Lessons Learned in Self Isolation #1: F@#*ing First Times

It’s all so up and down!  Yesterday, I was good.  Kev and I went for a bike ride.  The kids and I played Cards Against Humanity for my first time.  I was laughing so hard I was crying (it is a wildly inappropriate game).  We had a lovely dinner and watched a movie.  And then last night, I was agitated, restless and wanting to be alone. Hard to do in a house with 5 other people (no personal space or time) and practicing social distancing. Outings are reduced to just the essential, grocery shopping even carries a low level of anxiety about it, my entire family is stuck at home, kids are frustrated because they can’t see their friends, I am now apparently “homeschooling”, and I have had to switch my home-based business into entirely virtual within a week. On top of all of the COVID related issues, my husband’s family has experienced two deaths in the last 3 weeks and we can’t be there to help. With all of this, somedays are great!  I feel motivated and content and accepting of it all.  And then, in a flash, it is all I can do to get out of bed and get going…get up and shower, eat something other than sweet sugary carbs, hold yoga classes and coaching sessions, exercise, read, play music, try to clean my house, make a healthy meal, spend time with the family. And I know that I am not alone, even now when I am feeling alone. This time we are in is a crazy roller coaster of emotions.  Yesterday, I was posting photos of how much I loved my family and this morning I was requesting alone time.  I had initially thought self-isolation was an introvert’s dream but today it definitely doesn’t feel like it. I need some space people! I have no time in the house to myself. There are only so many baths a person can take. And as the morning progressed, I started to notice my signature stress M.O. start to kick in…

“Something is the matter with Kev. Something doesn’t feel right.” 

“The kids need to get outside today. Right now, in fact!” (as all the teenagers are sleeping at 8:45 am on a Sunday)

“The house needs cleaning. It’s so messy. I hate ALWAYS spending my mornings cleaning up after everyone!”

And on that voice goes. So I did clean the kitchen, and do the dishes, and make cinnamon rolls (still struggling with the sweet sugary carb issue) but this morning instead of letting my “Righteous Nun” voice (as I call her) run amok, I recognized her (seriously a huge win!!) and decided to put on a podcast to distract me from my own rantings. I listened to Brene Brown’s new podcast, Unlocking Us. As it happens so often when I’m in a state like this, it feels like I’ve turned on this particular message and Brene, herself, has written it just for me. She’s talking about FFTs. What are FFTs you ask? First, definitely listen to this podcast. She delivers the message much better than I will be able to but, as a far second, I’ll give you the gist.

FFT stands for Fucking First Time. And she talks about how when we are doing something for the first time, it is an incredibly vulnerable place to be. It doesn’t matter if it’s something small, like learning to use a Pelaton (as she describes…I’ve never been on one of those torture machines myself) or something big like having to stay in your house indefinitely, with all of your family cooped up together, losing all of your favourite activities, and social networks, and feeling a bit overwhelmed. And it’s all uncertain and no one can tell you the timeline of when it will be over!  

So I realized that the agitation and restlessness I was experiencing last night, and through to this morning is because I’m in an FFT. All of us are in this COVID FFT. Unprecedented in my lifetime, although the kids did ask me what I did last time this happened to me (according to them, I now lived through the “olden days” as did, obviously, my mom and grandparents). As well as that, I am having to learn the nuances of online streaming and how best to do it. I woke up thinking I should’ve made the new session shorter…would 3 weeks have been better? or 4? how am I going to stream to the people that live out of town when we are allowed to go back to in-person classes? do I tape my phone up high on the windowsill and point it down at me, while trying to respect the privacy of the people in the class now? why did I drop my prices? my monthly income is going to be too low! In my head, there continues a relentless stream of doubt and uncertainty, questioning the decisions I made and had to make, quickly and without much to go on. I’ve never done this before! Hence, the FFT.

So now what to do with this information? I’m in an FFT. Brene’s first suggestion is Name the FFT. So in the above example I am taking my business from in-person to virtual overnight. Then 3 steps: 

1. Normalize it. Talk about how it feels. She speaks of the myth that if you speak of something, it will gain power. She is very adamant that this is NOT true, backed up by all sorts of data, of course, cuz it’s Brene Brown. My personal experience on this is that talking about it actually inspires others to share their similar experiences with you. So, hopefully, you read this and know that you are not alone. This is hard. 

2. Get perspective. This is not going to be forever. Everyone is in the same boat. In regards to my small business changes, everyone is learning new technology. I spoke to my guitar teacher and a whole lesson was spent with a client of his trying to get the audio working on Zoom. A friend of mine in school for massage therapy is now enrolled in distance learning, not what he signed up for. These challenges will not last forever. And God willing, we will actually learn some new skills and get better at it.

3. Reality check expectations.- I am going to have technical difficulties. I am going to forget to record a class (already happened). I am going to feel nervous for a bit at the beginning of every class. It feels weird teaching to a phone and that’s just ok for now. The kids’ school days are going to be interrupted and it will take some time to find a new routine, a new way of learning. They, too, will have breakdowns. And now that I’ve identified my own, I will have more empathy and patience for them when they come to me.

So this morning, after a rough night, a cranky morning, a perspective-changing podcast and of course, a cry on my husband’s shoulder while my daughter held my hand (thanks Moll) I now actually feel better. And I hope that reading this helps you to feel better too. My call to action is that you have a listen to Brene Brown’s podcast (Unlocking Us Episode 1) and to be patient with yourself and others (me included if you’ve signed up for any yoga classes with me!) in this global FFT. And I’d love to hear your roller coaster experience during this time so please leave a comment.