• Jess

Let's Stop Pretending: Processing the Pandemic

Content note: This post discusses our climate crisis, racism, police violence, the COVID-19 pandemic. They're discussed briefly in generalities--if this isn't the right thing for you to read right now, honour yourself.

This post is an invitation to compassionate honesty about your experiences during the pandemic, and a reminder that you have permission to move at the pace your heart and nervous system are able to manage. You are not obligated to cover over your wounds simply because it's what others are doing.






Collectively, we're not moving at the breakneck speed that used to be the norm. But watching the wild rush of so many people back to malls and patios and travel, this desire to make up for lost time (which can't really be made up for-- and maybe that truth brings too much grief or anger to reckon with), there are enough red flags to give me pause. Spending money we don't have to buy things we don't need will not bring healing.

There are so many stories within this pandemic, and watching folks act as though the pandemic is over has brought feelings of frustration and empathy. Already, narratives are swirling about how people "maximized" the pandemic, how they "hustled" to transform their life. But how do you maximize a global pandemic and the personal and collective trauma which came with it?

What about a pandemic unfolding against the backdrop of continued anti-Black police violence, mass shootings, anti-Asian and anti-Semitic hate crimes, forest fires, melting glaciers, the clearing of old growth forests? How do you "maximize" temporary loss of freedom of mobility, the death of loved ones, job loss, economic instability, longing for community and human touch? When framed that way, it's an absurd, even hurtful idea.

As an introvert, as someone who loves solitude, I'll admit that during the pandemic, I was forced to be alone with myself in a more challenging and all-encompassing way, closer to loneliness and malaise. For me, there were blessings which came during the pandemic.

I learned more homesteading skills, found a better work-life balance, had the time to envision the life I wanted and was able to deepen my spiritual practice. I also felt guilty that I couldn't take care of my family and friends the way I would have liked, I felt as though I might explode with tension because I wanted so badly to leave the city, and I struggled with fatigue, insomnia, apathy and fear.

I say these things not to elicit sympathy or empathy, but because they are the truth. As I've been saying for some time now, we cannot make meaning of an experience while we are still in it. We need the clarity of distance, we need to feel safe and supported enough to understand our role and the role of other parties and to not be so flooded with emotion that we're no longer present.

And so, if it feels safe for you, even if it's just with yourself, I invite you to stop pretending that the last year and a half were anything less than what they were for you. Maybe, for the first time, you experienced a stable and reliable income, or the gift of time saved not commuting to work. Maybe you finally decided to be bold and discovered a new passion.

Or your relationship ended. You attended your first Zoom funeral. You spent the holidays alone without the comforts of your people and your food and music and stories and everything that means safety and peace to you. Your truth deserves to be seen and heard. You deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated and tended.

I have been swimming through trauma for two thirds of my life and it took time and patience, self-reflection and full expression, the wisdom of elders and the support of therapists, social workers, yoga classes, fire ceremony and more for me to come to an understanding of all the alchemy and wisdom I hold because of my experiences of trauma.

It has given me the ability to sit and hold space, to be present and silent with others who have experienced trauma. That is a precious gift and it is no small thing. And still, there are times when I have needed to grieve the person I was before trauma. If you need to grieve who you were, if you are unsure who you are now, please give yourself as much time and space as you are able. Acting as though nothing is different, as though you have not changed doesn't honour your truth, and it quickly becomes exhausting.

So, let's stop pretending. We're tired. There is healing to do. We don't owe anyone the illusion that we can survive a cascade of cataclysmic change and come out unscathed. It's not true and both us and the people we could pretend for know that. Pretending is not what life is for.

One of my favourite James Baldwin quotes is: "Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within." Let's drop our masks and love ourselves and each other like Hell.

We are not healed yet and we don't have to be. For the healing to hold, it cannot be rushed any more than a river can be rushed. We can wade through our sorrow singing together. We can hold up our insights and accomplishments like prisms gleaming in the light. May we honour ourselves and all our kin on the earth and establish a rhythm which sustains life.

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