Looking to shift gears

Recently I heard someone talk about Stockholm syndrome and the virus, noting that as the situation improves, we need to get ready to leave all cages including our internally created ones.   This got me considering how we have gotten used to the constraints of this time and what internal changes we will need to make to set ourselves free. How have we become our own jailers and how do we unlock ourselves?

I heard the story yesterday of someone refusing to share space with a partner even after the partner recovered from the virus and tested negative.  The long term stress of this situation made it challenging for this person to process the good news that his partner was well enough to be with him.  These are the kind of circumstances we will have to contain with gentleness as we move forward.  We have all been wounded by this experience, some of us just hide it better than others.

We will also have to find our way to forgiveness with those we have disagreed with about protocols or personal decisions.  We have all been trying to find balance in our choices in an unknown situation. This bizarre experience has pulled up fears we didn’t even know we had, and now our job is to patiently examine these fears and our reactions, welcome the gifts of self knowledge they bring us and not send them scurrying back into the dark.

May we find a way to go forward with gentleness for ourselves and others. May we see with curious not judgmental eyes.  Let us acknowledge with kindness the complex feelings and experiences that made us choose as we chose.  Let us tenderly bind our wounds together in community with each other, knowing we all did the best we could and there was no one right way to navigate all this.  Let us reflect and in this reflection harvest the gifts of this traumatic chapter.

This time has messed with us in so many ways that we’ll be unpacking it for decades.  Each generation has different losses to grieve.  For the teenagers and young adults this time was a binding of their wings at the very moment they needed to take flight.  In my time of life, it is perhaps the inward journey that beckons most, but young adults need to ramble and explore the outer world and find their place in it. Yes, I know they and every generation will receive gifts, grist for the mill, from this experience, but it must be hard to be so constrained as a young adult.

Another group that has suffered is young mothers.  For young mothers there has been a loss of flesh and blood community just as they experience one of the most physical, flesh and blood transitions of life. Gathering with other moms at the playground while their little people crash around, making mom friends during story hours at the library, wallowing in the weekly experience of toddler playgroups at each other’s homes- for young mothers there have been none of these lifelines.  Watching faked up mom and kids images on Instagram is NOT like being at the playground with your mom friends while your kid eats sand with the other toddlers.  I do not know what I would have done without mom friends at the playground.

We are animals, more like a troop of baboons than not. We groom our babies. We find comfort in sitting together while our babies play at our feet. We like to watch each other and see how the other moms are handling cradle cap or sleep exhaustion. Screen community doesn’t cut it, and not just because it is manipulated, artificial and shaming.

Three young mothers in my family had babies during the last two years of constraint.  One had two babies!  A fourth has raised two small people as a single parent during this time. I am in awe of their courage.  Motherhood is stressful in any circumstance as it involves a disorienting shift in personal identity. Keeping on keeping on with the job in isolation with only fake online reference points is my idea of heroism. I wish I could send every mom, actually everyone, a bottle of Borage Flower Essence right now to help us all keep on keeping on.

Since we’re more baboon than droid, all of us of all ages want to feel in community and feel a part of each other’s experiences and not just our own. How exhausting that going to the grocery store or sitting in a café, experiences that connected us to others in benign ways, have been situations in which risk is the operative word.  Hyper vigilance has worn us all down and left us licking our wounds in solitude.

I heard a discussion on a screen about how introverts have not fared any better during this time of constraints than extroverts.  In this same discussion, the speakers noted that self employed people had some advantages over others at the beginning of lockdown because their work habits were self imposed compared with those whose daily structures had been created by employers.  I suspect that as we go into our third year of this, the playing field has leveled out.  We’ve all had to learn how to get on with it.  For me, no books written or anything too fancy, but I still brush my teeth. I see this as a real accomplishment.

All in all, I am looking forward to the problems of Stockholm syndrome versus more of the same.  I am looking forward to hearing more fully what this has been like for others.  I am looking forward to conversations more involved than a harried and masked hello at the local Deli mart.   We’ve shared a common event, but it’s been a different experience for each of us and one we haven’t had many opportunities to share with each other. I also don’t want to be told what we’re all feeling only from third party experts. I want to hear it from actual people in the flesh.

Yesterday I got to practice my sharing skills with a teenager I ran into. I listened all ears to his description of what he had to say about his life during covid.  The mask didn’t bother him nearly as much as the ways his freedom to move about has been curtailed. At his school, student are not supposed to go outside unattended by an adult.  It feels like prison to him. I can see why. He said he finds himself sneaking outside as much as he can to defy this rule. I get it. Sometimes as the rules, dictates and “facts” change hourly, I want to rebel right alongside him. I’ve explored the well behaved, rule following aspect of myself quite enough. There ARE other aspects that need exploration.

So I’m hoping it all eases up soon.  And in the meantime, I am practicing my breakout from Stockholm syndrome skills by pursing one small act of defiance.  I am going to wear my homemade masks versus the expensive ones suddenly mandated/encouraged.  I am a little suspicious at the fact that yet another big business is going to profit by having all the masks but theirs suddenly “no good”. It reminds me a little bit too much how no other tools for healing from covid are ever discussed or encouraged in mainstream media besides the ones that make big money for big pharma.

You get my drift. I am tired of wearing masks and I am tired of the particular “good little girl” aspect of my personality that these protocols have required.  Its time for a turn.

Even when I was a child and pursuing the persona of good little girl I had more freedom.  I was expected home to wash my hands and set the table in time for dinner at 5:45, the rigid moment dinner occurred every day in our household.  No one knew or cared that I was out before this moment riding my bike with friends and getting into adventures and misadventures. I was only a good little girl part of the time.  These days I am ready for a different balance, more free spirited adventure and a little less table setting.  How about you?

In closing, I want to applaud everyone. We have all had to become heroes in unexpected ways due to unexpected challenges.  It seems important to note these challenges that have caused such grief were already causing damage before this virus.  Modern mothers were already cut off from real community in ways I was not when I began my motherhood journey forty years ago. But the last two years made this and so many other community breakdowns drastically worse and very visible.  So much at the heart of the human experience had already been pushed aside for other patriarchal goals before lockdown, Lockdown just finished their destruction.

May we go forward seeing clearly the ways we can together regrow our lives individually and collectively in ways that are life affirming and joyous.