(Not) Drowning in the C
In times of adversity, it is important to be strong within and sparing of words.
– I-Ching: The Book of Changes (Richard Wilhelm, translator)
This month’s blog is by far the hardest I’ve had to write since I started these monthly instalments nearly five years ago. Not because of the bewilderment, the pain, or the fear related to what’s happening in the world right now. Those are all good, juicy topics that I could dig into with relish. It’s hard to write because of the saturation. There is only one subject these days, and it begins with a C. We are drowning in this C. Our arteries are clogged with it. Even our attempts to distract ourselves from it are, in the end, moored to the C.
Over the past weeks, I’ve read and heard so much about what I should be doing in this crisis: how I should behave, where I can and cannot go, what I should think. I’ve been exposed to an flood of online statistics, government proclamations, free art and activities, advice, tips, warnings, do’s and don’ts, meetings, hangouts, tutorials, and the subtle yet persuasive influence of what my friends are doing. Finding our flesh-and-blood routes cut off, we’ve poured ourselves into the virtual stream: well intentioned, trying to keep some semblance of meaning and structure and normalcy, wanting to continue to do what we do and stay connected. Personally, I feel like I’m drowning. And my instinct is that the best thing I can do is get to dry ground, sit there, and observe.
But a blog, by definition, needs regular updating. And so, fully aware of the irony of adding my drops to the very deluge I’m trying to avoid, here is what I have to say.
However successfully you may be navigating it, this situation is all about loss. Therefore, the Grief Protocol applies.
In the Grief Protocol, there are no rules. There is no right way to grieve. There are norms, and expectations: cultural, familial, religious. Screw ‘em. As long as you’re not endangering yourself or someone else, you can handle this as you choose. Please do not feel ashamed for not being productive or “rising to the opportunity.” Please do not beat yourself up for your lack of creativity. Nor should you feel guilty for finding the humor in it all, for feeling ok, for working more than ever, for getting on with it. Everybody grieves differently. Don’t expect others to mirror your coping strategy and don’t imagine their situation is the same as yours. Ease off. Listen a little more, talk a little less.
One of the hardest things about this situation is how much we don’t know about it. What is the truth? How will it play out? How long will we be in it? What will life look like in the aftermath? You could play so many films in your mind. Why not save your imagination for better things? Keep it for dreaming, intending, creating. If the film you’re watching gets very dark, turn it off. Do something real, something physical. Your survival instinct is already fired up because of what’s actually happening. Don’t let your imagination add fuel to the fire.
Real courage is not the absence of fear; it means feeling fear and agreeing to go on living in its presence. Fear is everywhere these days. Some of it is manufactured, some of it is natural and necessary. Know the difference. Be specific about what you’re really afraid of. Let yourself be quiet sometimes, even if that makes your fear more palpable. Watch and listen. Breathe fully and don’t give in to panic. Fear usually brings its friend Clarity to the party. Together they remind us of how much we love life, and how much we want to go on living it. So be afraid. And be well.
Elaine Konopka is the founder of The Attentive Body in Paris, offering private sessions in attention-based bodywork and pain management, and workshops on writing and conscious breathing. You can also find her on her YouTube channel dedicated to writing for wellbeing, The Write Thing to Do.
Motivating, thought-provoking, informative: The Attentive Body monthly newsletter. It’s free and your privacy is respected. Sign up here.