Couplespeak™ Blog

“If You’re Hitting a Wall You’re Not Alone”

(This CNN article was just forwarded to me by my cousin who is an avid reader, staying afloat in quarantine as a single person through her endless curiosity for information and ideas. I thought the article perfectly captured the dilemmas we all face now in this pandemic, and I couldn’t have covered it any better, so I’m sharing it with you here).

Opinion by Jill Filipovic

Updated 11:11 AM ET, Wed April 29, 2020

(CNN) 

Are you losing your mind in quarantine? Because I am losing my mind in quarantine.

It can feel trite, even crude, to talk about our own discomforts, frustrations and longings in the midst of a pandemic that has infected more than three million people worldwide and killed more than 200,000 including nearly 60,000 in the United States, with numbers climbing. 

Across the globe, families are grieving friends, family and community members. Husbands, wives, children, parents and partners are saying goodbye via iPad, unable to hold a loved one’s hand in their final moments. It’s a grim, ghastly time.

Those of us who are just stuck in self-isolation, and not hooked up to a respirator or the next-of-kin of someone who is, are the lucky ones. And no, what’s being asked of us is not excessive: We just need to stay home.

So why does this feel so hard?

Around the world, people report feeling stressed, anxious and generally discombobulated by this whole mess. Parents and other caregivers for young children are particularly stretched thin. People have canceled trips, concerts, weddings; new babies are being brought up without the help of extended family or community members; big life milestones like graduations go publicly uncelebrated. We miss the friends and family we can’t see. We miss dinners out, parties in, museums, live music, theater, even the gym. 

I miss being able to walk through my neighborhood without the stress of staying six feet away from bikers, joggers, cooped-up children gone wild on scooters, and other pedestrians.

It’s not just working from home. I’ve worked from home for close to a decade, in many different cities and multiple countries. But the general rules of work-from-home life no longer apply. For example: Do something social, or at least that forces you to interact with other human beings, every day, even if that’s just going to the grocery store or the gym. Or: Create a separate dedicated workspace, even if it’s only a particular cushion on your couch; reserve your bed for sleeping (and other recreational activities). Or: Get outside at least once a day.

That’s all harder when your whole family is stuck inside on top of each other; when there are no gyms to go to; when, at least in dense cities, even going for a walk outside is a stressful (and masked) experience.

No, we are not being asked to go to war or survive one. But what we are being asked to do is profoundly antithetical to our natures as human beings; it is profoundly destabilizing and difficult. There is little more human than the desire for connection, touch, stimulation and novelty. This is all so hard because in going without those things, it’s not hyperbole to say we have to find new ways of being — or at least feeling — human.

Esther Perel, a psychotherapist and best-selling author, tells viewers in a brief but compelling video for The New York Times that it’s no wonder we are feeling a sense of grief and anxiety. It’s not just that we’re missing out on travel, dates, or dinners. It’s that we’re also losing the meaning behind all of those things. A date isn’t just a date; it’s the possibility of a romantic future. A trip isn’t just a trip; it’s a new and stimulating experience, a chance to understand oneself in a different context, an opportunity to see things that before you could have only observed through a screen. A dinner out isn’t just a dinner out; it’s a moment of indulgence, pleasure and connection with the person across the table. A longing to hug a friend, a loved one, a far-away child, your mom is more than just “I want a hug” — it’s a primal and fundamental longing for the way touch is so often short-hand for everything we don’t find the words to say.

Even in the midst of catastrophe — war, natural disaster, destruction — human beings continue to forge connections; we perhaps especially forge connections in the most trying of times so we can survive. In the most dire of circumstances — in war zones and refugee camps, in towns leveled by earthquakes and communities pocked by violence — people create art, paint in bright colors, plant seeds. They play music. They feed their beloveds. They tell stories. They fall in love.

The isolation that this pandemic has forced upon us doesn’t prevent all of those things, but it certainly hinders them. In the days after September 11, 2001, New Yorkers defied stay-at-home suggestions to congregate in bars and restaurants; the city teemed with life and energy (and, for once, not with car horns — a little bit of softness in the aftermath of such brutality). That collective gathering was very much a collective middle finger to those who attacked us: No, we are not scared. Yes, we are still here, and guess what? We’re going to live.

What is being asked of us now is not quite so satisfying; it does not meet our need, in a time of anxiety and grief, to come together and seek comfort. To touch each other. To even smile at a stranger — you can’t see a person’s expression behind a mask.

Compared to illness and death, these are small things. Being alive matters more, and so of course we have to continue to live this way for as long as is necessary to keep ourselves and others safe and healthy.

But it’s also OK to grieve the pieces of life that we’re missing, to express the feeling so many of us have that we can’t take it anymore. It’s necessary to understand that missing the fullness of life, including pleasure and connection, doesn’t make us selfish. Feeling destabilized and disoriented or pushed to a breaking point doesn’t make us flaky or weak. It makes us human.

And perverse as it may sound, those of us who are anxious, frustrated and disoriented can be grateful for that exact experience — in disorienting and disconnected times, this reaction is a rational one. It means we’re warm. We love. We’re curious. We seek pleasure, and we revel in it when we experience it. It means we live.

Next 20 Minute BlogTalk Radio Podcast Sunday, 11/24 8:30 PM EST: “Take the Dread Out of the Holidays with Some Simple Strategies”

Don’t miss this next BlogTalk Radio podcast!
In this 20 minute episode I’ll share my insights about some of the common sources of holiday related anxiety and stress, and how being proactive and intentional can transform the season.

If you have a history of some really negative experiences related to the holidays, and struggle with how to make it all more manageable, even magical, then this episode is for you! I’ll help you see how some simple planning, realism, and clear boundaries can make all the difference. You’ll see how you alone, or you and your spouse may have the power to turn it all around to meaning, connection and joy.

Call in live with questions or comments at 877-497-9046. If you can’t make this (first ever) Sunday night podcast while it’s happening, you can stream it at your convenience anytime at www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager.

Hope one way or the other you can join me!

Susan

I’ve Reached a Milestone! Feedspot Top 100 Marriage Counseling Blogs! Yay!!!!

If you look carefully at this badge you’ll see that Feedspot has named my blog as one of the top 100 Marriage Counseling blogs on the internet! This is a big deal, as I seem to be in the company of some real big shots like John Gottman and Sue Johnson, world famous therapists and authors of several best selling books. Little ole me! (Here’s the list link, in case you think I’m pulling your leg): http://blog.feedspot.com/marriage_counseling_blogs/

This is an example of how when passion and determination intersect, you can accomplish things you never would have believed you could. In my case I started out not even knowing how to turn on a computer about ten years ago – really! But I was determined to share some things that I did know in an effort to market my business, and empower others through psychological information I’ve acquired about relationships.

In the process I discovered that I absolutely love to write, even though the writing may not always come out so smoothly. I also discovered that the technological functions needed to maneuver around a blog and website aren’t all rocket science! I taught myself how to upload and download, insert links and widgets, adjust different design elements, and even in some cases how to manage HTML code!

I must admit that some of my biggest meltdowns have been internet related, especially when I didn’t have a clue about what the problem was or how to fix it. A few years ago in the midst of writing a compelling blogpost I accidentally spilled a fresh white wine spritzer onto my laptop, and bang! Blogpost vaporized and no more laptop! So, it’s been a bit of a rocky road getting to this point, but there’s no stopping me now – I have so much I’ve learned over many years of working with individuals and couples, such great information I’ve accumulated through trainings and mentors, fantastic things I’ve learned from books and podcasts, and some real bits of wisdom I’ve picked up from other blogs. (Not to mention some vital life experiences of my own)…

So, whether your passion is writing, styling hair, building bridges, or breeding dogs, honor it with time, teachers and patience, and you’ll be giving yourself and others a precious gift.

Cheers,

Susan                                                                                                                                                                       

PS.  Another admission: I still haven’t figured out how to find the time to respond to the thousands of comments I get on my posts. Readers are so courteous, smart, helpful and supportive, and I hate the idea of using automated responses. It seems cold and rude. Time continues to be the enemy, as I also love my full time job as a psychotherapist, and am not about to give that up until they drag me away in a cart. So, if you’ve left an unanswered comment, please forgive me, but know how much your feedback means to me!

Talk About Being Thankful!

IMAGE_00087-2

If you live in the Northeast and your landscape looked anything like this on Thanksgiving, chances are the experience of gratitude took on a whole new meaning this year! When was the last time you felt extremely thankful for having the prerogative to wash your hands with warm running water, or to flush a toilet after doing your business? Or, have you felt thankful for the ability to roast a turkey in the oven properly and not heat up a measly chicken on the grill, after mushing through a foot of snow to get there? Do you routinely want to marry the generator repairman just because he shows up in a timely way? (This time, in the middle of Thanksgiving day!) Are you very grateful when your quirky family shows up, alive? How about feeling thankful for having lights and heat on, simultaneously? Well, I sure was this holiday!

Maybe the universe laughed at us, delivering a big message in an inconvenient but timely way, wacking us with a N’oreaster right in the middle of a holiday geared toward being more thankful. Message understood, thank you…. 

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Susan Lager

I am a licensed, board certified pyschotherapist and relationship coach in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Through my psychotherapy or coaching services, I can provide you with skills and tools to transform your life.

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