An iso exit strategy . . .

Recently while on a zoom chat with a young Master 6, I asked him how he was feeling about going back to school. His reply was to the effect of: “I’m nervous. I don’t really want to go back.” So we talked a little bit about what he was feeling nervous about, and why. He explained to me that he liked school (for the brief experience that he had been there) and that he had made some friends, but that he was still a bit scared, although he couldn’t really explain why, other than that he likes being at home with his mum.

I didn’t really know where to go with that . . . other than to focus on the positive aspect that he had made some friends at school. So I asked him to tell me about some of the fun things he remembers doing with those friends, in an attempt to encourage him with the idea that in remembering those times maybe that will help him to be less nervous about returning to school, because he can enjoy those friendships again. Our conversation ended shortly after that.

Afterwards, as I reflected on our conversation, contemplating why I had not found anything more tangible to help Master 6 in his dilemma, I was prompted to consider my own feelings around the ‘coming’ ease of restrictions and realised that maybe I needed to ask myself the same questions I had asked of Master 6.

For me I’ve had the blessing of going to work three days a week, a weekly connection with friends who have their own grocery shop, a selection of friends to hang out with one at a time (in my 5km radius) for an hour of exercise, and now as a single person I get to have a Bubble Buddy. But in the anticipation of restrictions easing, I find myself contemplating how will I ‘navigate’ bigger environments? The ‘onslaught’ of the masses in and around me, be they with me and for me, or just passing by me, am I somewhat just like Master 6, nervous and not wanting to ‘go back?’ Have I become somewhat ‘used to’ and as a result ‘attached to’ being at home on my own, only connecting in person with one at a time?

On one hand it’s been quite convenient not having to go out for evening meetings after a long day at work (social and fun as they are), but instead to be able to just log in online. Then once the meeting is finished, not to have to drive home (especially in those winter months of the rain and cold) but instead just move from one room to another. And yet on the other hand, the benefits that come with eliminating travel times comes at a cost of eliminating in person connection and communication. While online interaction can sometimes be hindered by a poor internet connection, it is always hindered by way of the fact that technology cannot provide for us to the same degree what ‘in person’ interaction can. So do the benefits really outweigh the costs? I think not!

So then, what am I nervous about? I don’t really know. So then as with Master 6, I think about my friends I haven’t seen ‘in person’ since February (or longer because Christmas, New Year, School Holidays and then starting the school year is a busy season), but I remember the good times we have enjoyed together. The hugs and Hi-5’s as we meet, the stories and the laughs as we catch up over coffee, lunch or whatever the arrangement may be. Then there’s all the incidental interactions as a result of being out and about in various spaces and places. Not to mention the idea of being free to travel wherever and whenever I choose to. Maybe it’s a bit of overwhelm at what I (and all of us) have gone without (physical touch for one and the resulting skin hunger), and as a result feeling somewhat depleted, and yet at the same time while wanting such restrictions to ease, it stirs up feelings of angst as to how to reintroduce those aspects back into my life without feeling over indulgent and overwhelmed to the point of regret. Sort of (but not really) like a belly ache at the end of Christmas Day.

While there will be many who are ready to launch straight back in to all that ‘no restrictions’ (or significantly less restrictions) means we can take up again, I wonder how many are out there like me, contemplating how to navigate their path at their own desired pace.

In a world that is used to moving at such a high speed pace, to be brought to a grinding halt, to then be released again, I wonder how much faster will the world be as it seeks to catch up on all that it has lost through this time declared as ‘a pandemic’ and all its resulting restrictions.

What about the positive aspects (for many) that have been gained from the experience as a result of being forced to slow down? Will we quickly forget them and thereby lose those gains, in exchange for other gains (material or otherwise) that we perceive to be greater, or maybe just more necessary or essential? Yet it was in losing access to the latter (through restrictions) that we discovered (or rediscovered) some basic foundations, and in those things found a new and deeper level of meaning and value.

In considering all of this, two memories come to mind. Here’s one:

In 2013 I was a volunteer / missionary in Mozambique for 5 months. I lived in a beachside town, with ‘my house’ literally just metres away from the shore line. Through the night I could hear the sound of the water as the tide moves in and out, and the voices of the night fishermen singing as they work. It was like having my very own sleep/meditation crew.

As I searched through my photos, once again I found myself thinking I didn’t click that camera as many times as I thought I had. But I’m fairly sure this image is one of ‘my beach’ with ‘my house’ being at about midway along on the other side of the trees.

But my point is this, many times as I swam in this water I was amazed at its temperature which allowed me to walk straight in without hesitation, like that of stepping into a bath. A stark contrast to the beaches here in Australia, that regardless of the time of year, I never walk straight in to, but instead rather hesitantly and slowly dip my toes in and out a few times, until I can wade in up to my ankles, slowly walking in as the water level works its way up my legs. Then there’s the big move of going in up to my waist (unless you’re one to go ‘all in’ at that point), which some do, but for me I’m a ‘bit by bit’ kind of person. But then I have also been known to surprise myself, call on those 15 seconds of courage, and just ‘dunk’ myself in. But however we do it, what matters is that we each get there in such a way that we can then be there comfortably, with the option of getting out if and when we choose to do so.

Whether it’s in regard to navigating your way into the icy cold waters at the beach, or the warm welcoming company of friends and acquaintances, do it in such a way that you are comfortable with. If you’re ready to just jump straight in, then enjoy that as you do you. But if that’s not you, then try dipping your toes in and out a few times as much as you need to, then when you’re ready to, wade in a little deeper, all the while knowing that you are free to leave if you choose to. How deep you go, how far you go, and at whatever pace you go, is your choice, and 100% up to you.

And so my iso exit strategy is a strategy to enter in . . .

Here’s some advice from the ocean:

Be shore of yourself.
Come out of your shell.
Take time to relax and coast.
Avoid pier pressure.
Sea life’s beauty.
Don’t get tide down.
Make waves!

Author Unknown

#helenpowellpens #covid19 #coronavirus #isolation #ISO #pandemic #wellness #wellbeing #mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealth #mentalhealthmatters #anxious #anxiety #anxietyrelief

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