Habits sneak up on us; that is their job! I tell students this and they are shocked. But, it is the truth. For this reason our best friend is developing a keen sense of awareness. By being conscious and aware, we can more quickly be aware when a habit is knocking at the door and by pausing we have the opportunity to close that door and say NO to that habit.
Recently I have participated in conversations centered around our handling this strange phenomonon called “sheltering in place.” The Novel Corona Virus is roaring across our country and we are being asked to pretty much stay home except for essential chores/appointments. Such is life during this pandemic. More conversations have centered around businesses and how they have piovoted to maintain their client base than the mental-emotional affect of being isolated. This aspect of our existence has been discussed less. Few of us are accustomed to being home, isolated all day every day, for months. At this point we have been sheltered at home more or less 4 months. Several observations: it is strange not to have some place to go, one day runs into another. Is it the weekend or Monday or Thursday? Does it matter? Have I missed an online meeting? For many, of course, there are worries about health, finances, etc. I find my mood rises and falls like waves coming in to shore, sometimes slow and steady and often fast and frenetic. I feel as if all I do is figure out what meal comes next and what will it be. Many days I neither see nor speak to anyone other than my husband and dog. Social media is the only bridge of communication to the outside world. The highlights of the week are zoom calls.
Back to the question of habits and our responses to them. What are the habits I find creeping in? As an introvert, I am mostly just fine with all this alone time. I grew up alone and I always find activities and projects. I am comfortable. BUT, thereIn lies one of my problems. Experience has shown that I am not really OK being in such stark isolation. The habit, my inclination to hibernate. The more I am in isolation the more reluctant I am to go out or to “do” anything or seek social interaction; the mental/emotional spiral heads south, Then, what! Habit #2: I notice my habitual response to being with friends and colleagues comes with a rush of adrenaline and energy. Of course, this is not necessarily bad, but definitely requires awareness to pull that reaction back to a more reasonable level. It means spending more time listening and consciously enjoying the stories and opinions of others. I have noticed over the years, that people who are alone and single, often talk lots and do not tend to listen. It is all so easy to let these habits creep into the present with our isolation. A topic of conversation recently, in a group, was the value of listening and waiting to respond, of pausing before making a response.
As we continue onward through what will likely be more months of isolation, becoming aware of how the isolations affects each of us is important. Practicing the habit of pausing, exhaling, breathing at least once before responding, during these times, is especially important. We build a new habitual response of pausing, we calm our nervous systems, and we say no to any annoying habit that might be sneaking in the door. Stay safe and remember to Pause/Exhale/Breathe! We will get through this. ONWARD!!!
* The beautiful book Sela Blue and the First Day of School is available at www.selablue.com