For over a year, I have been living with fear and anxiety as a constant presence in my life. Now, the fear and anxiety are lessening. Which should be wonderful, yes?
But now there is an emptiness where the fear and anxiety were. And the emptiness feels unpleasant.
This is why people drink, I think. Or gamble or shop too much or do any other of the number of things we do either to make ourselves feel good or to stop ourselves from feeling bad. “Numbing behaviors” we call these.
I am resisting the urge—the habit—to find something new to feel fearful and anxious about.
And I am trying to feel loving toward my emptiness. Letting go of fear and anxiety is a huge thing, and it makes sense that those emotions have taken up a large space in my life. But they weren’t there before the pandemic, and I have some faith that my life will adjust and reorder itself afresh. The emptiness will eventually fill with emotions that have long been missing, hope and joy foremost among them.
I heard from one of you recently that you were feeling anxious about travelling out of town to visit family, and you weren’t sure why. I knew why! Because we have been cooped up at home for over a year, and travelling is one of many activities that will feel dangerous and stressful in the beginning, and attending a family gathering, although joyful, can also be stressful even in the best of times. Add a layer of wondering if everyone is vaccinated, plus the possibility of discovering that some family members have become QAnon conspiracists…it’s a lot.
Airlines are debating when to start serving alcohol on flights again because passengers are already unruly and prone to fights. I can tell you as someone who attends baseball games that there is more drinking and more rowdiness this year, even when the stadium wasn’t at full capacity yet. Fans ran onto the field during a Wednesday day game!
Over and over again I am hearing from you—and seeing all around me—that emerging from pandemic life is wonderful but also stressful. Over and over again, I say: “We have lived through 15 months of trauma. Everyone is low functioning right now. We will be processing this trauma for months and months. Be gentle with yourself.”
However you are experiencing the challenges of this particular moment, I hope you will remember, first and foremost, that we should not expect to feel anything like “normal” anytime soon. Let’s feel comfortable talking with each other about how hard and weird things are right now. As always, please reach out to friends, family, and each other (and me!) to share your burdens.