I remember the day so clearly – trauma memory tends to work that way. It felt as if time had stood still and life as I knew it was shutting down… schools, activities, businesses.My head swirled, not really knowing what to focus on first. How would I transition a full caseload to telehealth? Who would be around to help the kids given that both my husband and I would be working outside the home? My worry thoughts swirled in my head and led me down endless rabbit holes with no answers in sight.
Given that I’ve taught DBT for so many years, some skills at this point are relatively automatic and intuitive for me, fortunately. I remember sitting at the dining room table with head in hand and saying STOP out loud. I pushed the chair back, stepped away from the table and walked into my backyard. It felt good to shift environments… the warmth of the sun and the outdoor sounds instantaneously relaxed me. My fears momentarily began to calm. I quickly reminded myself that this was a moment of suffering, and suffering in this moment was happening on a global level… we were all in this together. That was helpful and allowed me to return to the tasks at hand. On that day, it was unclear how long all of this would last, but I simply told myself ‘just this moment,’ remembering another DBT skill, where staying present in crisis is critical versus layering stress by future tripping.
Fast forward eight weeks, and we are ever so slowly inching our way out of lockdown, slowly re-emerging into a new world, with new rules and a new way of being. With this reemergence comes new perspective and meaning. As terrified as I was all those weeks ago, I am now able to quietly reflect on the positives that have emerged. The slowing down of the rat race, the stepping off the hamster wheel of my life, has allowed me to reset and recharge, something that was so desperately needed. I had become accustomed to running here, there and everywhere; frequently returning home well after dark. I do miss the hustle and bustle of kids’ activities and seeing them do the things they love AND I have come to appreciate the value of quiet evenings, family time, games and puzzles I haven’t played in years, Netflix and evening walks or bike rides.
I made the decision to continue to working from the office, seeing my clients via Zoom. I was envious of my colleagues who were able to work from the confines of their homes, but I knew this would not be feasible for me and my family. With that said, I quickly embraced the easy morning commute and stillness of the office. I loved being able to work in yoga pants and sneakers while maintaining professional attire from the waist up. I do miss the hustle and bustle of the office and long to see my clients in person AND I have come to enjoy my Telehealth sessions more than I envisioned and learned that stepping outside my comfort zone has not been so bad after all.
I’ve also taken some time to grieve the personal losses felt during this time. I was so looking forward to seeing my oldest friend. She lives in Australia and I have not seen her in 25 years. She was planning a trip to the US in May, which was obviously cancelled. I’m sad that my son’s Bar Mitzvah in Israel this June was postponed until next summer. We had been planning this trip for the past two years. It hurt to break the news to my older children that their summer camps in North Carolina and Canada had been cancelled. So much loss, so much sadness AND I am gently reminded that so many have lost so much more. I am also grateful for new friendships that were birthed through this quarantine, as neighborhood connections strengthened and a true sense of community was formed.
So through all the mayhem, I have truly enjoyed the quiet reflection this time has afforded me. In life, when one lives tethering on the edge of extreme, it is not uncommon to pendulate to the other side of the spectrum. While it is not feasible, or even adaptive, to live in this place either, I do believe that I will forge a middle path, taking pieces from both the old and the new, to continue my path to that life worth living. So thank you, quarantine, for the lessons learned through the angst, fear, sadness and disappointment as well as the calm, peace, quiet and harmony you provided me.