Guest post by Judy Freed
The Power of This Pause
For just a moment, there is a pause.
A pause from the years of well-intended, ill-informed inquiries:
“So, what have you been up to lately? What do you do for fun? See any good movies? Go anywhere exciting? Get together with any friends?”
For this moment, nobody is asking me these questions. Instead, there is an awareness that “normal” day to day life has been interrupted. The questions now are almost always something like: “How are you doing?” “How are you holding up?” “Are you ok?”
Finally – questions that make sense to me; questions I can answer without collapsing into a too-often told tale of flaw/failure/futility. Now – I can talk more of feeling and less of doing, without fear of being judged for it. Now, it is commonly understood that I have not gone anywhere in particular or done anything terribly exciting – Understood because everyone else is temporarily in the same boat. And in some ways, it is a relief to share this communal isolation.
Still, though, I remain largely invisible. Most other people are noticing – for the first time – the experience of days and nights and days and nights with little or no human touch/ no social gatherings/ nowhere in particular to go/ no consistent distraction from whatever it is that might be arising from within.
For me – I know this territory, having inhabited it initially (over a decade ago) with the same shock and disorientation, eventually easing into a rhythm that somehow sustains me.
As I watch others publicly posting comments about not knowing what day it is, or not bothering to wear clothing, or not being able to resist eating more than might be appropriate, or feeling like they are losing their sanity because their “social being” needs are not being met – I get it. I’ve been there. And something in me wants to scream at the top of my lungs: “Get over it! You’ve been experiencing this for a few weeks. Do you have any idea how many of us have been living this way, and will continue to live this way – long after you have resumed your socially satisfying, dashingly dressed, sufficiently scheduled lives?”
The unleashed anger leaps out like a fiery flame, surprising me in its unsympathetic fury. It screams: “Do you mean to tell me that all this time I could have been given healthcare appointments without having to put myself in environments that stir up severe symptoms?” And “Do you mean to tell me that all this time I could have been invited to participate in a plethora of personal, professional, and performance gatherings, without having to expose myself to countless chemicals and scent-saturated situations?” And then the big burning bang of blame: “Do you realize that if you had just been willing to accommodate my requests for being fragrance-free, I would not have needed to live a socially distant life?”
Then just as sudden as the rising of rage, swiftly comes the sadness -the grief underneath, the longing for what has been lost and cannot be re-claimed. The years of hands not held, hugs neither given nor received, experiences not experienced.
And here is where this all starts to sound so strongly self-indulgent, as if I am pining for pity. So in case there is any confusion (in my own mind or yours) – I’m deeply aware of the suffering all around me, as people everywhere are dying and distant and in dire desperation. While I wouldn’t mind some compassion and kindness, I do not mean to paint a poor-me picture. That is not the lens through which I generally see the world or my life.
I hope, instead, to portray a perspective of possibility, patience, presence, perseverance, and ultimately peace. I aspire to be a vessel for the sharing of gifts, guidance, and grace. And so, I will close with these offerings of awareness and prayer: All – yes, all – is temporary. And tomorrow’s story has not yet been written. And who I am today, how I show up to the currently unfolding circumstances, how I do or don’t open my heart to all of it, how many blessings I observe and give thanks for – these are the things that shape the path ahead.
May we stay open. May our conversations connect us ever more deeply. May this powerful pause serve to awaken, to renew, to transform.
And if you ever ask me what I’ve been doing for fun lately – rest assured that I will simply smile serenely, while skilfully suppressing the urge to swat you. And I will continue dreaming of the day when I am gloriously greeted with: “Tell me about how you are being a rock star of resilience”.
Judy Freed is a theater artist, musician, dancer, writer, and psychotherapist. She is passionate about using creative expression, theater, and performance to build community, break down barriers, and reveal the common threads that weave our stories together. More information about her therapy work and her art can be found at her website: judyfreedhealingarts.com