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Moving into Post Pandemic - what does that even mean?


Hello everyone!  I know – it has been a minute.  Life has been traveling quickly!  I mentioned before, I did a little east-coast road trip over the holidays.  I came home, and then hosted my first retreat!  Then, I took off for Greece for a short trip.  I had friends who were staying there for a month, so I crashed their vacation, and then headed to Athens by myself.  I also got to see a friend/former intern who worked with me in 2008!  She is doing amazing things.  I headed home again, taught diving over the weekend.  Headed to Florida to meet some scuba pals and dive on a long-weekend trip.  Came home again, and then off to visit my dad (3 hours away).  A retreat, 10 flights, four countries, diving, counseling, friends, family and phew.  All in one month.  Sometimes life moves SO fast!  I feel like I’ve hardly been able to catch my breath.  It’s all good/fun – and, it’s been a million miles a minute. 

 

In the last two weeks, however, I’ve been blue.  I feel a sadness sitting on me.  I’m not quite sure where it’s coming from.  But, it’s there.  I also feel disappointment.  Disappointed in the things I’ve been doing.  But, mostly disappointed in myself.  Have you ever felt like a cosmic failure?  Yeah.  That’s me right now.  Why?  I honestly have no idea.  But it’s there. 


And – on one hand, I feel like I’m being SO dramatic.  On the other hand – this is truly how I feel.  It’s strange – I’ve been wanting to conduct a retreat for YEARS (literally years).  I did it!  I think should feel proud, or relief, or excitement.  Instead, what do I feel?  I feel like a failure.  I feel like I didn’t accomplish what I set out to do.  I don’t know exactly how, I just didn’t feel the way I anticipated feeling at the end.  The strange thing is, a friend of mine had a colleague who attended.  She apparently said good things.  I don’t think he’d say that if it weren’t true – but, I still feel like I missed the boat.  I feel like there was something significant that I was looking to provide that I failed at.  Sigh. 

 

But, am I being a little silly?  Maybe I’m being overly judgmental.  Maybe my expectations were years worth of expectations that I couldn’t possibly fulfill. 

 

I was walking the other day, and I had an epiphany of sorts.  I think I’ve mentioned before that my dad had a stroke a few years ago.  I consider where he is now as in a sort of “in-between.”  He easily could have died when he had his stroke.  He is technically (physically) fine, but he has very little memory of who he was before.  He usually recognizes that he knows me, but he doesn’t know how.  He doesn’t know who I am to him.  His memories get replaced day-to-day.  Things don’t stick.  So, he is quite literally between what his life was before the stroke and death.  Each day is a gift.  I am grateful for the time I get to spend with him, but it is vastly different than what is used to be like (which is both good and bad). 


My epiphany was that I’m also in an “in-between.”.  I have one foot in the world I have had before.  I’m still providing counseling.  I still live in DC.  I’m still connected to the same people I was connected to before.  Yet, I realized, I also have another foot in the world of diving.  I am not AS connected emotionally to the same things I was prior to my getting involved in diving.  I have a foot in Roatan (at least emotionally).  I’m realizing that I am a person divided.  I’m still here, and yet, emotionally I’m not all here. 

 

But then I realized that perhaps that has been true my entire life.  I’ve always been very proud of being both a social worker and a lawyer.  I feel like I have a perspective that not many people have.  I have a different appreciation for my (legal) clients' lives than many of my colleagues (not saying mine is better – just different).  But, one thing I always worried about throughout my career is that my being in two worlds kept me from being completely effective at either one.  Might I have been a better attorney if I had focused on law?  Maybe. Perhaps if I had focused on social work, I would have been a more effective counselor.  Perhaps.  (This goes back even further within my life, but I won’t bore you with the analogy now).

 

My world is divided. I love DC.  I love counseling.  I am grateful every day for each of those aspects to my life.  And... and yet, there is part of me that no longer wants to be here.  There is part of my heart that resides in the ocean.  The resort where I was working has a web camera, and I find myself stalking it – watching the boats go out, (internally) waiving at the divemasters and the other staff and wishing I was there.  Yet, I know there were many aspects of that life that was not exactly what I was looking for. 


So, what is one to do?


Interestingly – I started this post a week ago.  My spirit is lighter now.  I’m not out of the woods, but I’m headed in the right direction.  I had lunch with a good friend Sunday.  I always enjoy our time together.  At any rate, she told me about a job opportunity.  At this point, I’m not certain I’m interested, but I’m definitely intrigued. It would be a left turn from where I thought I was headed. But, the best part of learning about this job, is it got me thinking about work and society in general.  I have not wanted to go back to a job, partially because the idea of going into an office every day kills my soul a little bit.  But, with the job she told me about, I might have the opportunity to help an organization figure out how to move out of the pandemic – and that interests me.  What I started thinking about is that everyone (at least those that I see here in DC) seems exhausted.  It’s partially why I wanted to host a retreat: to help restore some sanity and peace to people who are trying to help people.  Everyone seems so beat up from the pandemic.  I saw an article yesterday that talked about how volunteers are needed at a higher rate than ever before, and yet people aren't volunteering. I think everyone is just tired - physically and emotionally. Yet, when I hear about businesses, many are pushing people to “get back to life the way it was.”  There is no acknowledgment of the trauma.  There is no recognition that we’ve all been, and life itself has been irrevocably altered.  I think instead of asking how to we “get back,” businesses should ask, how do we create wellness?  How do we promote health?


But, what do we all need in order to be “well”?  I think I’ve written before – but, the more I think about it, our society has collectively experienced trauma.  And, I know the word “trauma” has been bastardized.  People use the word trauma to describe slightly unfortunate events they experienced. (“I was traumatized because a bird pooped on my head”.). I actually mean it in the clinical sense.  For instance, to be diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (or syndrome, as some refer to it now) one must have, “Exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence...”  So, it’s in this contest that I think of the collective trauma we’ve experienced.  During the pandemic, many of us did fear for our own safety and the safety for our loved ones.  Some experienced death of loved ones.  There was ongoing fear.  It made us cautious.  It made some of us vigilant (about germs, or about masks, or about not getting too close to others).  It isolated us.  All of this is common in trauma.


If we consider that we’ve all experienced a trauma, how do we heal from it?  How do we move into wellness?  Well – with most of my clients who have trauma, my first plan of action is to help people relax their body and/or physically complete the trauma response.  In this world, how do we find relaxation?  In some ways, I feel like diving has been highly useful in this response.  On the other hand, I also feel like I’ve been chasing something: some feeling of zen that I have yet to truly find.  And, I’m not complaining.  I’ve had an amazing last several years – full of travel, diving and more concentrated time with friends and family.  But, in some ways, I’m still searching for something (queue: I still haven’t found what I’m looking for). 

 

On my walk tonight, I started thinking about this.  What am I looking for?  What is it that everyone is looking for?  And, I can’t say I know for sure.  But, what occurred to me is that we are looking for love and appreciation.  We are looking for connection and purpose.  We are looking for health and satisfaction. We are looking for balance. For me (and I suspect a fair amount of others), I’m also looking for a bit of adventure, to change life from the mundane to the extraordinary.  Is it hard?  No? And yes.  To find all of these simultaneously is quite challenging.  But, how cool would it be to help others find this for themselves?  I feel

we must live a life that lights us on fire.  We have to find excitement and purpose in our day-to-day.  We have to understand that each day has joy, and take time to see it. 


“I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to "glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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