Give Yourself Permission
The pandemic changed us. Take some recovery time.
“Fear is not of God.” - Joyce Meyer
Do you remember when the pandemic began? I remember hearing about it for the first time around Christmas 2019. In January 2020, a friend died of respiratory issues, in early February several friends fell sick. Some were sick for a month on a roller coaster of symptoms, some carried a cough for months, and by the second week of March, we closed Gilmer Public Library, where I served as Director.
I didn’t know it at the time of course, but the pandemic arrived in my life at the beginning of 2020. Two years and three months ago. Twot5 years and three months ago, our lives fell under the weight of a massive fear.
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All animals live with a “fight or flight” response. It’s instinct. We’re threatened, our adrenaline and physical survival chemicals and processes kick in. We fight or run. With animals, once the threat has passed, their bodies recover from the episode and return to normal within minutes. Humans take much longer to recover — days, weeks, months, years…
Many times over the past two years, I have come to moments when I had to remind myself not to live in fear. I sanitized more, wore my mask, and made reasonable adjustments. But I still gave myself pep talks to have faith, hope, dreams, plans. I had to remind myself the pandemic and cause of fear would not last forever.
The first year of the pandemic, 2020, in retrospect, included a 3 month vacation. Quarantine. Stay home. That was not such a challenge for me. My real fear didn’t kick in until quarantine ended and we were expected to venture out again. All of our library programs had gone “passive” or digital, pandemic policies and approaches began to get more and more surreal, our social circles were all broken and spotty, and more and more people were dying.
That was my last fall teaching on campus. That was when our library staff lost some of the love they had for their jobs, that was when we physically, mentally, spiritually were completely immersed in the pandemic, knowing it was completely out of control.
And then, 2021. The fake return to normal. The farce. The fiasco. The whole world cringes over 2020, but for me, 2021 was worse. I wasn’t bouncing back. None of my plans or projects worked well. I could not get a new groove, and the old groove was - gone. The world had changed, I had changed. We had changed.
And 2021 was insane. We had moments of reprieve, too short and too few and far between The pandemic shifted our lives. We had to let go of pre-pandemic perspectives and re-evaluate. Some people, procedures, perspectives, mindsets are still lagging. Some are still wrestling with mask or no mask, vaccine or no vaccines, return to work or change work, stay remote or return to the office, return kids to daycare, or don’t return to work… Lots of anger. Lots of resignation. 2021 — The Great Resignation.
Resigned is an adjective that means having an accepting, unresisting attitude or being in a state of submission. A person who is resigned is often in a state of realization that the negative situation that is happening to them will continue to happen and that they can't do anything to stop it.
Resigned is another way of saying, “Fine, I give up.”
I’ve named this publication Two-Lane Renaissance because I want to believe we are at the beginning of a renaissance. I hope and pray for a re-birth, in me, in our communities, in our mindsets, in our world.
I struggle to believe it of course. Every day presented with images and stories of war, illness, and politics, I find it difficult to believe we are entering an age of enlightenment. But I also see sparks of light I try to keep track of. I see a flower studio going in on Main Street in Glenville, just a few steps from 3 additional women-owned businesses. I see new businesses on Main Street in Grantsville, and I am following Calhoun’s “The 1982 Foundation” — they purchased and now renovate the historic Calhoun High School. They have lofty goals. Let them dream big and give it a go. I hope all their dreams and plans come true.
I do believe it is important to lift the clamps of fear with faith. I think faith is a conscious survival instinct, as much as “fight or flight” is an unconscious instinct.
We are all in recovery. We need to give ourselves permission to percolate, rest, re-learn how to relax. We need to give ourselves time to adjust and get our feet firmly planted again. Without any major plans, sitting on the porch glider, I hope simply to enjoy the sunlight of spring and summer, gardening, piddling around the house, focus on the basics and use them to develop a new groove on what’s truly important.
When we live in fear, we have no faith. Without faith, we cannot grow, serve, create, plan, or dream. But fear also steals our joy. Worry for the future prevents us from enjoying the present. In this time of resignation, recovery, and re-birth, we need to give ourselves permission to rest.
If you are struggling, exhausted, tired, challenged, feeling lost, and lagging in this “new” world, give yourself permission to relax, regroup, and sit in the sun. We cannot rush recovery. We are still working in an unsettled world. If you are making plans for spring and summer, plan time to be still. Plan expressions of gratitude, and focus on the present moments.
I’m a big fan of porch sitting. There’s something quite comforting about watching the world go by. Studies have shown that time spent outside can lower blood pressure, and reduce anxiety. Do you have a porch or patio? This spring and summer, plan time for porch sittin’. Give yourself permission to sit a spell.
An affordable, easy way to relax and shake off the residue of living in fear involves deep breathing. Three full, deep breaths can lower your blood pressure, relax your muscles, decrease your anxiety, clear and help focus your mind. You may not FEEL anxious, but three deep breaths may show you otherwise.
Not only can this simple exercise provide instant benefits, but when used with regularity, can help provide long-term mental and physical benefits.
Time outdoors and time in the sunshine have both been proven to provide instant and long-term benefits as well. Sunshine provides the body with Vitamin D, an essential vitamin that most Americans are deficient. The body can only absorb calcium, the primary component of bone when vitamin D is present. Vitamin Ds anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and neuroprotective properties support immune health, muscle function and brain cell activity.
Just 20 minutes outside naturally increases serotonin, a hormone that affects your mood.
So my suggestion that you spend time sitting on the porch isn’t cheeky or flippant. The simple activity of porch sittin’ will improve your mood, decrease your anxiety, and increase your body’s immunity and cell activity. Spending time outside, on the porch or on the stoop is a personal treat for your body and soul. Porch sitting can and will improve your life.
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