But, still…

It’s been a while since I shared thoughts here, but I think we all know that time has somewhat lost its meaning in recent years, so I’ll forgive myself. I’ve been having so many conversations lately on exactly the topics we discuss here, though, so I felt like I was being pulled back to share. Thanks for being around to listen. 🙂

It’s been almost two full years since the world slowed down, and for many, seemed to stop entirely. This shift down of course excludes those whose vocations, financial situations, or both precluded them from slowing down, and may have in fact sped life up as the pandemic closed in on us. Their experience has been very different from mine, and I am grateful for every moment they courageously persisted through it.

Many of us, however, were forced to shift into a new gear and to encounter the foreign territory of stillness.

For me, it was a welcome sabbatical that led to the profound realization that it was well overdue. I was exhausted in every way, but the adrenaline I had been relying on to keep moving every day kept me from noticing. Once I slowed down, I felt the necessity of it in every single aspect of myself.

That’s the thing about slowing down that makes it both wonderful and difficult – in stillness, we feel things. It’s the reason most of us avoid it, even though we desperately need it. Feeling things is often hard, especially when the feelings are connected to experiences we thought we’d buried a long time ago.

One way to prevent yourself from the potential of stillness is to make it rare — to be so busy, so productive, so needed everywhere else that you never spend time with yourself.  When you are alone, you fill the space with distraction, mainly via screens or other coping mechanisms, to prevent the discomfort of simply being, just as you are right now.

Over the past two years, stillness has become harder to avoid. Even if you’re not one for the customary precautions, there’s less to do. Work and school may have shifted to your kitchen table. Celebrations have shrunk, or been cancelled entirely. Any occasional sense of certainty about what comes next is dashed by sudden shifts in momentum away from “all better.” Space for nourishing rest has migrated towards malaise. Optimism has become ambivalence. Daily challenges have morphed into existential crises. The universal response to the usual greeting how “How are you doing?” has become the all-encompassing <<shrug>>.

Why would anyone want to dive deeper into feeling at a moment like this?

The answer is: because you deserve it.

Not that you deserve to feel negative things, but because feeling those things releases their control over you. You might think that burying them is a way of controlling them, but it’s not. Carl Jung had it right. The parts of ourselves that we don’t let ourselves feel quietly control us.

You and I are no more in control of the “finish line” of this experience than any other single human is. There’s a good chance what it means to see this end will actually be different for each of us. What we are in control of us how we show up, not for the world out there, but for ourselves first. As we do that, what we are then able to offer to others begins to open up.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, stillness is often the first step to moving forward. Becoming acquainted with all that we hold so we can release what we no longer want to carry is the only way to create space for new energy, opportunities, and experiences.

These are strange times. It’s ok to feel scared, anxious, awkward, anti-social, lonely, boring, and the opposites of all of those things, even at the same time. Anything you feel is ok.

Stillness isn’t a problem, it’s the beginning of the answer.

Photo credit: Kelly Sikkema

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