When I played and coached professional baseball in Europe and Australia from 2007-2010, I played on a different team every six months. For almost four years, I would live in a country for about 6 months at a time. I lived in six different countries, including stops back home in the United States. Meeting new teammates, making new friends, creating new social circles. Letting go of one, moving to the next. I learned valuable lessons about how to create a life, how to start over, and how to build an existence. I was given a lot, I had a job in each country, and people were expecting me. I had to create a lot too.
The feeling of how this process would go in each new country became engrained in me. Several demarcations would occur in about the same way each time. The first was settling in point at about three weeks. Three weeks into living in a new city and a new country, I would feel like I arrived. It wasn’t “just got here, got in a few days/weeks ago” anymore. I had the basics down. The reality around me came into view and I could see it, not totally clear, but I had a sense of what was happening. I felt more present. My stories started to change. It wasn’t about where I came from, but where I was.
This is how I’ve felt about the global health crisis. While doing my best to appreciate how lucky I feel every day, the psychological realities take their toll. It is inevitable for the challenges of this process to affect us in different degrees. For those of us so fortunate not to be on the front-lines, not to be tagged as essential workers, the experience of isolation or confined living (especially in major cities) comes with its own set of new realities to settle. The first few weeks, everything felt completely off. We had never lived under stay-at-home orders, shelter-in-place was not a familiar term. But at about the three-week mark in early April, I felt a sense of acceptance. The normalcy, for lack of a better word, of the quarantined life becomes felt. We’re not going anywhere, we’re staying inside. Video calls, working online if we’re lucky enough – become routine. The changes in social life become what we do each day.
But I still deeply felt my “other” life. Three-weeks is not forever. It’s like having one foot down on one side of the line.
Two-months was another demarcation point that I felt deeply each time I lived in another country. There was a more dramatic shift in my life, where I would feel that this is me. I would feel a deeper sense of separation from my previous country and social network. I became more immersed in where I was. I was no longer a visitor.
We are approaching this point for many of us in quarantine. We may not have words for it, but we feel it. The normalization of a life-at-home, again if we’re so lucky to have so many other needs met, sinks in. Along with this experience, the resistance to it may be coming up stronger than ever. We do want to not let this happen. This is not our reality, this is not who we am, this is not our life. This is not what I’ve built for myself and my family. During moments like this, it’s important to do our best to be aware and accept how we feel. This is hard. It is difficult. If we’re fortunate enough to be healthy, for our loved ones to be healthy, to be home – it doesn’t mean we can’t feel that this is hard. And that quarantine life may be feeling more real, which may make it more painful.
For ourselves, for our children, it’s important to do our best to be mindful of how we feel and what we’re thinking. The despair that comes from untethering to a previous life is not easy to manage. We can begin by feeling it. Allowing for it. Accepting it. An 11-year old boy said to me this week that when he went outside to have a catch with his dad, he missed playing games more than ever. He said he felt sad. I did my best to hold space for this and say it’s okay to be sad. All of that makes sense.
As we approach a new phase in this global health crisis, it’s more important than ever to be mindful of our changing feelings. It’s okay not to be perfect. And it’s okay to lose hope. It’s okay to rediscover hope. To know that some changes, even if small at first, will be coming. This will not last forever in this form. Even if it feels like it will last forever now more than ever. Let’s keep staying the course, doing our best to make the best decisions, to support ourselves with mindful kindness, to support our children’s dynamic feelings and expression. To be okay with the changing shifts in how we perceive our experience. We can do this.