Driving down a deserted Rt 1 at sunset last week, it occurred to me that my current reality feels alarmingly similar to the beginning of one of those zombie apocalypse movies. As the radio blares news of law changes and death tolls, I pass more and more neon road signs warning of beach closures and quarantine laws. My cat, Rex, throws up for the 4th time since we left and I feel that lump in my throat start to rise yet again. Can’t I just go one day without f*cking crying!?
Fast forward through a few days of unpacking and settling, Rex and I are entering week 4 of quarantine life – now at my parents’ beach house in Delaware. After 2.5 weeks alone in New York. we are working our way through a 14-day mandated out-of-state isolation here. Despite the shift to about 6000x more space than I had in NYC, I have never been so grateful to be an introvert.
Its taken me a few days to fully adjust to this newest iteration of what my friend Katie Horwich is calling our “for-now normal,” and, in true over-analytical-Lindsay form, the transition got me thinking about other times in my life that I’ve been handed periods of significant change. More importantly, what I learned from them. From my first major break-up that rearranged my entire college friend circle to the times I moved to Savannah and NYC by myself, uprooting my “normal” and starting from scratch isn’t a new concept for me. However, surprisingly the most significant lessons for handling my for-now normal are coming from my time in in-patient ED treatment.
If you’ve never been in intense therapy/rehab/in-patient treatment, bear with me here…
When I was 28, I made the heart-wrenching choice to leave NYC and enter an eating disorder recovery program in St. Louis. I packed up my life, said goodbye to my kitties, and sobbed all the way from Brooklyn to Missouri. I was terrified, I was angry, I was drowning in shame…but most of all I was extremely uncomfortable. Nothing felt familiar or “normal,” but there was no going back. I’d made the choice to uproot my life because the life I’d been living was no longer serving me. Going back meant the diseased parts of my life – the eating disorder, the depression, the anxiety – would win. I had years of proof that, as “comfortable” as I’d become in my patterns, they were doing significantly more harm than my body could sustain. Forward, no matter the discomfort, was my only choice.
I remember the mental resistance I encountered the first few days. Being told where I could go and where I couldn’t, when I could to move and what to eat. All these boundaries had me kicking and screaming in a panic, amplified by the conviction that everything was extreme and unfair and there’s no way I could survive this. Then something happened…I surrendered.
I surrendered to the now.
To this for-now normal.
And in doing so, I embraced the opportunity to evolve.
My loves, this new for-now normal is a HUGE opportunity to evolve.
Change is inevitable. This period of overwhelming uncertainty will not only affect our current situations, but the “new-normal” on the other side of this is still beyond our comprehension…and our control.
Growth is optional. How we choose to react, now and moving forward, is the part that we still retain control over…and y’all know how much I love control!
Never in our lives have we experienced a shift like this. Nor will we again (hopefully). Some of you jumped right into action, but if you’re like me you needed a minute (or a few thousand) to adjust. To mourn. To grieve what we’ve lost, and continue to lose, even down to the most mundane details of our day-to-day lives. This part is important and necessary. Allowing yourself to NOT be ok is necessary. But when you’re ready to regroup, and you’re ready to move forward, let’s do this.
3 weeks(+) into this “for now normal,” I’m kindly and lovingly asking myself to get up. If you’ve given yourself the time you need to grieve (more on that below), and you’re ready, I’m encouraging you to do the same.
When I was in treatment, I went through (and often backtracked into) a variety phases that I’m seeing play out in the for-now normal, both for myself and my community. Wherever you are in this progression, and however many times you backtrack, this is your reminder that you’re absolutely not alone:
PHASE 1: FEAR AND GRIEVING
As previously discussed, we all start here – although it looks different for each of us. Denial, anger, rejection, avoidance, disobedience…however you instinctively react to change, it comes with a variety of emotions that typically imitate a period of mourning. We have to allow ourselves to grieve everything that was before we can accept and appreciate what is.
Side note: let’s also acknowledge that this is extra tricky with a constantly evolving state of what ‘was’ vs. what ‘is.’
Honestly, I’ve done it ALL this month. There were frozen periods of nothingness paired with hours of hyper-productivity. There were days that I cried over anything and everything followed by days rooted in stubborn denial in an effort for false normalcy. Maybe you scrubbed every inch of your apartment, right down to the baseboards, while binge-eating those snacks you promised you’d ration and coming up with new drinking games. Or perhaps you’re stuck, paralyzed trying to figure out how to find the energy and motivation to take a shower today. However your body materializes “fear,” however you process grief, the feelings are valid. Normal. Given the circumstances, dare I say however you chose to react is acceptable (well, within reason…but we’ll keep that broad).
PHASE 2: LEARNING TO COPE
Last week I posted an extensive breakdown on WHY we react the way we do, and how important it is to evaluate our triggers and our behaviors. Learning about ourselves is such a gift, but comes with its own challenges. Have you ever had that friend that can always call you on your bullshit? Or been the one to help someone break through their own hang-ups? I notoriously give (relatively) solid advice to others that I, for whatever reason, can’t seem to take myself. The perspective is different, and I can’t always see myself from the outside.
Self-evaluation takes more work. To truly evaluate your behaviors and your motivation, you need a serious level of honest vulnerability. But now is the time to try. To embrace the idea of breaking down your walls and getting to know yourself better. You speak to yourself more than anyone else – are you saying the things you need to hear right now? What am I doing, why am I doing it, and how can I adjust so that I’m giving myself the healthiest outlet for my emotions?
In St. Louis, the really powerful self-work started to come when I let go of who I was before this moment. As I evolved out of my period of mourning and grief, I released the expectations and worked to remove the “shoulds” that had been dictating my every move. I started to let myself feel everything, let me clear: EVERYTHING, that I’d been covering up. Whew! But it was so unbelievably worth it. Questioning my motivation, and asking the hard questions around the origins of my thoughts, I dug deeper into the root of my experiences and embraced the opportunity to get to know my true self – without all the other bullshit in the way. Getting out of our own way seems to be the answer to a lot of life’s predicaments, doesn’t it?
PHASE 3: GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES
This brings us to the reason for this post…the action plan!
Here’s a nerdy secret about me: I really really really like lists. And calendars. And, well, goals in general. I’m a huge fan of organized purpose and being able to step back and verify that I am prioritizing my energy in the correct places. Now, recognizing that not everyone thrives on organization the way I do, take the following however it fits your lifestyle.
Yesterday I sat down and created a list of all the things I want to see in my life when the “for-now normal” evolves into our “new-normal.” The stark reality is that the world as we once knew it will not come out of the Corona pandemic the way it came in. And neither will we. Throughout this transition period its up to us to steer and develop what this new normal looks like on our own personal level. My suggestion is to start with what you want, and what you need, whether you currently have it or not. Your goals/dreams/aspirations, not only on a physical level, but mental and emotional as well. No matter how big or small, you have the incredible gift of time to set yourself up for success, or at least in the right direction, in the coming weeks.
Next came the list of everything I’m leaving here. Isn’t it amazing what a break from routine brings to light? Suddenly it becomes easier to question why situations/patterns/people have remained in our lives. Maybe you start to recognize a deeper divide in priorities and even develop clarity around what motivations were driving your connection to certain behaviors and patterns. There is a huge opportunity to realign here…if you don’t need it now, did you really *need* it to begin with?
With these goals in mind, I then created a LOOSE guideline of a calendar. (Disclaimer: this is not the time for strict guidelines and overwhelming to-do lists. Coping with the current state of the world is extremely taxing on your emotions and your body, so please remember to listen to what you need in the moment first.) That being said, I set it up so that each day of the week has a focus. An opportunity for growth and parameters with tiny attainable steps to help me reach the goals that I set for myself, without getting overwhelmed or feeling like a failure if they don’t get done. For me, that divided into personal growth (i.e. 30 minutes of journaling or reaching out to a friend), fitness goals (i.e. 10 minutes of handstand practice), social media ideas (currently working on things like “tutorial tuesday”), and business development (blogging, newsletters, teaching, etc). I kept them broad and easy. That way, the days I need more space to rest I can focus on giving myself the opportunity and freedom to feel what I need to feel, while the days I’m feeling energized have guidelines to start putting some of the ideas I’ve had into action. We aren’t talking about saving the planet here, people. Nor am I suggesting that you use this time to create your next big invention or your new side hustle…unless you want to. Just embracing the small steps and finding ways to keep your mind and body moving forward – no matter the pace.
Here’s the thing: the reason that in-patient treatment worked for me is because the rest of my life was stripped away and put on hold. All that I was left to sit with was me, myself, and I…to be honest, the very person I hated listening to the most. Getting to know her, beyond all the bullshit, saved my life and allowed me to evolve into who I am today.
The universe has given you that very same opportunity.
Are you listening?
My loves, this *pause* in “normalcy” is an absolute gift. Time to rest and reset your body, to fully and honestly recover from the endless hustle we all claim to require. However, in that rest, can you allow yourself the opportunity to reset your mind and realign your priorities as well? To question the whys and the why nots, not matter how small, and refocus your energy in a way that serves you best. Even if you have kids at home or a full-time WFH job thats blowing up, many of you still have less on your overall to-do list than before. My hope is that you don’t miss the moment in front of you – the chance (and the absolute privilege) to get to know yourself a little better and come out of this stronger, and more in-tune, than you came in.
Need help? Reach out. I’ve got nothing but time ♥️