During the last six years I have worked in hospitals delivering self care sessions to dedicated and often burnt out healthcare staff. They were tired and depleted before the pandemic. During COVID-19 this depletion turned into a resolute steadfastness supported by the bodies amazing internal fight flight system. Many are now exhausted and suffering from deep fatigue, usually referred to as the stage after the virus has ceased to exist in the tissues and known in medicine as ‘post viral fatigue.’
When we name what we are individually or collectively feeling, we can move closer to accepting what is here and decide on what is necessary. These messengers called emotions knock on our somatic door known as our body. Listening and understanding what these feelings are and mean for us requires practice. The practice of being present. Of showing up again and again for yourself, by yourself, with yourself. Being quiet. Being still and listening. Being kind. And breathing. When we are overwhelmed and fighting and flighting we forget to breathe. Being aware of our body and breath helps us disentangle from the urgency and anxiety of our minds. We can anchor ourselves to our values so we have a compass to navigate all the changes and unpredictability life throws our way.
Last month I was also exhausted. Everything I had worked so hard for now looked as though it had to be completely re-worked because of COVID-19. I didn’t have the energy to think or do anything anymore. I wore old tracksuits and forgot to wash my hair. I packed up my desk and put everything on hold.
One particular day in the middle of being housebound except for an hour of daily exercise I threw my runners on and grabbed the dog and leash. While I clipped hers on I imagined I was un-clipping mine. I felt wobbly. I had begun zooming some clients and instead of feeling competent and confident, I felt I had stepped into an unfamiliar virtual world, strapped into a strange vehicle I was intuitively driving blind. It was exhausting. I couldn’t read all the little nuances and the energy and moods in the room that had become my skill set.
I did what I always recommended to my clients when in overwhelm. Exercise. Exercise mindfully in nature! So dog and I fled with six legs down our familiar streets and towards the bay, gulping mouthfuls of big blue sky. We smiled at hearing birdsong and seeing wide branched trees. We ran past grass, the water and rocks. Both hearts racing as fast as our legs. Dog and I sucking in cool air, so glad to be out of the stifling office. Running away from the office cabin and its sticky icky fever feeling. We eventually found a track to run along, dog leading the way, taking human for the run.
We finally stopped to inspect patches of velvet green. Dog wanted to sniff and dig. I was happy to catch my breath so bent over to momentarily pant and pause while self reflecting on signs and symptoms of peri-menopause versus menopause. Hot flushes and COVID-19 was not good timing. My mind reminded me to shut up at this point, so I let these thoughts go.
Then something small caught my eye. I tried to find it but wasn’t sure what I was looking for. I scanned a hundred identical long blades of weeds, leaves and grass to find the blade of grass I was looking for. I stopped, knelt down in the dirt and leant in closer to this new underworld. A blade of grass sat there before me, still proudly holding a precious drop of morning dew that was ablaze with shimmering rainbows from the sun. This drop of dew innocently sat on the grasses slender spine, totally unaware of its beauty ….I felt I was transfixed on a rare sculpture. This was nature’s gallery. One drop of drew that somehow escaped evaporation in the warmth of the day. In that tiny moment, something physiologically shifted in my heart and body. The scene before me was like swallowing anxiolytic medicine. I felt calm seep all the way through me and deep into my bones as I crouched on my knees to the ground, bowed in reverence, inhaling the soft dark scent of afternoon earth. I imprinted into my cells this blade of grass, swaying and full, drunk with delight as it coupled this drop of rain, like holding its precious lover. Such a simple unexpected sight for me to get lost and tangled in.
Before Corona, I would not have had time to stop, kneel and view something so hidden, sensual and secretive. I was busy juggling a business, three hormonal teenage children, university postgraduate degree, two rescue dogs, a rescue cat, never ending housework and a husband who was equally as busy as I.
I would have walked straight by this majestic biblical scene; a blade of grass delicately balancing a magical drop of dew on its belly, reflecting nature’s hidden world back to me. Yes, I certainly would have walked past and over; and on; too busy to notice anything except the white noise in my head – the incessant planning of the next twenty things I had to do or fix, that should have been done yesterday or even last year.
And now here I was, in the middle of a crisis, a pandemic, a surreal time of stress and uncertainty. I found myself crouching on the side of a path, hidden from all the noise and doing, peering into the green decolletage of the bush. Like a green door into another world and abstract plane of time, sound and feeling.
I found such solace being with something so small, with no voice or words, teaching and offering me the wisdom, compassion and silence that I always craved but could never previously find or capture, in my blind busy haze. I didn’t know how, and didn’t have time. I didn’t have the key to open the green door.
Thankfully I didn’t have my phone to take a photo, now grateful I captured the three dimensional image into the three dimensions of me – my heart, my soul and my mind. So more powerful and lasting then an effortless click of a button on lifeless plastic.
My shout out is this: Give yourself permission and a little time to be curious, to find that hidden door. Slow down, stop, surrender or sleep. Allow yourself to be and to feel. No matter what feelings arise – feeling weary, wary or worried. Remember this – we are human, not robots. We are not perfect. In our human weaknesses, we do suffer. Let this become our learned strength.
Allow yourself to grieve your loss of old ways, life, plans, dreams and freedom. Trust in this moment, and tomorrow. Then allow new plans and dreams to surface. With fresh eyes, an open mind and another route. Another way.
When we can all walk freely and safely together down familiar streets, our life and the world will be different, though we are not quite sure why or how. But it will be different. We will be different. There may be more meaning. Simple changes. New insight. Hopefully a new awareness that leads us back to ourselves and each other. The wonderment of this precious life we humans share for a short time on this earth may be more vivid.
So be gentle with your self and your world right now. Be quiet. Be still. Breathe. Kneel down in the grass and expect nothing. You may just find your own green door.