His Holiness The Dalai Lama
There’s no point in pretending that everything is tickety-boo when it clearly isn’t. I don’t know how many times this past week my throat has tightened, my heart has almost exploded, and I’ve felt as though the only thing to do was scream at the top of my voice. Since I first watched in horror at the unfolding of events in Italy, I have been preparing for the worst here in Western Australia. My biggest fear has been the impact to our health service – what if any of us need urgent medical care that isn’t related to the virus, but the hospitals are full? Followed by ‘what if we contract it and pass it onto someone who then dies?’. That sense of responsibility spurred us into action, and we have had the kids home from school for two weeks already. We’ve also put social distancing in place which has been hard for the kids, they miss their friends a lot. Being two active teenagers, they need to burn off their pent-up energy and they’re just not getting this home-schooling malarkey. To be honest, I’m not the best teacher either. I tend to be either too strict, or too ‘over it’. And there’s my husband who is not used to having to deal with two rebelling kids who are infringing on his workspace. But it’s okay for him to infringe upon my workspace by making a ridiculous number of cups of tea, which he absentmindedly drips across the kitchen floor while making a quick exit to his lair.
Avoidance is sometimes the only way
It’s hard to avoid the doom and gloom, isn’t it! Every time I look at my phone there is a new notification from one of my Facebook groups about someone being judgmental or rude, and scaremongering in a discouraging manner. Thankfully I have since learnt to stop all notifications so that I can be more selective about the information I allow into my life. I’ve had to ask my husband not to listen to the radio that he loves to tune into before he goes to sleep because it is making for a very disturbed night’s sleep.
This morning I woke to read a report from a friend who is holed up in a hotel in the city having recently returned from Bali where she was on a yoga retreat for a month. I was so jealous when she headed off in February and now not so. Having gotten off her flight feeling light, refreshed and toned from 30 days of yoga, she was carted off on a bus with everyone else to a hotel where she was told she would be quarantined for 14 days. At first, she thought she had hit the jackpot… a fully paid two-week stay in a nice hotel in the heart of the city. Alas, the smile was wiped off her face within the first hour of checking in when she discovered that she was confined to a room with no balcony, and a window that won’t open that looks out at a concrete wall. She has no access to fresh air whatsoever. She tried to leave the room to go in search of some only to be halted in her tracks by security guards who are patrolling every floor of the hotel. When she asked if she could have bottled water, she was advised to drink from the tap as the waiting time for room service was lengthy. Honestly, it made me appreciate everything I have right now.
It was the wake-up call I needed. It has been too easy to get caught up in the wave of fear and anxiety that has been dominating the airwaves and the screens and gripping us all by the throat. I have made a concerted effort to reflect on my own thinking and identify the areas that can be reframed in order to bring about a sense of calm and restore some harmony in our lives.
It’s been almost eleven months since I quit drinking and, in that time, I have learnt to deal better with my emotions. One of the reasons I drank in the first place was to numb the feelings I didn’t know how to handle. Feelings of inadequacy, self-loathing, envy, regret and shame for things I’ve done in the past were too strong if left to surface. But as we all know, these feelings don’t go away. They rush back after being temporarily numbed. So, the first few months of sobriety brought these feelings to the fore, loud and strong. Thanks to the guidance and support of counselling, I have learnt to deal with these feelings instead. In facing them, I have been able to pick them apart, as I’ve written about in my previous blogs.
Control what you can
Today I want to take you back to the subject of self-responsibility. This might trigger an uncomfortable feeling for some, but believe me, it is the only way to take back the control we can have over our life.
Self-responsibility is an important aspect of my own transformation and is where my power lies. It allows me to see clearly that there are things I can change such as how I feel about an event, things I can have some influence over such as how I respond to someone and things I cannot and will never be able to change such as whether the sun comes out or not. The secret to successful living is knowing the difference between these things.
The other day someone said something to me that I would, in the past, have found extremely hurtful. I would have shed tears and I would have used it as evidence to prove how shit I am and always have been. But this time, my reaction was different. This time, I found myself pausing and thinking about how I wanted to respond. I looked at the person and I told them I was sorry they carried such negativity inside of them and I took myself off to my own space and wrote in my diary. I followed in Eleanor Roosevelt’s footsteps and decided ‘they weren’t going to mess up my day without my consent’ and I chose not to give them that consent.
Diary-writing has become a very useful exercise for me, more now than ever. It allows me to be still inside, to sit with my inner silence and get in touch with what’s really going on for me. In that silence I feel my heart working away, keeping me alive and connected. I find myself relaxing and becoming more accepting of the ever-changing wonder of life. This virus has given me the space and time to become more aware of what matters to me. And even though I have to stay at home, I have learnt that home isn’t just a physical place, it is within me and my goal is to feel at home wherever I go. If I am still inside, I can feel at home with myself. I guess this must be what meditation and mindfulness is really all about.
With a quiet confidence that everything is unfolding as it should, I can better deal with my family’s needs and be the grown-up during these challenging times. I can influence how things unfold within the relationships I have with each of my family members and generate positive energy through my own behaviour.
All I can say is that I am deeply thankful I am not turning to alcohol to help me deal with the uncertainty and angst that surrounds us right now. It would only add fuel to the fire and prevent me from being the best I can be for myself and those I love. We will all come out of this stronger if we decide to. It is a matter of whether we choose to or not. We each need to become the change we wish to see. Let’s be still inside and feel gratitude in our hearts for all that we have, here and now.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I wish you good health and positive mental attitude to get you through.