(This is a continuation of Not a Pause.)
SHUT DOWN AND REBOOT.
I had to do it for me. I had to do it to better show up for the people around me and my future self. I turned off my phone for more than 2 weeks. I only re-opened it a few times in the first week. NO SOCIAL MEDIA was consumed. Then during the second week, as I was beginning to feel better, I started using it a little bit more, still limiting my phone time and social media. Everyone has different ways of coping with this pandemic. The variety of ways that I saw or read about would send me spiraling down a very dark hole. So I SHUT IT DOWN. I apologize to my friends who got very worried when I didn’t return texts instantly or within the following hour. That was me pre-pandemic. I answered texts at all hours of the day and night. Oddly, I’m not proud of that anymore. Being a Corporate Flight Attendant means your phone is ALWAYS ON, and it is ALWAYS glued to your hip. Now, I realize that I was burned out by that leash that became heavier as the days, weeks, and years went by. What a RELIEF and pleasure it has been to turn it OFF. When there is too much chatter, turn the world off. Lesson learned.
During that shut down, a lot of things happened. It snowed, rained and suddenly summer arrived in full swing. Flowers bloomed faster than I remember. Leaves came out of their buds at lightening speed that I’d never witnessed before. Don’t get me started on my fight with the dandelions! Different bird species started arriving back from the South. The first butterflies of the season appeared. Two deer running popped out in the fields and ran for a long time just ahead of us while on a cross-country bike ride with my mother. Iridescent green tree tops against a perfect blue sky. Incandescent fresh green ferns against a black earth path. Allergies made their appearance and so did the mosquitos and black flies. I was there to witness it ALL. I was able to appreciate every second of it because my phone was OFF, eyes wide open, ears alert to every sound and nose ready for the perfume overload. Nature will always be soothing and therapeutic for me. Mother Nature does not pause. Lesson learned.
While the phone was off, I was able to focus more on the people around me once I got over that psychological wall I’d just hit. I baked for my parents and my neighbors. I transplanted trees, potted flowers, dug holes, pulled out millions of dandelions (even made my first dandelion salad!), cleaned and rearranged my parent’s back yard to my mother’s liking. I was more present for the volunteer tutoring sessions I have provided since the start of the pandemic for a delightful girl with learning challenges. I sent my sister a box of candy because I knew this would bring her joy after a day working in the COVID ward. I also gave my dad my first ever haircut (and it even turned out well,!). I visited my grandparents from the parking lot of their residence and talked to them on the phone. I noticed how the trees started to blossom in the parking lot and how there was transformation and beauty in this challenging time. I focused on giving some joy to other people. That made me feel useful. There is so much joy in providing for others. Small caring actions can be more valuable than cursory grand gestures. Give back and give more. Lesson learned.
I also started the #Next90Challenge by Rachel Hollis. If you don’t know what it is, I suggest you give it a try. It’s free. It’s provided me with so many good tips on how to deal with this pandemic. Thank you to my friend Kara for sharing this wonderful tool with me. Every week has a theme. The online course started with perspective. Perfect timing for this first theme as I started the challenge the day I felt like I was getting over the slump. It resonated with me so much.
In life you can only control 2 things: ATTITUDE + EFFORT.
This really hit me hard as I have a hard time dealing with the unknown (as I’ve mentioned before). But, this was good. I am in control. I chose to believe AGAIN, then and there (again, because I’d gone through this while reading the Power of now by Eckhart Tolle a few months back), that instead of feeling like
life was happening to me, I was going to believe it was happening FOR ME.
I chose to be in control of what was going to happen next— for my career, my relationships and all other realms of my life. I stayed on track with my no drinking during the week except for social occasions rule and my intermittent fasting. Other themes so far have been joy, habits, leadership in life, organization, essentials, goals, health at home and resilience (another interesting one since I’d just told a bunch of people and announced on social media that I wanted to be a dandelion and not a rose because of how resilient they are).
It’s about who you become on the way to the goal. It’s time to stand back up again and try again. If you can grow your dream now then you’re unstoppable for the rest of your life.
Finding time daily/weekly for these lessons and mentorship has helped me get out of my head and give me new tips and ideas on how to become a better person. There has been a healthy psychological evolution throughout these last few weeks. I am becoming a better version of me because I’m taking the time and putting in the effort to do so. Lesson learned.
With this idea of choosing to be in control came the notion of what to do next for my professional career. At this very moment I am not in control of much. I am unemployed. I have applied to so many different positions, in various industries, with no return emails or calls because of this pandemic. I decided to take matters into my own hands. I’d been thinking about getting back into the business world, after leaving it for a few years, unsure about what I precisely wanted to do. So I started online classes. With every week that goes by, I am acquiring new skills and filling up my resume. I will not let COVID19 be an excuse to sit on the couch and watch Netflix all day. I am in control of my education.
This is not the end of you, this is the BEGINNING of you.
I am unfolding into a new, stronger, more skilled me with every day that passes. Lesson learned.
I ran a marathon a week and I ran my fastest 10 km. Well if that isn’t the best proof that this time was not a pause and that less time on my phone meant more mindfulness living I don’t know what is. Since I’ve been back in the beautiful woods, I’ve found it therapeutic to go out and run. Different days, tracks and weather prompted different feelings but mostly, running was good for my soul. The soft surface of the earth path or little pebbles helped me increase my mileage with barely any additional aches (other than some shin splints). Every run brought a new adventure— whether it was watching the woods evolve from a brown and gray skeletal collection of trees to a luscious healthy green paradise. Finding new paths in woods I’ve known my whole life, seeing wild turkey run along, watching a raccoon run up a tree or simply noticing the weather getting warmer. I observed my little 8km runs turning into 10 km and then into 12km. And before I knew it I was running more than a marathon a week. This time is definitely not a pause. I watched my running mileage increase significantly. This is something I don’t think I’d have been able to achieve without this pandemic, and the need for a run. Lesson learned.
I read a lot. What a beautiful way to escape reality for a few minutes or hours and be completely immersed in another world. I love fiction. I also love self-help books but I’m very cautious about which ones I read. I’m looking for topics that will help me cope and be uplifting: topics that make me grow and become stronger. I also spend evenings practicing the cello. When one hand is busy on the strings, the other on the bow, and your brain is busy reading the music AND telling your hands what to do, there’s NO CHANCE you’ll be thinking of the pandemic or any other worrying thoughts. I noticed my evolution— how, day after day, I got better at the pieces I was practicing. Read more books and keep up the hobbies. Lesson learned.
During this shut down, I did NOT increase my TV consumption. Since the pandemic and confinement started, I have not let myself sit down in from of Netflix/Hulu/AppleTv before 8pm and I try to limit the length of time I sit there. I’m voluntarily choosing to consume funny and light shows that make me happy and brings laughter into my life. That’s what I need right now-to stay positive and have a good laugh. Lesson learned.
And after two months of trying to reach the Unemployment bureau, sending countless emails and calling thousands of times, I finally received my payment at midnight at the start of this second week without my phone or social media. Funny timing if you ask me. I’d just told my parents the day before that I was just going to let it go and not worry about it anymore. It was a big reason for why I felt so low and down. That Monday morning I woke up to the confirmation email and I cried out of relief. Then I jumped up and down like a crazy person. Of course that has helped my mood tremendously. The psychological distress this delay caused is indescribable. If you went through it, you know it. If you got your payment right away: I’m so happy for you, BUT don’t judge the depression it led me into. I knew it would all work out in the end, and I was thankful I’d been financially smart and had savings, but telling myself that simply didn’t work. The same frustration every time I dialed the phone number and the line was abruptly cut after an automated message, repeatedly for over 65 days. It takes a toll, even on the toughest. In the end, I did get it. There has been progress. Now I’m better equipped and I know patience is truly a virtue. It’s all going to be okay. Lesson learned.
One thing I aways knew from the outset is that I wasn’t going to be bored during this confinement. Not once have I sat down and wondered what I was going to do. I take pleasure in sitting down with my coffee and my book in the morning. I’m happy to contribute to household chores. I find joy in runs in the woods. I am happy to cook and bake for my parents. I applied for jobs weekly, and I actually took this as an opportunity to look at possible new career paths. I worked on my resume and on this blog post. I still have lists of things I want to do before this pandemic is over. I’ll never be bored, ever. Stepping away from my phone and social media only helped me be more focussed. I’ve checked off so many things on my list, proving that this was NOT a pause. Lesson learned.
Let me elaborate on this last thought of still having a list of things I want to do before this pandemic is over. At times I find myself stressed because I don’t think I’ll get through it all. I still want to finish my advanced PADI theory course and get back into learning Spanish and taking more online digital marketing classes, etc. On the same topic of time, anyone else with me on hoping that sometimes you could stop time? Because it was a great day all things considered, and you didn’t think about COVID at all that day? There’s one thing I knew I’d regret if I didn’t make an effort to be conscious about it— not enjoying the time I had confined with my parents. I knew in my heart that if I didn’t make a conscious decision to make the most of the time, even with the rest of the world was spinning out of control, I’d regret it looking back. I’m so lucky to have healthy, smart, successful parents that welcomed me into a cozy, warm home on March 23, 2020. Some days, I’d like to stop time because I’m scared of what it will be like when I have to leave them and their company. I’ve never had this thought in my life. I’ve never been scared to be alone.
Some nights, I tear up when I hear my parents, one after the other, wish me goodnight from the top of the basement stairs. Some nights, I just want to scream at the top of my lungs to leave me alone. Some mornings, they make me smile, when one after the other, they ask me how my night was, as if I’d been out partying or something fun might have happened. Some mornings, I want to tell them how I cried myself to sleep and how it took every ounce of energy to get out of bed and all I want to do is shut down and to be left alone. But in all these scenarios, I see the love they have for me. It hurts my heart.
Why? This was not a pause. I noticed and appreciated all the love I got from my parents and I know looking back that I’ll be very happy I did. Lesson learned.
The only area in which this WAS a pause for me what my dating life. Actually, I don’t think it was a pause. I think it was a RESTART.
While all of this was happening in my head and around me… other scenarios where unfolding all over the world.
People were overworked.
People were scared for their own life and some people were scarred for life.
People grew anxious, nervous and agoraphobic.
People became depressed.
People were caring, loving and affectionate.
People were generous with their time and lend a helping hand.
People graduated through a screen.
People received awards through an online presentation instead of on a stage.
People’s life goals and dreams were postponed.
And some people just kept on with their lives, meeting up with friends and acting like they were invincible and owned the world. NO COMMENT but BYE.