Don’t Forget to Open Yourself Back Up in Phases, Too

Picture this: it’s the end of June 2020 and those of us in Upstate New York are beginning to rub our sleepy, excited eyes as the world around begins to “open back up.” Three and a half long months of the Stay-at-Home orders and in the words of Kristen Wigg in Bridesmaids “[we are] reeeeeeeady to parrrteeeeeeeey.” I will admit right away that I am one of those individuals who is leaning more on the cautious side (no surprise there), as I am not quite ready to get back out there and “return to normal.” Speaking of that phrase, I would like to also acknowledge that what we are returning to is not, and will not be for a very long time (if ever) back to our known“normal.” In fact, I wrote a blog post on the very topic at the start of this all, asking everyone that we DO NOT return to the way things were. (That post conveniently linked here if you’d like to take a look.) It’s safe to say that we’ve all been experiencing a collective trauma, the world that we knew, our loved ones, parts of our identities were stripped away from us with [arguably] very little notice. I also recognize that there are polarized political views that have bubbled to the surface surrounding the “return to normal” roll-out: how soon is too soon, how cautious is too cautious, to wear a mask or… just wear the mask, please!! But, I’m not here to necessarily discuss the political aspects (at least in this post). Today I’m writing about a different need that I honestly haven’t heard too many people discussing yet:

The fact the we need to open ourselves back up in phases, too.

What do I mean? With the temptation to “get back out there” coercing us with each new phase that we enter, I am beginning to wonder if each one of us needs to take a moment to think about our own personal re-open plan. If we each need to be holding our own “daily news briefings” with ourselves to check-in, process, and learn how to better identify our needs as the world around us shifts, yet again. Although some of the impending fear has lifted, many of the stressors that we were facing have not yet been resolved. The impact of each of our individual situations is still existing on a, very slippery, sliding scale that just so happens to be based on a bajillion number of factors. We. are. still. processing. Regardless of your current employment, financial, childcare, food & housing security, emotional well-being realities, I would be shocked to find out that most of you reading this are thinking “Actually Julia, I’m completely well-adjusted and have finished processing, thank you so much for asking. Next topic!”

As many of you may know, I am an introvert. A social introvert that can admittedly be very chatty at times, but nonetheless I need quiet time and space to recharge. If you are new to the idea of tuning into your energy levels, you may be thinking “Julia are you nuts? You have had three months of quiet time and space to recharge.” Unfortunately for me, my energy levels are not equitable to that of a high-tech, reliable solar powered path light that can juice up during the day and shine bright for the ENTIRE night, rain or [moon]shine. I would liken my energy levels to the 28 year old solar powered path light that shines super bright some nights and is barely visible other nights. The solar powered path light that will change in its effectiveness based on temperature, weather conditions, and how many animals are crowding around casting shadows. THAT is a more accurate description of how I recharge and manage my energy. So, you could imagine that when navigating the current shit-storm (pardon my french — I think this is my first swear word in a blog post but I feel that is the only accurate depiction of our current world), my energy levels have been variable, at best.

Just as service-based businesses who have opened back up are experiencing an inordinate amount of traffic/requests/appointments, I have experienced a significant increase in the amount of invitations to social events with family and friends. And let me be clear, I have missed my family and friends SO much. Although I myself have been following the slow re-open guidelines, this past weekend was back-to-back with either errands or stopping by small (less than 10 people, masked) get-togethers. And I began to feel it again. The moment of overwhelming stress of a busy weekend, that was my baseline level of stress up until quarantine. I told myself that I could not return to that same level of activity post-quarantine and that I needed to begin to say no to things. I refuse to return to the practice of wearing my “busy” as badge of honor. (Shout out to Brené Brown, my thought-leader and guru, for teaching me THAT phrase.)

I slipped into this exhausting dance of trying to balance four contradicting feelings: 1. My own internalized people-pleasing pressure to say yes to things I am invited to, 2. Happiness, as I have genuinely wanted to see these humans for the past three months, 3. The pulsating, persistent feeling of guilt while thinking “Julia how can you feel overwhelmed right now? You literally have wanted to see these people for the past three months, how could you want to say no?” 4. The little sliver of fear poking at my pre-frontal cortex saying ” Uhmm excuse me, you’re decision making center has been fully developed for a handful of years now… but … are you sure you’re making the right decision?”

And then it hit me: I need to be opening myself back up in phases, too. This next chapter is going to take time. This next chapter is going to take energy. I cannot expect myself to begin to fill my calendar again, even IF all of the activities are safe, socially distanced, and with mask wearing folks. Furthermore, I do not want to return to the practice of “busy as a badge of honor.” So, I write this for three reasons.

  1. To hopefully inspire you to take a moment to check in with yourself and think of a phased re-open plan that feels most comfortable for you.
  2. To share my current challenges in the hopes of at least one of you will feel not as alone, knowing that I, too, am experiencing that uncomfortable dance to balance conflicting emotions.
  3. To hold myself accountable to actually follow through with my goal of no longer wearing my “busy” as a badge of honor.

If you made it this far, thank you. And until the next time, be well!

Xx Julia

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