Releasing the COVID brake


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“This COVID thing,” “In COVID times,” “COVID life.” 

I listen to language carefully, cataloguing it.

I’ve been listening lately for how people are characterizing these times of trauma, triumph, death, isolation, upheaval, recalibration. How we are trying to get on to the other side of it, which feels to me like scaling a military training wall wondering if there is a 6-foot deep muddy bog on fire on the other side.

I’m not sure I want to make it over, and here I am trying.

No matter what I want, really. 

With the vaccines, we collectively find ourselves emerging from what I have begun to think of as the COVID cocoon.

Like a caterpillar, since I’ve been in here I have been more fluid than solid. I have gone interior. I have been safe. I have lived in the comforting ambiosis of my physical health, of the love and acceptance of my family. I have been nourished by exercise, simple pleasures and my oft-visited gratitude list. I consistently melted down my normal ambitiousness. I reduced my normal chutzpah. I retreated from crowds, from friends. 

And I applied the COVID brakes to my dreams, to the dearest desires that got me here.

The COVID brakes describe the way we all collectively agreed to live — restricted, removed, dubious, with caution. After more than a year of this approach, muscle and spiritual memory sets in and is impossible to just shake off.

With my COVID brakes on, I took my dreams and set them aside and told them, “later.” I applied the brakes to the dreams I held for a world without hate, without wars, without violence and harm. 

Survival seemed to rest upon being aware in the moment. 

Now, it would seem, it’s time to think about disengaging the brakes. 

Safety only allows for minute growth.

But first, I must reconstitute my soppy self, mesh together the rearranged and diluted soup of me into some post-pandemic form I am happy with. Everything is touching everything else in a random order in this viscous place. What was normally done and enjoyed is now only an occasional thing and not missed. What was required before is optional and fleeting now. So what deserves to return, and what is ready to get tossed? And in what order?

As if that complex, emotional process was not enough, then I have to figure out how to release the COVID brake. Doing so feels like driving stick on a hill in San Francisco with the hand brake engaged. I’m sweaty and nervous about disengaging too quickly, but going too slow will strip the clutch and overheat the car. All the while, my mind keeps screaming at me to find the balance between the clutch and the gas so I don’t roll all the way back down or crash into the guy behind me.

After a year of stress, it’s stressful yet again. 

We’re all doing this at the same time, but in our own ways and with the realities of what has transpired in the last year weighing upon us and shifting our options for reinvention. 

If you are like me, and feel the pressure to figure it all out fast, I’ll offer up my approach.

Slow down.

That’s not advice I actually like — for myself or anyone else.

There’s a big part of me that just wants to hurry up and throw myself into this beast so I can get through it quicker. I’ve already given up enough of my time and energy on this pandemic, damn it.

And yet, I’m being led to slow down. To push back against the frantic feeling, the whisper to cobble things together in some speedy “good enough” way that allows me to go-go-go again.

When I slow down, I see that go-go-go me just isn’t there anymore. She’s changed, been enriched, softened up in the soup. 

I know, in the deeper me, I can only do this in slow motion. With faith and not with sight. (Darn it again!)

I know it might ache and require a lot of breath and grace as I stumble clumsily along. 

Yet, the only way I can find the beat of my heart is through the beat of my steady footfalls on the path as I go. 

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