This March will mark one year since we entered Pandemic Land.
It sounds like a terrible, Simpsons-esque theme park, where the rides are covered in vomit and the food vendors failed their health inspections.
This last year has felt… yeah. Exactly like that.
Every playground is riddled with germs and fear-mongers. 11 months later, and people are still arguing about the validity of masks and vaccines — spreading a different kind of virus with vitriol and condemnation.
There was much talk of “hitting the pandemic wall” online about a month ago. I think the veil of 2021 and a New Year finally tore. The Polly Positives started sulking and we finally noticed the collective loss I spoke of one year ago. This collective grief is the whole reason I chose to pursue grief coaching and writing my half-memoir, half-guidebook to processing grief with a mindset of wholeness and restoration.
It’s easy to see the unknown future and smash the panic button. It’s easy to pretend it won’t happen to us, and we are untouchable. Youth does that to us. But youth is rarely about age. Our maturity in this life comes from growth inside and around us.
When we feel overwhelmed and lost in the woods, we always have a choice. We can burrow underground until the threat passes.
Or we can choose to climb, childlike, a little higher on the branches in this unending forest. My emotional quarantine was something like sorrow for the world’s grief, hoping I could make a difference. Then gratitude for living in a small town, followed by panic and promises to myself of endurance. Shortly thereafter, depression set in, bringing within the echoing accusations the world over to slough my fear and admit I’m believing a myth. The anger was just beneath the surface with all of these moments, too.
Now, at the one year mark, I’m curious about the progression I’ve made and the way we will all continue to march onward. There is no standing still — those of us who attempted to remain hidden during quarantine now know that you cannot hide from life. Have I embraced a new way of thinking during this year of intense isolation and loss? Maybe I’ve just dug in my heels.
Are we healthier, kinder, more courageous? Are we living in a box, waiting for others to move past the conflicts? To my own point, I’ve lived past lives waiting for the world to change and it is a passive, heavy existence. This year, I’ve often struggled to open my eyes. Some days it is much easier to carry hope and expectation. On others, I must fight to pay attention instead of giving into the numbness of Netflix and a good Bordeaux. But I think I’m simply becoming more aware of the blind among us (myself included), continually tripping on the same stones in their path.
This is not a story about judgment; rather of curiosity toward myself. What stones do I continue to trip over? Am I treading the same ground as I was a year ago, waiting for the world to change and allow me a space to exist without fear? Can I bravely quiet the noises accusing me of failure (both outside and inside my head)? I find there are a LOT of accusations living rent-free in my mind, and without the distractions of obligation, a social life, and a job, they’ve become much louder these last few months.
But the truth is that despite the back and forth, I have become healthier, kinder, and more courageous. It’s just not in the way you might need it to be for you — and that’s okay. My growth will always look different than yours. That’s the magic, baby! Progression for my year of quarantine is learning not to compare my lifeboat to yours. To drop the judgments against the way you’re rowing, and to hopefully, carry great compassion if I notice your boat starting to take on water.
Silencing the critics outside of our story starts with listening to the little voice inside. When my inner critic speaks up, I’ve started allowing her to share her piece. It’s the same way I want to react when our daughter is hard on herself. There’s a wound she’s trying to heal; but she doesn’t have the tools on her own.
Somewhere along the line, my inner kiddo picked up a lot of wounds. As she begins yelling about her pain, I have the honor of now listening differently. I can give her the words she needs, the compassion she wants, and teach her how to access the healing she deserves. She is me. Believing that even my wounds carry valuable lessons? I’d call that progression. And I would trade the pursuit of positivity for this progression every single day.
So as we lean into March together, I pray you will encounter the inner courage to pursue your own freedom of creativity, thought, and growth. To invoke the wise Mrs. Roosevelt once more, “It is our freedom to progress that makes us all want to live and to go on.”
Don’t let your perceived lack of freedom rob you from your innate drive to grow, mature, change, and evolve. Progress and find a new life, no matter the state of the soil around you.