Sorry for being MIA….This post has taken a long time to write. Every time I sit down to write to you, something bigger happens, and becomes more important to write about.
We have gone through so much this year, from Covid-19 pandemic, political strife and upheaval, demonstrations, Black Lives Matter, fires and evacuations, to everything in between. It has not stopped.
Thanks to all of you who have reached out and checked in about our evacuation. I am back home and safe, and our little town is OK although California is still suffering intense fires. We are only at the beginning of fire season and fall is when most of the big fires have happened in the past. THANK YOU FIREFIGHTERS who risk your lives to save our homes.
Those of you who know me are aware that every year, on the week leading up to Labor Day, (this week!), I make a pilgrimage to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada to partake in the Burning Man festival event.
Burning Man is a temporary city of 80K + participants, based on principles of inclusion, self reliance, sharing and gift economics, radical and free self expression, community building, and so much more culminating with a ‘burning of the man installation’, and the burning of the Temple at the closing of the week.
Over the years of participating in Burning Man as a spectator and a guest, I found my own way to contribute to this amazing event. I now go every year as part of the Mental Health Branch (CIT- Critical Incident Team) of the Emergency Service Department (ESD). They call us ‘psychs on bikes’. We provide mental health services to deal with anything from home sickness and drug overdose to sexual assault and domestic violence.
But every year, I also, hesitate about going. Burning Man is hard on me. Between the heat, the dust, the noise, the overwhelm, and yes, at time the loneliness, I take my time to decide about joining my team. Although, every year I end up with a resounding yes…
And then came 2020, and we cancelled the event. Like so so many special events this year, Burning Man got cancelled due to Covid-19, and not wanting to put so many at risk.
It was no longer a decision I got to make…
Like so many of the happenings and not happenings of this year, that which we all took for granted… travelings.. weddings.. seeing family.. seeing friends.. eating out…hugs, are all no longer an option.
Of course we all adjusted and became creative. Here in the small town where I live in Northern CA, streets became pedestrian streets, tables and planter and umbrellas and hey stacks became the new look of summer evenings. (And I actually really like it).
My practice moved online. At first seeing clients on Zoom was strange. I miss the presence of my clients sitting right across from me having the ability to read body language and the energy in the room. But like so many other adjustments, it became normal, and I was able to continue helping my clients.
How naive was I when I wrote my January blog… Can the New Year be 2020?
For most of us, hindsight is 2020, we can look back and see what we did not see, we can have clarity where we were not paying attention, and we wish that we knew then, what we know now..
For most of us, what we are feeling right now is a lot of confusion, frustration, fear, sadness, and grief. There is a lot of grief around losing the lives we lived before Covid and all those things we have taken for granted.
Yes, and we’re feeling a number of different griefs. We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different. Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.
In our discomfort, we are looking for meaning.
Viktor Frankl, M.D Ph.D. was an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor. He came out of the most difficult situatio, surviving the holocaust while losing his entire family, and wrote about the meaning of life.
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. Viktor Frankl.
In her book Maybe You Should Talk to Someone Lori Gottlieb, write
We tend to think that the future happens later, but we’re creating it in our minds every day. When the present falls apart, so does the future we had associated with it. And having the future taken away is the mother of all plot twists.
One of the hardest punishments in prisons, is solitary confinement. Being disconnected from human connection is coded in our brain as danger. In my blog ‘A Tribe of Two – Connection in Time of Isolation’ I wrote:
We have all been encouraged to ‘socially distance’ so we can reduce the spread of the Corona Virus. However, being alone is Interpreted in our mammalian brain as ‘Danger’, and Being Connected is Interpreted as ‘Safe’..
When we are disconnected from our family, friends, tribe, coworkers, we may develop ‘Social atrophy’ , and our emotional muscle memory can become numb or frozen.
I invite you to share your own story of these tough times, and the ways you have coped and survived, and also how you became creative and even found meaning.
One day it will all be behind us. One day it will be an intense story to tell. Let’s remind each other that we are in this TOGETHER.
Be well, stay safe, and keep in touch
Virtual Hugs and Love,