“This is the singular, hard truth I come up against every day: I am the only one responsible for my experience.”
― Laura McKowen, We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life
Anger isn’t something I handle well. It creeps up on me, puts me on edge, and before I realize it, I’m snapping and snarking and generally being an unpleasant hater. There’s a lot of that going around during the pandemic, as witnessed by the spillover of crazy angry social media rants. It’s toxic anger, and while there is no shortage of things to be upset and angry and scared about, letting myself slide into being a hater fuels a lot of negativity in my life ... and the world around me.
Truth be told, sometimes even all the good, big-hearted, generous things people and businesses are doing is enough to make me cranky. I mean, I’m locked away from everything that defines me: my yoga studios, advertising business, new spin and wellness center, meetings and classes and people. Then I hear about some 13-year old who is using her prized collection of t-shirts to make masks and boom, I’m thinking, “screw that, I want to break something!”
Being angry doesn’t feel good, even though psychologists tell us that if we don’t use our anger to be destructive to ourselves or others, it’s not such a bad thing. But it most certainly is an unyogi-like narrative!
So this past week, I was nursing a real shitty attitude. A little mad, a little sad. A lot sick of the platitudes. This too shall pass. We’re in this together. Blah, blah, blah. Even Doug, my oh-so-tolerant husband, had just about had enough of me, when Kathleen, my dear friend and editor, sent me this thought-provoking message she had seen on Facebook.
WE ARE NOT IN THE SAME BOAT ...
I heard that we are all in the same boat, but it's not like that. We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship could be shipwrecked and mine might not be. Or vice versa.
For some, quarantine is optimal. A moment of reflection, of re-connection, easy in flip flops, with a cocktail or coffee.
For others, this is a desperate financial & family crisis.
For some that live alone, they're facing endless loneliness. While for others it is peace, rest & time with their mother, father, sons & daughters.
With the $600 weekly increase in unemployment, some are bringing in more money than when they were working. Others are working more hours for less money due to pay cuts or loss in sales. Some families of 4 just received $3400 from the stimulus while other families of 4 saw $0.
Some were concerned about getting candy for Easter while others were concerned if there would be enough bread, milk and eggs for the weekend.
Some want to go back to work because they don't qualify for unemployment and are running out of money. Others want to kill those who break the quarantine.
Some are home spending 2-3 hours/day helping their child with online schooling while others are spending 2-3 hours/day to educate their children on top of a 10-12 hour workday.
Some have experienced the near death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it and some are not sure if their loved ones are going to make it. Others don't believe this is a big deal.
Some have faith in God and expect miracles during this 2020. Others say the worst is yet to come.
So, friends, we are not in the same boat. We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different.
Each of us will emerge, in our own way, from this storm. It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance. Not just looking, actually seeing.
We are all on different ships during this storm, experiencing very different journeys.
Realize that and be kind.” - Unknown author
Lovelies, in a month filled with so much angst, this perspective gave me much needed pause to allow for some space and grace. And to recognize that our common storm in different boats takes us different places.
Kathleen is furiously paddling a kayak upriver, stuck hundreds of miles from home and trying to care for her aging parents from a distance. Graphic designer Tina is wrestling a houseboat full of kids struggling with e-learning, a puppy and a husband working remotely. And I’m on my trusty paddleboard, trying to keep myself, my businesses, my dogs, and my husband afloat in choppy waters.
These are not easy times, lovelies, whether your boat is large or small, sailing in calm seas or swirling through rapids. Every good sailor knows you need an emergency kit onboard, and our “emotional boats” are no different.
For me, prayer and yoga have been the mainstays of my emergency kit. But in this shitstorm of a pandemic, they haven’t been enough. My paddleboard was riding pretty low in the water!
Doug, out of self-protection, I’m sure, suggested I sit in on a couple of his AA meetings, which he’s been leading online during the shelter-in-place order. I used to attend meetings now and then, but as life got busier and I piled on my stuff, I drifted away. It’s been years since I set foot inside “The Rooms,” Doug’s shorthand for meetings. I used to take away a lot of life wisdom from The Rooms, so it wasn’t hard to convince me. And let’s face it, going to a Zoom meeting where all I had to do was park my butt at the kitchen table, barefoot and wearing no makeup, wasn’t exactly a hardship.
What happened for me in The Rooms, was nothing short of magical. These are people overflowing with compassion, for themselves and others. They’ve had to learn to love themselves, and to forgive themselves for some pretty ugly stuff. To enjoy each day, cherish each experience. They are making it through life in battered, worn rowboats. Each stroke of the oar is deliberate. Tucked away onboard is their emergency kit...the 12 Steps.
When telling my business partner, Melissa, about the same storm/different boat analogy, and the AA wisdom I’d soaked up, she mentioned a new book, We are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life. In it, author/wife/mom Laura McKowen talks about how sobriety is about freeing yourself from behaviors, relationships, or a way of thinking that keeps you from being clear-headed and present. In AA, the 12 steps require “doing the work,” while in yoga we call our path to self-awareness “self-study.” In both practices, it’s rooting out the darkness inside of ourselves so we can find the light and walk in peace.
And with that, I had what I needed for the emergency kit for my paddleboard. I needed to free myself from my negative thinking by leaning on my God and forgiving myself for being a hater.
I wish the wisdom of yoga and the 12 Steps could be more available to people during the pandemic … and always. We all need to find the compassion, kindness, and self-forgiveness they teach us, and take the joy that comes from them to live each moment gratefully.
Only then, lovelies, do we acquire the final item for our emergency kits: the ability to offer kindness, compassion and love to others.