This week has been something of a rollercoaster, not just for me but for many of my nearest and dearest too. It seems there is something about being so intensely alone or confined to a space with the same people that turns the volume up on the voice in our heads.
It is proving challenging to work out when that is a helpful thing or a destructive thing, but one thing that is definitely true is that this time feels like putting a magnifying glass on relationships, work, self image and who I want to be in the world after this is over (if it ever is).
This week I have felt joyful, happy, content, angry, sad, bitter, resentful, awkward, embarrassed, ashamed and determined all in the space of a few hours. I commented to a fellow friend in recovery how much it feels like early sobriety, when suddenly the thing you used to numb you from the pain of life is removed and you have to learn to navigate without it.
Right now the tasks, structures, routines and busyness we all use are no longer there and the way I see it is that I have a choice – I can fill every moment of this time with more stuff (which I have been very successfully doing so far) or I can pause for a moment and consider what I want to be in their place.
The trouble with the ‘pause’ is that it is painful. I am starting to see that the way I have been living life is perhaps the reason I have been so unhappy over recent years. I have been like a chameleon, changing my personality and interests, even my looks, to try to fit in then been devastated when I don’t or exhausted from pretending when I do.
I was listening to my often mentioned favourite podcast ‘How to Fail’ yesterday, as Elizabeth Day is doing a series of specials about dealing with this time. This week she had Alain de Botton the philosopher on it. She prefaced the episode with a warning that he would not shy away from the darker aspects of this situation and I immediately found that strangely comforting.
This is challenging and to pretend it isn’t feels like denial. As Alain says, ‘It would be rather strange to not be distressed by this….to be human is to be visited regularly by pretty large stuff which for a time unbalances us, and of course it should and it does and the only response is to cry and to love’
My friend Rachel succinctly calls it ‘being unzipped’.
The truth is I am a bit of a mess, and I am tired of pretending not to be. There is something intensely freeing about that.