I know that might feel like a dramatic title but from what I am seeing and feeling in the world, I’m sadly not sure it is that off base or dramatic. So many of the people, particularly parents of young children, feel like they are just drowning. Drowning in zooms, drowning in snuggles, drowning in needs, demands on their time and attention and love. The list just goes on and on.
We are also drowning in our emotions right now. I know the holidays coming up has brought up a new awareness of just how much we have had to give up or sacrifice for this pandemic and to try and protect ourselves and others. There are a lot of words for what we are feeling, pandemic fatigue, compassion fade, but most of us just feel plain exhausted and overwhelmed. And on the worst days, it’s hard to feel hopeful that we can get through this.
Particularly for people with the most unsustainable situations. The parents who are juggling stay at home learning while also working from home. The parents of kids with special needs without the services they normally rely on for support. The teens and young adults who don’t know how long it will be until they can make more concrete future plans again.
As a therapist, so much of what I see and am spending my sessions on are topics that are just not “easy.” And that’s in normal times! But right now, during a pandemic, sessions are so often about big systemic challenges we are dealing with that just feel unsolvable. Inequity… the pandemic… how can we possibly change the world when we are so tired from our day to day lives to do anything else?
This is such a tough place to be right now and what I wanted to consider is a way to frame it differently. I think most of us recognize just how tough this is and have been using every possible coping skill to try and make it better somehow. However, I think that perhaps we aren’t really going to make it better. We are just going to endure and persist through this challenging time in our world. The analogy that I found myself reaching for this week in particular was that we are essentially all on sinking ships and we are just trying to plug as many of the holes as we can so that we can not sink before help arrives.
You see, I don’t think it is realistic for our goal to be that we are going to be at pre-pandemic levels of happiness or joy or anything like that. I think we can hope for some days that are reasonably good and less days that are terrible. That seems like a doable and realistic expectation. And it’s also less overwhelming to think of the small things that we can do to fill our small holes causing our ships to sink. For me, I fill them with daily walks and gratitude practices, trying to stay present with my kiddo and new kittens, making lists of things to do but not being overly focused on doing them if I don’t have it in me, reading books for fun, and limiting my news and focus on the world.
So, while I am not sure I have any real answers to the challenges we are facing, I propose that each of us may have within us some small answers to how we endure until we can actually solve more of these big picture problems. I think focusing each day on ways we can slowly stop our boat personally or our families boats from sinking might be a start!
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"Watch your thoughts,
They become words.
Watch your words,
They become actions.
Watch your actions,
They become habits.
Watch your habits,
They become character;
It becomes your destiny."