How we get back up

“So how’s your pandemic going today?” My friend Janyce asks me this every time we talk.

For the first time in our lives, we know what everyone is going through. Literally everyone. We know what is first on their minds because it’s first on our minds too. And clearly none of us signed up for this! Whether you’re a single parent, empty-nester, multi-generation household,  or are sheltering with roommates, this unwelcome “damn-pemic” as Janyce calls it – has forced some major life shifts for us all, and some drastic decisions – with zero warning! Millions have lost their jobs, become new essential workers, or drawn the straw as head of a home-schooling household.

Through no fault of our own, we have collectively “fallen” as result of Covid-19. In fact to me it feels more like a free-fall from high altitude, with no visible landing pad in sight.

As a personal life coach, I try to practice what I preach. When I have success, I celebrate and try to process the steps I took for future attempts. When I feel stuck, I ask for help. And when I fall – which has happened a lot lately – I try to learn from that too, try not to beat myself up, and try to get back up again.

And that’s what I want to talk about. The “getting back up” part.

Not the fun kind of freefall

For my 21st birthday, my sister surprised me with skydiving lessons. The most frightening part was the 30-second freefall that starts the minute you jump from the plane. It’s a feeling I’ll never forget. As you nosedive at 120mph, it’s a natural instinct to grab for anything to halt the plummet. Those split seconds between my grapple for stability and acceptance of the freefall, was a feeling I’ve had again since the Covid began. It’s a gut-sucking, plunging sensation that both feels and says “there is nothing to grab, you are going to keep falling.” It’s a random, unexpected, cartwheel feeling. It isn’t fun.

First you float, then you land

We humans have a remarkable capacity for survival. Whatever the crisis, we seem to bravely rise to the occasion, accepting our momentary freefall.

It’s the same way with Covid. As we face daily uncertainties and continue putting one foot in front of the other, through the fog there eventually appears a rip cord we hadn’t noticed before. With one firm pull we breathe a huge sigh of relief, our days begin to feel more stable, our immediate future a bit less frightening. Our pace has slowed, we are thinking more clearly, and the ground is coming into view. The awful freefall is behind us and we’ll soon be landing safely.

Feeling grounded again

Pema Chodron is an American Tibetan Buddhist and best-selling author of When Things Fall Apart and Welcoming the Unwelcome. She says “within our moments of greatest suffering lies a treasure trove of gifts, if we choose to see them and use them.”

It is helpful to remember that any painful life event, once lived, can offer a position of greater wisdom and strength, which we can share with others from our newfound place of “knowing”. Within experiences just like Covid, we can find these gifts as Chodron describes, from which our path to recovery can begin again. We have been here before – have known pain and uncertainty on some level many times. The initial confusion and fear are familiar to us, albeit unsettling. 

Here we are freefalling again, but before long that ripcord comes into view, and we know what to do next. Soon we’re safely back on the ground and ready to get back up again.

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