My neighbor spotted this sidewalk art while out walking her dog a few days ago.
I love that someone wanted to lift everyone’s spirits!
Abrupt Changes in our Surroundings
Things in our neighborhood have changed abruptly. There’s so much less traffic. So many more parents outside walking and biking with their children during the day. Lots of folks out walking their dogs – many more than I normally see.
There’s more stopping to chat with people I haven’t met before, while standing the length of a dog’s leash from them. With the dog’s length added, this reaches the recommended six feet of distance!
Around here we’re adapting by physically distancing but socially connecting.
There Are Inner Changes, Too
My inner landscape feels different too. There are new worries, fears and anxieties in there. Mine are centered around the sudden layoffs that hit my sons, daughter-in-law and several other family members. So many others are caught in this situation, with little to no safety net.
But this isn’t the first scary time I’ve lived through. And though I wish I hadn’t had my past experiences with turbulent, unwanted change, what I’ve learned from them comes in handy now. My recent experience with cancer is one of those.
I Had To Learn How to Shift From Worry to Joy
By nature, I’m a worrier. I’ve always gone there easily and had a hard time disentangling from it. But the thing with cancer is that it’s a valid reason to be worried by, and the fear never completely goes away. Treatment was scary enough. After it’s done, though, there’s a new fear to grapple with. It’s the fear of recurrence, which is a very realistic possibility for so many. Living well after cancer treatment — and with recurrence if it happens — means figuring out how to shift your attention toward what gives your life meaning and purpose, what brings joy, what makes you laugh until you cry. Of course, living with recurrence also brings so many more challenges.
There’s no getting away from this reality, but there are ways to let the worry recede. And importantly, doing that supports your physical and emotional health.
Worry and Fear Can Fade
Shifting attention from worry and fear doesn’t make them go away, but it allows them to fade into the background. There are times when worry returns, but now I know that when it does I can shift away from it again. I know that being calm and centered helps me feel better and do better. That’s good for me, good for my work and helpful for those around me.
The COVID-19 pandemic brings a level of challenge that has important differences from what its like to be seriously ill. As disruptive as it is, there’s usually a known process for handling illness. There are books, online resources and people to learn from. It may not be a smooth process, but there is knowledge to draw on.
Right now it seems that entire world is in upheaval. While there’s some historical information to draw on, there’s no blueprint for how to handle the way it’s impacting our lives.
Because of this, it’s extra important right now to acknowledge all of our feelings, even the darker ones. We need the information available to us from our darker feelings, and we need the resilience that comes with shifting from them by calming and centering ourselves.
When we’re calmer, we think more clearly, we’re more creative, and we can find ways to handle challenging situations.
5 Things I’ve Learned From Cancer That Help Me Right Now
- To live with fear, but not in fear. That means I can allow fear to recede so it doesn’t dominate my thoughts, feelings and decision making.
- That in the most difficult times it’s important shift my focus to kindness, hope, joy, and love.
- That I want to give help when I can and to accept help when I need it.
- That what’s happening in the present will change over time. There is a future on the other side of the current challenge.
- That connections with others make it more possible to cope.
Ways to Connect Socially While Distancing Physically
That last is important right now, when so many of us are under orders to self-isolate or shelter in place. Isolation can increase worry and anxiety, while connections provide comfort and helpful resources. But just when we most need our social ties, they’ve become harder to maintain. People are finding creative ways to do it, though. A few examples:
- Show Me Something Good, created by Sherie Hoeger, invites us to share and enjoy each others’ art.
- Impact Hub Baltimore has moved their free Skill Share Workshops online.
- Julia Barnickle is combining exercise with sending postcards to loved ones.
- My sister and one of her friends walk or bike together every day.
- I’m offering an online mini-retreat on Saturday, April 25th,Calming Yourself in Anxious Times. I don’t want fees to stand in the way of connections, so I’m making all services available on a pay-what-you-wish basis. Just let me know if you wish to arrange a reduced fee.
How are you staying connected with others right now?
With appreciation to Kelly Indra Inselmann, whose question to those of us in her Facebook community inspired this post.