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Dear Diary: Into Oblivion there is clarity (when things fall apart)

Isolation Day 84. Dear Diary, Another month has been marked off the calendar; a month where after many weeks of hunkering down and holding things together, the tides turned and we were finally told we could ease out of lockdown. As many countries begin to go out instead of staying in, the ‘holding things together’ seems to have transitioned into collective chaos and confusion, and for many there is a sense that rather than things coming together, they are, in fact, falling further apart. 

We are living through an unprecidented process of transformative disruption. Ideas about the world and ourselves are all being challenged, the gaps in inequality of all kinds further exposed. With this comes waves of emotion that are not immediately understandable. Anger, grief, denial, helplessness and depression have been brewed together as a complex soup under the surface for many, and as the news from the government shifts and changes, we’ve been asked to adapt at lightening speed despite the emotional uncertainty and lack of mental support. Some isolate further into oblivion and loneliness, others act out by taking a stand for the obvious societal cracks.

I have marvelled as some master-transformers have moved their work from one medium to the other or changed careers completely (a friend’s son transitioned from being a Michelin-Star chef to a gardener in less than 2 weeks!!). For others, there has been a sense of floundering, grasping at straws to have a sense of stability but lacking any strong sense of purpose or direction.  A lack of clarity means that some are in survival mode just trying to get by day to day, whilst others are stuck in longer term uncertainty, questioning self-worth. Even with the newly minted government reassurance of safety in meeting outside and resuming office work, many have lost trust in their government or are left unable to return to work or social affairs for one reason or other. So, what do we do with all this upheaval; what do we do when things fall apart?

A reminder: things are always in a process of falling apart and coming back together. This is the process of the creation and destruction of the universe, it is the lifecycle of the smallest cell, and everything in between. As humans, though, the discomfort of watching life, as we knew it, unravel and having to sit with the unknown, even for a small amount of time, can be excruciating.

There is a lot of evidence that the human brain has evolved from our other earthling cousins, but from another perspective, there is some evidence that our minds are actually quite basic. When we feel good, our thoughts are generally ego-enhancing – preoccupied with things that bring us pleasure, make us feel seen, valued and loved. We attach to those things that make us feel good and we never want that to change….that is, until we experience discomfort. In discomfort, we gravitate towards thoughts about loss, uncertainty, pain or weakness, even victimisation. Whilst we might like to get out of this negative pattern, it feels real enough whilst we are in that headspace, so we cling to these thoughts and they become more solid. The worst thing a human can feel is life in free-fall, for that feeds our ultimate fear – the fear of death.

At the same time, fear is something that holds us together; it is something all creatures share. It binds us together in the sense of love and hate, in birth and death. Even the most basic life forms have mechanisms to recoil against death, it is that fear that keeps us alive. We react against the possibility of loss – of loved ones, of financial security, of death…of not having anything to cling onto. It is a natural reaction to breaking down  the impermanence of all things manifest, and in that way fear brings us closer to knowing our own true nature.

My experience of lockdown has replicated patterns I have lived through before in extreme circumstances; life as I have known it since 3 years old and to this day has been mired in doctor’s tales of my demise. Each time the question about life (or death) has been iterated, the protocol is similar.

Step one: I get stuck in self-absorbed thoughts; in my own temporality. I question my purpose, my worth. I grieve. Step two: I focus on things that bring me a sense of peace and continued curiosity. I move inward and find a short term project. There are moments of relief and presence through these goal-attainable, creative pursuits. Step three: I wobble. I kick, scream, cry and act out against all my perceived imperfections, my inability to take a step forward. I feel exhausted and stagnant. Step 4: I let go. I make peace with my ego and accept all the myriad of reasons I am how I am, where I am, who I am. I focus on one thing a day that slowly pulls me out of darkness. Step 5: I use the small amount of new-found energy to find a way of taking a step deeper into myself – my true nature as opposed to my ego – and forgive. I forgive myself, and others. This lightens my load and gives me the headspace to envision something longer term, something more vast..and that excites me. There are iterations of these steps followed by the shedding of another few layers misunderstanding of who I thought I was, and I arrive in a moment of gratitude. Of remembering.

In the past, this cycle has led me to change country (thrice!), profession, to endure an organ transplant and spinal surgery. It has taken me through a gruelling process as a mother to a child with autism. Life has been rich, it has been full. Not always easy, but I have reason to believe that despite the murkiness of this virus, something of clarity will emerge, for us all.

As I write this today, I am very confused about where my outer life is going. I don’t know if I will teach yoga again in real life. I don’t know if I will have a chance to rebuild a Rolfing practice. I don’t know if I will live to see my son turn 18. I don’t know how long it will be until I can see my family, or friends again.

I know that in my heart, goodness reigns. I enjoy creating things that bring me, and others, joy. I know that my son needs me to be well, to be present for him, for as long as I’m able. I know that I know Love, and the people and things in my life I Love, I will work to stay connected to, always. I know that I intuitively am connected with the practices of yoga, and these practices help me to stay connected with my soul-self, the one that questions less and loves more. I have glimpses of Her presence over longer periods and tiny bursts of clarity about my purpose in this lifetime.

I also know that I am human, and that these questions about life, and the protocol will repeat itself. Each time, I hope I can arrive at step 5 a little more gracefully, a little less scathed.

I hope this might help you, too.

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