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I was genuinely surprised last Saturday to find myself seriously swamping at the prospect of a London Lockdown 2.0. I just couldn’t shift out of the quagmire of my heavy thoughts around the new restrictions (even though they’re really not THAT bad right now). Emotionally it felt like I was stuck trying to cross through heavy, treacly, thick mud in flip flops. From my Shrek like vantage point all I could see and feel was a great big unwelcome block on being with people and, well, that does not fill me with sparkle, more like darkle (as my friend recently coined). Luckily I was with Bobster and so distracted myself with an outing to Buckingham Palace to see the Queen’s horses, but, once home the swampy mind mud bubbled away again to remind me it was still there. Bubble bubble toil and trouble…

But do you know what, hurrah for letting myself sit in the swamp, at least for a day! Usually, at the first sign of a dark cloud on the horizon I’ll quickly grab hold of the “everything’s fine” fancy fake smiley mask to hide my locked jaw and seething existential worry & resentment. I’m an absolute pro at pushing down and turning away from “uneasy feelings”, using the excuse that I have to “hold it all together” for my family and work. Who has time to sit in all of that when there are LOTS of things to be done?…. What do they say though, make time for your health today or you’ll be forced to make time for you illness tomorrow.  I cannot just busily flip flop along blindly denying that anything feels wrong if I want to get to the other side of this.  Resilience requires us to first face up to our sh*t.

Mama Gena, author of my absolute favourite book title: “Pussy, A Reclamation”, is a big fan of swamping (aka feeling what we’re feeling and so allowing those feelings to move through us). She says: “intense feelings cause us to grow, just like the rain causes the earth to bloom.”. We each have the human capacity to rebuild from being cracked open by our challenges.  To be reassembled and to grow.  But oh how I resist the cracking open and try to deny that it’s part of my life’s plan, let alone part of the natural recurring cycle of life.  It’s this resistance to what “is” which causes my pain. But isn’t the best part of Easter cracking open the eggs to find out what’s inside?  Perhaps part of the 2020 story is this constant cracking open of new layers to reveal more of what’s true inside; to birth a new way forward for us as individuals and our communities, and trust me, birthing aint pain free. What might bloom from all this mud if we allow ourselves to feel it all and be cracked open by it rather than resist it? (no mud, no lotus right? #thichnahthahn).  

Funnily enough Bob was randomly singing “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” to himself this weekend: “We can’t go over it, We can’t go under it, We just have to go THROUGH it”. Yes indeedy – but this doesn’t mean push past it “come what may”; it doesn’t mean avoid it; and it doesn’t mean camp out in it.  We have to face it fully, complete this stage in the cycle and keep going through to get to the other side.  Or  else, choose to stay stuck swamp swirling. So, on Sunday (after a good night’s sleep) I started to work on how to move through my own mud:

I moved: I made myself a Spotify playlist and danced around like an unhinged woman, literally shaking off the crud (p.s. check out my “Shake the Mud Off” Spotify playlist. It’s decidedly NOT cool and would not be out of place at a bat mitzvah (well maybe less the Pink), but, it does the job, at least for me). The key to this is to REALLY throw yourself around like you REALLY don’t care (put your arms up in the air, legs kicking out) and act like you REALLY want to shake it all off you.  

I questioned my thoughts to look for what IS possible: I started asking myself HOW CAN I/WE still be with each other? To meet, to feast, to celebrate, to connect, to explore, to play- like humanity has from the beginning of time. The “normal” ways aren’t available so we’re being forced to get uncomfortable and try new things out unless we want to be a hermit (which some are relishing; not me).  It turns out there are igloos in London I can still hire out for an outdoor compliant party … mhhh.  And I can’t be with more than 6 people at once? No problem, more parties!  Reaching out for the new possibilities.

I handled my sh*t and got us prepared to spend A LOT of time outside in Winter (if that’s the only way to meet, i’m there!): so, I’m now the proud owner of an outdoor heater, an enviable collection of snug and stylish outdoor clothing and a fancy feathered fedora! I can face anything when I’m prepared for anything (and don’t just bunker down and pretend it’s not happening). Prior preparation allows for fun to be had 😊. And I need to keep the tap of fun fully turned to open and flowing as it allows me to meet life’s challenges with more ease and a smidgen, perhaps, of grace.  I’m not in denial if I take steps to make passing through the mud easier and lighter. It’s ok to bring your wellies.

We spent as much time as possible being outside in nature.  Nature has a way of settling me into a slower, peaceful. patience inducing perspective.  I can see the bigger picture when I’m surrounded by ancient trees.  We didn’t find any bears, though Bobster kept looking.

 

So, dear swampy mind, come here and let me wipe the splattered mud from your glasses so we can see things more clearly: I am NOT a damsel in distress nor doomed to live as Miss Havisham.  My resourceful, resilient, more sparky explorer self has now emerged from my cracked confused façade.  She has a glint in her eye and is ready to hunt out fun and human connection.   Let the bear hunt party continue.

Love,

Lauren  x

P.s. This recent podcast episode with Brené Brown is a GAME CHANGER with actionable tools on how to move through emotional exhaustion.
https://brenebrown.com/podcast/brene-with-emily-and-amelia-nagoski-on-burnout-and-how-to-complete-the-stress-cycle/

P.s.s It’s such a shame we’re all (mostly) working from home in London as one of my favourite things to do is to send friends a copy of “Pussy, A Reclamation” to their office, then, hear their stories about who was around when they opened it.  Yes, I am naughty.  Yes I do like to poke the bear 🙂

P.s.s.s I know that the current London restrictions are minor compared to what others are experiencing around the country and globe. I also think i’m not alone in working through all of the challenges (big and small), and, it’s in this spirit I share this with you today. 

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