Even a relatively small task, like organising a birthday party can be thoroughly exhausting and draining: it can wind you up and leave you with your head spinning. But what we’re in now, this constant planning and re-planning, adapting, coming up against new challenges day-by-day; this permanently increased level of stress leaves some of us swimming in a river of adrenaline, anxiously trying to keep our head above water. If I don’t look out, I can overwind myself and spin out into mental and emotional exhaustion. By the end of the crisis, or by the end of every day even, it can leave me with the feeling that I have nothing more left inside, I’m unable to feel joy, unable to give to others or even pay attention to what’s happening around me; that my energies have decided to hang out next-door, and send over their unpleasant buddy, depletion.
Yesterday I was working with my boundaries. I’ll continue today, I’ll try and find other, more concrete, tangible ways to help myself. What are some of the other things it can mean to set boundaries in this situation? On my morning run I think about the boudaries I set for myself.
What is it that I would like to avoid? I’d like to avoid sliding into denial, like “nah, it’s fine, we’re not in danger anyway.” Not that I stand much of a chance at denial, but even if I did, I wouldn’t like to stay completely on the outside of this crisis. This may sound silly at first, but I know several people who have had this problem, because once the crisis had passed, they couldn’t connect to their friends and family who went through it. Loneliness and isolation hit them much harder after the crisis than it did others. It’s true, we don’t have a country house where I could turn off the WiFi, and lose myself in plucking weeds, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t do the same at home, just by not reading the news, for instance. I’m not going to.
And what is it that I would like? I’d like to give it an honest thought when, and what it is that I would like to lock out of my life in this situation.
What is it that I’d like to lock out? I’d like to lock that part of myself out who can’t stop spinning, who loses control over her soul and is carried along unconsciously by the waves around her. The waves can be of news or fear, or the wave of tension in the afternoon coming from the kid who’s been sitting in front of the computer all day.
When is it that I would like to lock something out? There are times in the day when I don’t think about the virus. When I’m spending time with my children, while we’re having dinner, playing boardgames, while they’re taking a bath. When I’m out on a run, while we’re watching a series, listening to music, planting flowers, while I’m reading – we could add anything to this list, the point is that I learn how to lock out my thoughts and worries about the virus.
What’s my goal with this locking out? Making space for good things, for instance: to keep some old part of me who likes laughing, or eating, drinking, dancing, painting, connecting with others in a worry-free way.
What is it that I will pull closer, that I’ll put more of into my days? This is also a question about boundaries, it’s about what it is that I don’t want to set boundaries against. To me this is crying for example. It helps me re-connect to my inner core. I can look for old hobbies or new hobbies, or I can build myself a new habit (I’ll get back to this at some point).
How can I notice that I’m not setting boundaries for myself? When a situation takes control over me, in other words if I can no longer control it. When I’m unable to do something else than what everyone else is doing. When I’m setting up too many boundaries for the ones living with me: the dogs, the cats, the children, my partner. This could be a sign that I’m not setting limits to my own desires and anxieties; I’m spinning out. It’s also worth paying attention to my body: Am I feeling pressure on my chest? Has my reflux got stronger? Does my hip hurt more? These are just examples, everyone’s hearts, minds and bodies give different signals. If I pay attention and I care, I will notice. If I can’t pay attention, that’s also a sign that I’ve lost control.
Another tool I can use, perhaps my responsibility, could be to call my friends and ask them “By the way, besides all this shit, how are you doing?” The first answer they give is usually that now there’s no “besides all this”, but that’s not true. There is a besides all this for everyone. Just like we’re hungry besides this, so our hearts and minds also have needs other than anxiety, despair, tiredness, we just don’t realise sometimes. I can also ask the question “How are you behind/below the crisis? How does it affect you? What are you struggling with?” I don’t have to solve their issues, I don’t have to give advice. Just asking, which means paying attention to them, gives me a chance to help my loved ones and my friends slow down the spinning.
While I’m running, I have an interesting experience about the places where I don’t have boundaries. First, I don’t get tired from running, so I feel like physically I could run out of this world. Second, I’m running out of this world emotionally and mentally. I can hardly keep up with my own thougts, I’m taking notes, spinning into what I’m good at, what charges me, what I do well. I take the decision two or three times to concentrate on running only, to stop taking notes, to stop my thoughts from pouring out, but I can’t stop myself. Eventually, after making the decision for the fourth or the fifth time, I manage, and it makes me so happy! Obsessive work, obsessive exercise, getting addicted to my relationship or to being a mother (when I can only see things in light of the fact that I’m a mother, and I can’t tear myself out of this), these things often start by doing something I like, that I’m good at, that’s easy to do and that makes me feel good. An activity or dynamic that in moderation can be my greatest ally can also turn against me.
At the end, we will all bear the mark of what’s happening now, and it would so good if most of us could come out well on the other end! Our hearts and minds are calling out, but the noise is so big that it’s hard to hear them. Those who can make themselves stop have a better chance to come out on the other end of the crisis as whole, sane human beings, and even more of a chance to rebuild themselves afterwards.
for the translation thanks for my brother, Mate Herner