I’ve been self quarantined (with some socially distant exceptions) for 55 days at the time I write this, and while there have certainly been some peaks and valleys during this time, the highs contain a renewed appreciation, and the lows have pushed me into growth.
If you’re struggling in lockdown, riddled with anxiety, and wondering when this is all going to end, first of all, that sounds pretty reasonable and is a common story right now. It’s a pandemic, after all, and most of us have never experienced this kind of massive upheaval.
Secondly, big change, scary change, radical change, is always a catalyst for immense growth, if we can open ourselves up to that growth.
The thing about growth is, it’s often uncomfortable, and once we feel that discomfort, the urge to retreat back into our safe zone is strong, and so our growth becomes one steps backwards, and two steps forward.
The world keeps spinning, and one day when this is all a distant memory, I hope you look back on this time and say, fuck yeah, I handled that like a boss. That transformed me. I was better for that. Because even when we are in the backwards step of the growth dance, we can notice it, alter course, and choose to transform in the next two steps forward.
Here are six lessons I’ve learned from lockdown so far:
1. Nurturing your relationship with yourself is an investment that will pay off exponentially
Learning to love your own company and have a good relationship with yourself is one of the nicest things you can do for yourself to ensure you have a good life. You are stuck with you forever, so you might as well learn to get along, and, you know, love yourself.
Our relationships with others are paramount to our happiness, but not as much as our relationships to ourselves. You cannot find your worth or your happiness in others. You can connect with others, share with others, and find fulfillment in loving others, but it’s true what they say… you cannot love somebody else until you learn to love yourself.
You don’t need to seek the approval, or company or answers from others when are at peace with yourself. You know how to fill yourself up, light yourself up, and pick yourself up.
Ask yourself what fulfills you when you are alone. Be present and notice the hobbies that re-energize you, the ones you never regret doing, whether that’s long walks, working out, painting, making music, writing, or cooking.
If you are uncomfortable in solitude, and feel the urge to reach for you phone and text someone at every chance, ask yourself what you are looking for, and how you can give it to yourself. How can you connect to yourself? What can do you do that will give you the feeling of happiness, connection, contentment, peace, aliveness, or accomplishment all on your own?
How can you talk to yourself differently to feel more at ease with yourself? How do you talk to yourself now, and would you talk to a friend like that? Be a friend to yourself.
Do the work of learning to love yourself and enjoy your own company. It will pay off for the rest of your life.
2. Our Energy is Truly Finite and How We Spend Our Time Matters
I lost my night job in fine dining due to COVID-19 closures, and it’s been one of the best worst things to ever happen to me. While I wrote and made art in my free time when I wasn’t working full time, I have infinitely more time and energy to devote to creating now, and it’s been such a blessing.
So, while of course we don’t all have the luxury of quitting our day or night jobs, we do have the luxury of looking at where we spend our time, and how that affects what we really want out of life, whether that’s more time to create, more time with people we care about, more time to devote to our health, or build a business, or whatever it is.
A weekly screen time report will certainly shed some light on this. When we’re not commuting or tied up in as many social obligations or running unnecessary errands, how does that free up time for something else, something better?
How can we use the pent up energy of quarantine and devote it to ruthlessly editing our own lives and keeping just the really juicy parts?
3. Vibrating High is a Choice
Our brains are not that many generations away from cavemen, in the grand scheme of life on this Earth, and so we are still wired towards a negativity bias which essentially means our autopilot is worry and fear. It’s really a gift meant to keep us safe, but it’s also a curse because it can keep us paranoid and often stuck.
Choosing to be positive, choosing happiness, and choosing to be optimistic are always options, and it really is sometimes as simple as saying to yourself, “I’m going to vibrate higher!!!” and walk with a little more bounce in your step, take the time to stop and smell the roses or wisteria or whatever, and fill your lungs with the smells of Spring and just freaking make the best of it.
The magic of this is that when we do this, we just keep attracting more and more good things to ourselves, we make decisions that support our happiness in the short and long term.
People can sense your energy, even virtually, and so when you are coming from that good-feeling place, you’re going to attract like-minded individuals and experiences because you’re looking for them and open to them.
4. Forgiveness is like Magic Fairy Dust
So, I’m not saying this isn’t a tough time, or a weird time, or that you need to “just be positive” tough it out and deal with it, because no matter who you are, whatever is happening in the world right now is a lot to process. It’s a lot, period.
When things get heavy and overwhelming, we might backslide. Or relapse. Or play with fire. Basically, we’re more prone to messing up. We have to forgive ourselves, and we have to forgive others, because otherwise the resentment builds and we hurt ourselves, and we hurt others.
Forgive fast, forgive often, and let that shit go. Think of your grudge like winter clothes and life as summer weather. Take your damn coat off and feel the warm breeze on your skin.
5. Our Relationships with Others are our Most Treasured Gifts
Truly, what makes the world go round is how we relate to one another, and the joy and connection we share with each other. Let solitude, and social distancing, and closed community hubs remind us to be grateful for each other, patient with each other, empathetic of one another, and work towards accepting each other and ourselves exactly as we are in this moment.
Plus, you really never know when you might lose someone. Appreciate them. Express your love. Check in, and cherish that gift.We are made for community. We are meant to connect to others and to nature, and that connection is a gift.
6. All Things Grow in the Dark
This could also be called, “life isn’t meant to feel sparkly all of the time.” Life isn’t composed sunshine and ecstasy and nothing else. We know this consciously, but we still seek to shortcut through the rough patches, whether it’s through online shopping, or getting a hit of dopamine on social media or a dating app, or making a cocktail. While it’s fine and great to do those things from time to time, learn to sit in the dark and let it pass as you wait for the sun to rise. It always does, and it’s in that quiet darkness that we renew for another day.
Let yourself feel all the weird, sad, bad, dark feelings coming up instead of pushing them away with a new loungewear set. Buy the loungewear, sure, but first just listen to what the darkness is trying to teach you.
Seeds burst open in the dark and reach for the sun until they can grow taller and stronger. Babies grow in the dark of their mothers womb until they are ready to come out into the light. Muscles and tissue in our bodies repair and rebuild when we rest at night, as our body does it’s nightly cleaning work to prepare us for a new day.
You don’t have to resist darkness, or be ashamed of your darkness. We all have it, and it’s part of life. Look at it. Sit with it. Listen and learn something, because it’s in the darkness that we can reach towards the light, and grow stronger.