Coronavirus Coping: Strategy #1

clouds by Lÿv Jaan, from back when we could go outside.

So, we’re going to be home for the foreseeable future.

I’m aware that my mind and body can’t actually reconcile with the scope of what is occurring right now (if yours can, and you haven’t collapsed from the weight of it yet, please get in touch). So, instead, I’ve witnessed myself jump straight to my defense mechanism:

This defense mechanism, aka coping strategy, was honed a few years ago when I had a migraine and extreme muscle pain throughout my body from OCTOBER 2015 TO OCTOBER 2016 — literally. It never stopped. FOR A YEAR. (See all those capitals? That’s my attempt to express to you how insane that was. Caveat: it doesn’t do the trick.)

I self-isolated back before all the cool kids were doing it. For a full year. And I did it in pain. And I’m still around, so — I’ll leave the medical to the experts, but at least from a psychological perspective — I can tell you:

sun breaking through, by Martina Vitáková

The thing about finding the silver lining is this: whatever is happening in life is happening, and we don’t have any control over it. What we have command over is how we engage with the thing that is happening.

I’m a deeply semantic person (thanks, English teacher mom and Ethics teacher dad 😒). I see a huge difference between ‘for a reason’ and ‘the way they need to.’ Reason implies that there is some being with human-like reasoning behind everything. NEED implies, to me, a natural intelligence — like the ways that bees and flowers are tangled up together to sustain both of their existences. Human beings are the only living animals capable of fighting against natural intelligence. But on an individual level, we can make a choice.

When Korra struggled with airbending, it was because she fought the flow. The only way to gain command is to be able to pivot with what is, instead of fighting it.

I believe that in D&D they even have a category for this that you can level up points in—they call it flexibility. Building a character in a game is just like building your character in reality: You can enhance your ability to pivot. That’s what we’re really practicing when we practice yoga: not the ability to touch our toes, but the ability to move from one shape, one moment, to the next — without warning, and without losing our balance.

It isn’t easy. (Korra sucked at it at first; so do the rest of us.) Here’s the thing about dancing with what is, no matter how much it sucks: you don’t have to be able to describe why it needs to be this way. Why = reasoning. You don’t have to like it. But if you’re struggling right now, just like I am, just like we all are, globally — maybe it’s worth giving it a try. Play this game with me:

It isn’t oblivious or unrealistic. It doesn’t belittle the danger of the current situation. Remember that this understanding came, for me, out of unimaginable, constant levels of physical pain for almost exactly 365 days.

Because you have a equal chance of that being true or not true — and given those odds, why not choose to believe the thing that will make you feel more sane?

P.S. After that year of painful self-isolation, when I got better enough to start going out again, guess what I went as for Halloween?

Halloween ’17: The Silver Lining (here pictured with the Blood Countess Elizabeth Bàthory) Avant-pop art bender — obsessed with culture, mental health, feminism, queerness + travel.