the name of vulnerability (to paraphrase Brene’ Brown) but we should be able to say “I’m having a rough day” and have that accepted as our current truth.
Choosing happiness, and optimism, as a foundation for life means that as an overall life approach, we can choose to look for the positive so we don’t lose sight of it amidst the very real challenges that are part of life, and we make that an active practice. It does not mean that we forsake all other emotions. We are not fairies, after all, of whom Barrie wrote in “Peter Pan”:
“Fairies have to be one thing or the other, because being so small they unfortunately have room for one feeling only at a time.”
It is far more likely that while we are grateful for the opportunity to be spending more time with our kids rather than racing to 6 different sports practices a week, we also mourn the loss of those connections and rage against the frustration of having to queue up outside the window at the nursing home to visit our loved ones or being unable to say goodbye to someone dear to our heart.
All emotions are valid. Honouring that truth is important. Being aligned with the full richness of our humanity will result in us finding “happiness” as that “sixth sense” tingle that tells us we’re in alignment with our higher purpose, and our values. I am so grateful to find myself (mostly) surrounded by people who recognize and embrace our shared, flawed, amazing humanity.