In these recent days, the news tells us "The worst has yet to come", our self-help industry tells us "Here are 5 things you should do to stay productive", our friends' posts on social media tell us "My quarantine life is better than yours", other people tell us "Don't you complain because I'm in a much worse situation", and work, for some, tells us "Business as usual" or "Sorry, we need you to stop working indefinitely from tomorrow". So how are we supposed to feel?
Scared? Missing out? Numb? Guilty? Toughen up? Angry? Depressed?
There are many things that I'm incredibly thankful for. My family has always been my rock. I have a shelter and a good job – my company takes many initiatives to make sure everyone feels safe and supported, and I'm blessed to work with an amazing team of people who have been so understanding and constantly reminding me not to overwork. Plus my imagination (or illusion? lol) that I've become my own best friend so we've been enjoying each other's company. That to name a few.
Gratitude has been part of my everyday rituals since forever. And though it doesn't help me with my first-world problem wishlist, it's certainly helped me in maintaining a positive attitude even in the darkest days of my life.
But do you ever get waves of really intense emotions? Like sure, gratitude helps keep you stay positive when it does except when it doesn't? So you stay okay for a good while but then all of a sudden your heart hurts?
That's what happened to me last Saturday.
I woke up, worked out, made myself a cup of coffee while listening to my favorite podcasts. At that time, I felt grateful and... fine. Then all of a sudden, my heart was struck with these strong waves of emotions and pain from people whose faces and names I didn't even know, as if I absorbed them directly inside of me. I thought of the people who lived alone, people who died alone, people who grieved in isolation, people on the frontlines risking their lives trying to save other lives, our 'essential workers' working crazy hours to provide enough supplies for us to continue living our lives, people who lost their jobs and couldn't afford not having a job, the parents who worried about their children living far away and the children who worried about their parents being at "higher risk", the broken hearts struggling to heal, the souls afraid of being forgotten, the couples who couldn't be together and the couples who wouldn't want to continue living together, the moms-to-be, the Asian people who were harassed and bullied only for the fact that they were Asian since Trump stated it was the "Chinese virus", people in their 'prime' time but felt like they were not living their best life, people from other countries who came to pursue the American dream but didn't even have a chance to start... I thought of many if not most people who couldn't afford therapy when we all needed it, and the therapists who couldn't have enough of other therapists to support themselves mentally alone. Suddenly, I cried.
Even when we quarantine, there are still so many noises that tell us to feel certain ways, and we feel as though we were judged on how we feel the way we feel. Does feeling scared make us coward? Does feeling negative make us toxic? Does grieving alone makes us pathetic? Does feeling lonely make us the 'losers'? Does feeling depressed make us weak? And does feeling thankful make us 'guilty' for not suffering enough?
No, it makes us human.
I believe that our way of coping through traumatic events is all unique. However you're feeling right now – face it, be honest with yourself, and share it with others (whether if that's your family, friends, your significant other, manager, coworkers, therapist, etc.) The fact that you can feel something means you're not numb, which also means you're alive. Keep practicing your gratitude and stop comparing your pain with others – you never know what other people are really going through and pain shaming is bullying. Turn off your news notifications if that helps with your anxiety. Limit your use of social media. Give yourself permission to do nothing, sometimes doing nothing means doing yourself something. Learn to surrender to what you can't control (this has been the hardest lesson for me to learn just yet). Move at your own pace and do what makes YOU happy, because you know what's best for you more than anyone else.
It is an emotional time for everyone, but we're all going through it together and we are here for each other. Sometimes our emotion is so clear that it strikes us right away, but sometimes it takes a while, even days, weeks, or months until it really hits us; and when it hits us, it hits us hard. When it does come, though, be present with it.
I believe there are many spiritual lessons that the pandemic has taught us, one of which is perhaps to face our vulnerability, be kind to ourselves, and be kind to others. Recognizing and overcoming fear is messy. Healing pain is messy. Maybe we will learn to understand ourselves better, grow our empathy, and care about things that are bigger than just ourselves. But most importantly, let's start by taking good care of ourselves first: How are you feeling?
P.S.: If you can't afford therapy and are feeling lonely, you can get help from Crisis Text Line for FREE here. If you want to volunteer to help support others cope through their crisis during this time, you can apply here. This is not sponsored, I heard of them from a podcast and learned that they did pretty amazing work :)