Learning to Live ~ in COVID’s Shadow

Finding Transformation in Tiny Moments

Last night, I spontaneously started sobbing. Hard. 

I was simply sitting down for dinner and a tv show, and for no apparent reason I was suddenly despondent. I scanned my body, my thoughts, and my emotions to find the content. 

Images of my apartment from just over one year ago began to surface. I lived there for two years. It was my first apartment post divorce—post awakening and then divorce rather. It was the space between. For the first time, I had created a home that (began to) reflect my true self, the one that has been buried under piles of pain from a life lived as a false self. 

My awakening unearthed a lifetime’s worth of baggage that I subsequently began to unload one therapy session, support group, and new coping skill at a time. By the time I moved in, I had let go of enough that I could begin to see my colorful glowing self reflected in the apartment I had chosen and the way I had ordained it. At the same time, much of the furnishings and objects were a holdover from the previous life— baggage left to discard, energy that no longer fit me yet I couldn’t seem to shed. 

That space was truly a space between—between the life that was and the life that was coming.

That space was truly a space between—between the life that was and the life that was coming. It was the space that nurtured my grieving, emerging self. It held me in my darkest nights and celebrated soul opening new beginnings. It showed me to me—all the way from the bones of the building, to the light flowing through the windows, to the perched view of nature in the back, to the welcoming space in the front—and everything in between. 

I bought “my kind” of dishes, brightly colored furnishings, and calming symbols to display throughout. I reconciled with my past by learning my mother’s cooking and searching my father’s ancestry. I wrote like I had never written before and loved in ways that aligned my mind, body, and soul. 

One year ago I left. My partner and I decided to move in together. I went through two months of stuff-letting in preparation to move only as much as necessary. I let go of at least half of what I knew no longer belonged to me. I released objects and furnishings in short order. 

It felt like a whole additional part of me was being ripped out of my gut. 

It was another, deeper level of shedding after what had been four years of cutting as deep as I thought I could go—eliminating half of what I owned, realizing I didn’t need half of what was left, waiting until I was ready to let go, and then repeating the process. The letting go was hard, yet somehow easier this time. I was heading towards brighter days, a brighter life. Unlike the divorce, it was less pure loss and more pure gain. 

The week after I moved in with my partner, I went back to my old apartment to perform what has become my moving ritual. I sit in every room of the home and journal my memories of that space. I cry, I clear the room with sage, I deep clean, and then I send it off with a blessing for whoever comes next. 

I left feeling complete and went to my new home with my new love. I left to go to a space I loved way more than the previous one in a town I had dreamt of moving to with a man I deeply adored to begin a life I thoughtfully imagined. 

That was March 1st

March 9th, Harvard closed. That is my demarcation date for when COVID consciousness really began in our world. Once Harvard closed, we knew it was real. We had felt the chaos for months, brewing underneath our feet, inside our hearts and home, and all around us. We didn’t exactly know what to call it or name it. We tried, but couldn’t look directly at it. 

It was a lot of change on top of a lot of change after a lot of change, for both of us.

He knew the virus was real and was coming. No one was listening to him. I was too busy selling things and moving—trying to set up our home—not paying attention to how chaotic everything felt. He was busy working and trying to adjust to a new way of living with his kids. It was a lot of change on top of a lot of change after a lot of change, for both of us. We were moving too quickly, taking on too much, on an unconscious runaway train that just felt like the way life is supposed to go. 

We saw something on the horizon. We didn’t see the tsunami.

By the end of March we broke up. We stayed in the house until September. 

Now it’s March again. And last night, I sobbed spontaneously about my previous apartment, the one I created and simultaneously dismantled the month the world stopped.

Right in the midst of the tears last night, it occurred to me: there was not enough time to grieve the previous loss before the era of COVID handed me a cascade of losses that will take years to process all on their own. 

2016—2019 had already wreaked havoc in ways that disrupted all the ground I thought I knew. Awakening is no joke. Coming out of denial to the ways we humans are not tending to the basic business of BEing human, is no joke. 

And it damn near did me in. 

Just as I thought I was rebuilding, 2020 dealt the deadly blow. What I thought was solid ground proved to be more unearthing, more loss on top of loss on top of loss. And here I sit, spontaneously sobbing about an apartment I thought I was glad to leave, for a life I couldn’t wait to start that ended before it began. 

The grief is for the girl I was in that space between, I know that. 

I am tortured by the seemingly unending process of shedding my previous self while simultaneously embracing the person I am becoming. And for that, truly, I am grateful. 

2020 eroded the life I started in March 2019 expressly because I was not yet manifesting solidity from my central core self, my more healthy and adapted self. Life had planted seeds that needed to germinate and grow—surrounded by some weeds that needed to be pulled. 

And I can accept that. 

I can accept that we, as a humanity, just lived under four years of astrological transits that asked us all to shake ourselves to the core and begin to rebuild. 

I can accept that 2020 was not the rebuilding year, it was the final cutting year, the year we dug deeper than we thought we could, in order to change longstanding patterns that we could hardly stand to see. 

I can accept it as I embrace a new phase of quiet, calm, self-care and daily attentive, tender loving care of the vessel in which my mind, body, and spirit reside. 

I can embrace it in the midst of a year that demanded I get my priorities straight before building anything new. 

The strangest part is that those moments of anguish seem to come the most just after moments of joy and love. 

Still, the unprocessed grief looms large. Now, one year later, as we face the anniversary of COVID consciousness, the spontaneous moments of grief, I imagine, will continue. The strangest part is that those moments of anguish seem to come the most just after moments of joy and love. 

Two weeks ago I began to exercise again for the first time. I am a marathon runner who has barely run since running the virtual Boston Marathon last September (note the implicit loss built into that sentence). Unprocessed grief was building in my body, and I was holding it in. 

I finally found enough calm space to approach movement. I was excited. I was taking care of my body again. I felt loved, love of self. Then, I burst into tears. My body inflamed into anxiety. I could barely move. Suddenly I realized, self love is heartbreaking, particularly when it is long overdue. 

Thank you COVID for showing us how to slow down and take care of ourselves. If you could have done it without so much loss though, that would have been much appreciated. Because here’s the thing—2021 is going to be this kind of year. As we begin to live again, to love again—ourselves and others—we are going to bump right up against the pain of all the unprocessed grief and loss. This time last year I said that we won’t really know the pain of what we aren’t doing until we start to live into it again. Loving and living is going to be heartbreaking—if we let it be. 

… if we let it…. Emotions are tricky like that. We expect them to be one thing and then we get knocked off our rocker when they show up as something else. 

Love can mask itself as grief. 

Grief can mask itself as excitement or, in other words, denial. 

And then we have a choice—in a moment that is often so small and so fleeting that we do not notice it moved through us. 

This year, the year after,

is an opportunity for the unfolding to happen.

This year, the year after, is an opportunity for the unfolding to happen. Incremental moments of love, laughter, living, and joy will no doubt be brutally offset with pain, tears, anguish, and awareness. These sudden shifts in emotional status are the tiny moments of transformational opportunity. 

COVID has given us all a pause—a long extended chance to slow way down, reprioritize, and practice self and others care. A friend recently illuminated that we are only now beginning to emerge from what feels like a 2020 Lenten season that never quite ended. As we approach that process, perhaps we linger a bit longer in the pause. 

Perhaps, we don’t rush right through the pain points that emerge as if from nowhere, only to look the other way and push it back down. 

Perhaps, this time, we let the time that nature has provided be a chance to learn the beautiful practice of simply noticing, feeling, and releasing. 

Perhaps, this time, we allow ourselves the mental and emotional space to be right where we are, exactly how we are, without the need to change or redirect the energy that is alive inside of us. For at the end of the day, with all the death that COVID has brought, the opportunity for learning how to truly BE alive is perhaps its greatest gift. 

Photo credit: Erik Kossakowski

One thought on “Learning to Live ~ in COVID’s Shadow

  1. I couldn’t agree more – being willing to be, to be alive, and to take in the feelings is a great opportunity, but it’s not for the faint of heart! Thanks for sharing the movements of your sweet soul with us all!


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