The roller coaster of isolation… it’s an interesting journey

My family is in our fourth week of isolation, and compared to the vast majority around the world, we are very lucky. We live in an amazing house, it’s hot and we have a big swimming pool for exercise, our community is incredible, plus I’m part of a family that is very gentle with each other. Not all the time, of course, but we work hard to be peaceful and happy.

Getting started right

The first thing Steve and I did was set an intention for this time. We believe this will be a permanent memory our boys will carry for the rest of their lives. Just like we all remember the death of Princess Diana or 9/11, every person on this planet will have a shared memory, and we will ask the question one day — where were you when COVID-19 hit?

So we agreed we wanted it to be a memorable time for our boys, a beautiful memory, and any time things get fractious or the shouting starts, we remind each other of that. So far, we think it’s going pretty well.

If you haven’t set an intention, I can definitely recommend it. I’ve found it gives us an anchor.

Looks like we’re up for home haircuts!!

You are entitled to your feelings

Another thing that crops up is guilt for feeling strong emotions, because so many others have it so much worse than us. And that is correct. So many others do have it much much worse than us.

My heart is breaking for Africa, the Indian subcontinent, developing countries all over Asia, the Middle East, day workers left stranded around the world, communities living in war zones, and the refugee camps.

My heart is also breaking for the very lonely, people dying alone and unloved, those locked in with their domestic abuser, as well as children at risk of all forms of abuse. No question, we are shining a light on the darkness in our world at this time, and I really hope we come out the other side more determined than ever to address inequalities and solve these problems.

Have a read of this awesome blog — Covid-19 and the Swedish response. He’s putting a mirror to our faces. Time to pay attention? We must address our complicity in the state of our world.

When we’re lucky, does that mean we’re not allowed to feel?

In 1995, I travelled through Nepal, India, China and Thailand, mainly by myself. It was a lonely time, but it was a magnificent time too. Very introspective. India, in particular, touched my soul in such a deep way, because I saw a dignity in the human spirit that reached into me and grabbed a tight hold. It’s still my favorite country on the planet.

After nearly five months of backpacking these countries, I turned up in London to live for the first time. Getting settled in a new country is hard, including finding a job and making real friends –a community of support around you is always important.

And yet, for weeks and months, I couldn’t adjust my mindset to the culture I was in. I also struggled with social behaviours, and what I saw as the lack of respect people had for themselves and others.

I felt guilt and shame, having so recently seen firsthand how hard life could be for others. I was still in that place of knowing how so many people around the world lived, and it was so much harder than anything I would ever have to endure. Because of this, I didn’t feel entitled to my feelings, they felt selfish, childish, entitled.

And then one day, I realized I had the right to accept the feelings I was having about my circumstances, based on who I was, where I was, and the life I was leading.

Shit I’d just moved to the other side of the world and I didn’t think I had the right to have feelings about it because other’s suffer more?

So please, feel your feelings. You are entitled to them

From this experience and observing humanity ever since, my conclusion is this: we feel emotions based on our own reality, not what is going on over there. And we need to allow ourselves to feel based on what we are losing right now. And we are all losing right now. Every one of us.

It will take time for us to collectively appreciate what we have gained. And we will gain a lot. Humanity will survive. There is no question this time will test us, but there are many gifts we will receive too. Let’s share that hope when we’re ready?

But most are not ready for that yet. Already there is so much grief for lost loved ones to COVID-19, but also other illnesses, which have been exacerbated as medical professionals must be redirect attention to the pandemic in overwhelmed hospitals. Many are grieving not being able to say goodbye to their loved ones. They couldn’t even hold their hands as they died. There is much heartbreak, you can almost feel it in the air.

Others are in fear because their loved ones are on the front line, keeping us all safe. Others are deep in uncertainty over lost jobs or income, while others are sitting in fear and uncertainty about their future full stop. Some fear for their children’s education during these “lost” months. While others are fearing for their very safety right now. We have so many fears.

In other parts of the world, women and girls fear being sold into sexual slavery. Day workers — typically in developing countries — fear being able to get enough food to eat every day, and many don’t even have a roof over their heads. In developed countries, people living pay check to pay check may appear more affluent than a day worker, but their reality is also around fear of feeding their families and keeping a roof over their heads, along with the surging debt associated with that.

There are so many things we are all fearing right now, and allowing ourselves to feel is the first step towards acceptance of what we are collectively experiencing. So please, don’t feel guilty for feeling. This is what makes us human.

Our pain is relevant to each of our own unique experiences. Let go of any guilt for feeling it. Please. It definitely makes things easier if you do.

Because let’s face it, we are all in a global training course on the nature of acceptance and how important it is. I might write something about acceptance another day.

Jax and Freddy escape for some peace

Emotions over the weeks

So we’re now coming up to week four. There are many who have done more weeks in isolation than us, and the majority have done it harder too, but for what it’s worth, I wanted to summarize the cycles of feelings I’ve/we’ve had, so it might help those just starting out.

I am seeing more people sharing their pain, and want to encourage everyone to do that. Let’s reach out and be human during this time, because we are all in it together.

Being real, raw and vulnerable right now is very powerful. It can also show others it’s alright to do it too. We have needed this evolution of the human consciousness for a long time, let’s move it along by being our real selves as we ride this wave together.

So here’s three weeks of our feelings, if you’re interested.

The first week

Social media activity — off the charts

Drinking — one night, maybe two

In some ways it was the best week and the worst. The best, because there’s almost a sense of adventure as your mind goes into preparation mode, to ensure you and your family have all that is needed. We didn’t stockpile, because we didn’t feel the need, however I understand the fear behind this behaviour. It’s very primal.

However, I believe in the idea that there is enough for all, so that’s not a belief I change at the first sign of panic. There is enough. We have enough. We may not be able to access everything we want, but we will not starve. The vast majority of people in developed nations will not starve!

The boys adjusted beautifully too. Lex loves home schooling, and while Jax misses his mates, he’s OK during this first week. They just got to work. Our family quarantine in February was definitely an excellent practice run.

Steve’s response was all about laying down loose contingency plans. For example, always having a significant amount of folding cash, a full tank of petrol, and an idea of a safe haven to run to if it all got too much. That was all good, of course, until all roads, ports and the airport on the Island closed.

So we have nowhere to go, even if we wanted to now. Steve’s response is classic Steve and where he needs to go when facing a crisis impacting his family. The protector always comes to the fore with my hubby. I love this about him.

On the bad side is the concern: did we isolate in time? Have we got it?

I found this anxiety was under the surface the whole first week, especially when one of our pals son’s was rushed into hospital with pneumonia. Thankfully he was COVID-19 free while being very sick, and after a week in hospital, he’s back to strength. Big love to those guys for getting through that time.

If you are facing your first week, don’t be surprised if there is a strong feeling of anxiety underneath it all. I’d suggest this is pretty normal, especially as we all have a 14 day window before symptoms arise. It’s the great unknown. Of course we’re all anxious, especially with the devastating news ricocheting around the world!!

Freddy is getting lots of love and attention

The second week

Social media activity — off the charts and I can no longer keep up

Drinking — one night, definitely two

Week two was a bit of a mish-mash for me. Steve and I were barking at each other too much, and I didn’t like that. We finally talked and realized we were at very different places of acceptance, and knew that we needed to be more open about how we were feeling.

We both had unexpressed fears, but we also recognized that we expressed ourselves in different ways. We needed to understand that and be empathetic with each other’s way of dealing.

I also continue to live deep inside my head. I read, watch, observe at the best of times, and this pandemic has me engrossed completely. I know it is hard to be with someone who is so ‘in their head,’ especially if you need someone to talk to. Steve is a talker. I’m a thinker. It was a clash this week.

Towards the end of the second week, my emotions took a tumble down too. Because I continue to take on board so much information, I was really grasping the reality of the pandemic globally. I knew that the global response was completely inadequate (which it still is) and I came to terms with a few realities — more people will die than was necessary, and we will be in this situation for longer, all because we don’t have global leadership! That reality definitely started to take a toll on me. I was moving into a place of quiet despair.

Worth a read: Madeleine Albright: Coronavirus Should Be a Wake-Up Call for World Leaders to Work Together.

I definitely think week two is the time I started to face up to the potential long term impact of this situation. That’s not fun when it hits.

On the plus side, I started to reach out and speak to friends — yes me, making phone calls. Me!! I don’t do that a lot in normal times. I have to speak too much during work and I need a break from constant connection. I just can’t do it all the time. It exhausts me.

In these different times, I even set up “Cointreau Hour,” so if any friends wanted to chat, they can and we have a drink, laugh, cry, or whatever is needed. It’s been awesome to reconnect with friends all over the world, many of whom I haven’t spoken to for years. A beautiful, unexpected side-effect of COVID-19.

The third week

Social media activity — jokes getting old and going through two phone batteries a day

Drinking — one night, this drinking thing isn’t taking off for us

The week started off hard. The boys were really flat and Jax was obviously missing his buddies. Lex is fine with isolation, because he’s an independent lad, but even then, he was flat too. Seeing the impact on the boys was hard for Steve and I, so they got lots of loving, and a lot more acceptance of imperfection with school work.

I started feeling overwhelmed with social media too. As The Digital Conversationalist, many many people are communicating with me over various social media channels, and I am missing messages from people I want to hear from, because of the deluge of data coming my way.

I’m also getting too much — of the same jokes in particular — but also online learning courses, businesses pitching me services, and more. A lot of the business stuff coming feels out of alignment with my reality right now, and while I know people want to secure their future, I also want to encourage everyone to be sensitive at this time. Many of us are not ready to consider what you want to sell. We’re just not. And there’s too much of it going on.

My priority right now is my boy’s state of mind, as well as Steve and Vick — who’s speaking with her family in the Philippines every day. We are as concerned for Vick’s family as we are for our own, and in the Philippines, many of them are more at risk.

Outside of my home, it’s our family around the world, as well as my beautiful friends from across my life. I am focused on all of them right now, as well as delving into the world view, as I continue to be absorbed in this moment.

I am definitely living In This Moment our world is facing, so learning how to do something that will help my business doesn’t really matter to me right now. Business as usual is quite jarring for me, and while Steve and I must start to emerge and think about our future, we haven’t been ready to do it yet.

We have no idea what is ahead of us, and we have no safety net either. This is expat life. But I can’t be there right now. I need to be here. In this very moment. That is how I cope with it. With that said, I did have a few hours of productivity this week. It was quite fleeting though…

We are all different, so dig deep into your emotional intelligence and self-awareness skills my friends — they have never been more important. If you find yourself angry all the time, it’s a sure sign you need to dig deep and understand what feeling is underlying your anger. It will make you a better quarantine buddy too.

Another thing that cropped up in week three is sleep. You might need more of it, because it does feel like a way to escape. I had a couple of naps this last week, because I just wanted to escape reality for a little bit, unfortunately when I woke up, the situation remained unchanged. It is almost worth not napping, because waking up and facing reality isn’t very pleasant. The same every morning.

Oh right, this is still real….

Of course, some could say this is a sign of depression. I don’t think I am depressed, however, it’s something for us all to pay attention too, right? Who can blame us, this situation IS fucken depressing!!

Week three ended lighter. We were more at peace as a couple and as a family. Steve and I even made a quick dash to the supermarket for supplies…. Well not really supplies. The boys are now on school holidays and after three weeks of home schooling, they deserved ice cream for movie night. What a hot date with masks and lashings of hand sanitizer!!

Hottest date in town

And now week four comes

I have no idea how I’ll feel this coming week, but I’m ready for whatever comes — good or bad. It is what it is right now.

What I’ve shared here is my experience and it won’t be your experience, but I wanted to share it, because if you are on an emotional roller coaster, just know it’s perfectly OK. This is what this time will be like for so many of us. Hey I know many people who aren’t emotional at all. We are all different.

All I know for sure is the bad days can feel overwhelming, like you can never feel good or positive or happy again. But then they pass and you’re feeling overjoyed, ecstatic, or completely haywire. Then you go into despair, then hope, then doom and gloom, then silliness, then you make a stupid video to make someone else smile, then you hate stupid videos because the last thing you feel like is smiling, and at that moment, the #PositivePants in your social community posts a Meme and yesterday you loved them for it, but today, you want to smash them in the face…

That is this time. It’s a total roller coaster, so get on board for the ride my friends. Highs and lows, fear and elation, thrills and slow finales.

We will get through. We will. If we accept our emotions and don’t run away from them, I reckon we will be better people out the other side too. Do good deeds my friends. Help wherever and whoever you can. Purpose will get you through this too.

Can you relate to this? Or is your experience completely different? I would LOVE to know, so please share if you have it in you. I want to know how my community is being impacted.

With love and kindness

Andrea

Thank you for reading my ramblings. My brain and heart are a work in progress, always. I’d love a comment if it stirred any thoughts or feelings and of course, please feel free to share it with anyone you know who might be interested or entertained. I sure do appreciate it when you do. If you want to connect, I’m on Twitter here, Instagram here, YouTube here, and Facebook too. I share loads of stuff, not just my own xxxxx

Life can be awesome, it can also be tough, a positive attitude doesn't always work, but it's better than being miserable @UncommonAndrea @AndreaTEdwards