Stranger Days #2: Use Your Words

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

A person is talking into a tin-can with a string at the bottom of it.
Image Source: Wikimedia
I started a new series yesterday called Stranger Days. I'm thinking of it as one of my own self-help strategies to navigate the things going on around me and how my world (and I'm assuming many others) feel significantly changed since COVID19 has spread in the last three weeks.  Who knows, maybe some folks are right that this will blow over quickly and I'll be amused by where my head is right now. I definitely hope that is the case, but too much of what I'm hearing tells me otherwise since we're in for a one-two punch of pandemic and recession.  

Yesterday's post was focused on trying not to normalize all of this.  Today's post is also focused a bit on language but rather using language to process what is going on.  Two weeks ago, as the severity of the pandemic picked up and I saw many higher education institutions shifting to remote learning as well as demand for my own skill spike in a way that hasn't happened in the 9 years I've been doing instructional design, I found that I had a low-grade adrenaline rush going on.  It stemmed from being a bit anxious about all the changes, but to help me diminish it, I framed it as excitement.  A tactic that I learned a while back that I find quite useful in keeping me steady

Yesterday, I went for a (socially-distanced) walk with a friend who was also needing some mental space to bounce ideas off someone and get in a walk and fresh air at the same time. What I appreciated about talking with my friend was two things relevant to this post.  

The first is that he helped remind me that what is going on, isn't necessarily knew that. I may have known this but the reminder was important.  As he said, what happens next in terms of how this impacts people is just an extension of a longer series of events from the 2016 election to the economic recession of the late 2000s, to many other systems that have systematically privileged some over others to survive and profit from such events.  

The second is that in the way that conversations wind about with friends is that it gave me time and space to process what was going on in my head; we both shared concerns, challenges, and real-things that this is stirring up for us but in a productive space that helped us think about navigating it.  I came to a realization from that conversation that helped me figure out what was going on inside me.  

In the most basic terms, I am scared.  Maybe that's obvious from these first two blog posts.  But it needs saying (or typing?).  My fear is how much this may change my life, my loved ones' lives, and pretty much everyone--not just for the foreseeable future but significantly beyond that.  

So that's a fear that has risen up. I can call it silly. I can call it ridiculous.  I know others will but I also know others are probably feeling it in some degree but aren't speaking to it.  

Why am I afraid?

On the one hand, I don't think how many of us realize just how fragile civilization is. It's built upon the assumptions of millions of different systems operating properly. A pandemic like this and the fear and irrationality it stimulates in many folks quickly shows us the holes in the system.  

Grocery shopping is a prime example. If one is used to going to their grocery store and experiencing nearly endless products, they experienced something quite different now. Even when grocery stores are stocked, my experience has been in the last two weeks, they're not fully stocked. Lots of typical products, produce, and goods are missing and sometimes, most parts of a single aisle (the paper-products aisle).  

And if it were only the grocery store, it could be chalked up to many things but it's not the only system; flights, shops, libraries, many other spaces are no longer available to us.  While the collective closure is good to mitigate COVID19, it's also showing how quickly things that we take for granted can disappear.  

The fear creeps up in realizing that many of these places may never open again and that too will be another crack in the system and wondering how many it can take. Yes, I fully believe we as humans will step up and do our part to get through this, but I don't know if that is enough if the structural features of these systems are in a state of decay or neglect. That is, just like other problems in society (e.g. climate change), individual effort isn't enough; structural effort is needed.  We won't recycle our ways out of this mess.  Or at least, that's what the fear tells me.  

Using My Words

By naming the fear, I'm not necessarily better off in it going away.  But I am better off in pulling back. In fact, in that section above, it would have been useful to share the half-sentences I created and then deleted because I was able to say "is that real or is that the fear speaking."  

In the days to come, I imagine that many of us are going to experience a lot of things. I think it will do us help if we speak to them; to exorcise those demons by putting them out there.  It won't mean that they disappear, but that by speaking to them, we no longer let them run wild in our heads.  

How are you going to speak to the things that are bothering and challenging you?  To the things that haunt your mind, get your adrenaline running, or get you reacting rather than responding? 

Humans are interdependent social creatures and this is a time when we're not so much allowed to do that.  Without as much social presence, it also means not as much body-language. That body-language that we learn to understand about one another, especially those close to us, can often lead us to ask questions and pull out concerns and challenges from people we care about.  But if they're not in our households, we won't see it as much. This is why I labeled this post as such. More than anything else now is going to be a time that we need to use our words.  Use them both to speak to what's going inside ourselves (for our own benefit) but also to help others understand what we need or what we're afraid of.  Although speaking and sharing rarely resolve our needs and fears, they still give us a bit more inner peace, which I'm sure we can all use right now.    

Take care. Be careful. Be care-filled.  Welcome to stranger days.

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.