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Staying Home to Me

In this season, the words “STAY HOME” mean so much more than just staying inside my house at my physical address. As I stay home, I ask myself, “Where am I right now?” Staying home for me right now, means to stay present. I want to make sure that I am home, truly home. Truly present.

In attempts to be mindful and present, I am making intentional efforts to stay home within myself, to stay present to myself. I am trying to stay home in my heart, my mind, and my body. I am paying attention to how I am feeling, on all levels. I am attuned to how I am feeling physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I’m committing to staying home, and here what that looks like for me.

I am staying home to my HEART. I am constantly pausing, sometimes literally in my steps, pausing, to check in with myself. I am checking in with the little girl in me who is always quick to feel afraid in the light of uncertainty. If I were to be honest, I tend to be afraid even in the midst of absolute certainty, doubting that even security will last long enough. “How’s your heart?”, I ask myself. Without self judgement, I respond with kindness, addressing any emotional need that I may have. That may mean a nap, music, painting, journaling, calling a friend, and asking for connection from my family. I ignored my heart for years, just performing as the world told me I needed to. As I stay home, my heart space is first to get my attention.

I am staying home to my TIME. On the first day of my quarantine, I woke up thinking about all I could get done. I’ve done enough work on my own crap to know that productivity is never a good plan for me. I have a timeline and expectations that seem far longer and more open than what is actually real. When I make lists, I am perpetually disappointed. So on that first morning of the Stay Home order, while I knew not to make a To Do list, I quickly put a magic spin on it. I thought it would be cool to document all the things I did do, as to be able to create a chronicle to look back on. Alarms quickly went off and I realized I was still trying to be productive. If there is to be any good reason for all of this uncertainty, productivity is absolutely NOT one of them. So I made a pact with myself that over the quarantine, no matter how short or long, there would be no lists, and I gave myself two expectations. The first is that I will not spend the entire time in quarantine on my phone/social media nor in front of the television. Those seem like life suckers any day of the week, but especially now given there is so much more time to give to it. The other expectation is that I would do whatever I longed to do, and there were no finish lines. If I write, or create anything, wonderful. In fact that would be incredibly wonderful because I know how it makes me feel. But at the end of every day, I would be content with what I did, what I got done and even whatever I didn’t.

In Brene Brown’s book, the Gifts of Imperfection, she tells us “No matter how much I get done, or is left undone, at the end of the day, I am enough.”  This is my time. I only need to do what I desire and long to do. I can admire someone teaching a class online at this time, without feeling like I have to teach my own. I can grin ear to ear as I watch activities between parents and their kids, without the shame of thinking I need to be doing that as well. This is my time, and I can just be.

I am staying home to my MENTAL WELLNESS. I’ve lived much of my life battling depression and anxiety. Sleepless nights, walking through life with panic, all while wanting the world to believe that I was fine. This season of #stayhome as all the ingredients to land me in a place of terror, curled up in my bed, unable to connect with the world without hope. So I am no longer worried about what people think, I am worried about me. I refuse to lose my mental wellness to COVID-19. There are activities that fill my soul, and bring me joy. I’m spending time listening to peaceful music, journaling, writing, drawing, painting, crafting. Stretching, moving, and meditating have become as necessary to my days as breathing. While the weather in Chicagoland has been quite uncooperative, whenever possible I’m sitting outside in the sunshine, even for a few minutes, taking in the fresh air. After days on end of being inside while outside its grey and damp, sitting in fresh air and sunshine, letting the cool air hit my lungs like a salve to a wound. These activities are priorities for me, because more than ever, I am my own priority.

I am staying home to my CREATIVITY. If anything brings me back to my truest self, my most joyful and grateful self, it is the process of creating. There are things inside of me, thoughts, feelings, ideas that are always trying to work their way out. I am keeping pens, journals, paints and other crafting materials on hand, in multiple places in the house. Our dining room now looks like a professional art studio. On days I’m not working, I am making time to make something, or write something. There are art classes online to partake in, and those are wonderful if I’m feeling stifled on what to create. But for me, it is also important that I create things that come from within me. My own ideas, my own creations. It is a sense of release for me. Often after making something, anything. Creativity often feels like immediate relief from an ailment I didn’t even know I had.

I am staying home to my FAMILY. I am offering and asking for more hugs and kisses these days. Engaging in co-rest, crafts, and play. I am intentionally checking on them, and their emotional energy. I am asking questions, encouraging rest, creativity and play. On a regular basis, I am checking in with my one child, a teenager, who misses the social aspect of school, and doesn’t have siblings to engage with. I am keeping tabs on my elderly mother who lives with us. I’m periodically checking on random friends and family members. I am blessed to have a beautiful family that is connected, and I don’t ever want to take that for granted. It’s important to take care of our people.

I am staying home to my COMMUNITY. I’ve checked on my elderly neighbors and I am looking for ways that I can be of help, and of service. Community has a whole new meaning, as this is not just people in my hometown. My community is everyone from my cul-de-sac to by brothers and sisters around the world. I’m keeping strangers at the front of my mind. While this pandemic has yet to make a direct impact on my life, I am committed to remembering that millions are, and I’m keeping their faces on my heart, and in my prayers. From health care workers, to those who’ve lost their jobs, to those who’ve lost a loved one and those who are fighting to stay alive.

I am staying home to my BODY. Just today I was reading when I felt an overwhelm of exhaustion come over me. I realized that I had no timeline, and I could in fact close my eyes for a bit. So I grabbed my dog and that is just what I did. Rest is a value in our home.

It is also important for me to move. While I’m not heading out to the gym, I have plenty of resources right here in my home and even on my computer. Yoga classes, dance classes. It is all available. My mood is strongly impacted by my level of movement. If I don’t move, I tend to see the glass, my family, and the world,  as half empty. Even if I’m not putting out a heavy workout, I still need to stretch, do yoga, or spend some time on the floor with the roller, rolling out tension and tightness. My body needs my attention all the time, but especially now as we are in times of uncertainty, I am holding more tension, often that I’m not even aware of.

I am staying home to my PEACE. I have a sense of peace about me during this very confusing and uncertain time. Had this happened ten years ago, my words would sound very different. But what can I say. Decades of therapy changes a person. It has literally taken me nearly twenty years of therapy and self-discovery to be able to easily access peace.

I am staying home to my EMOTIONS. My feelings are my own, and I can honor them. I can wrap them in my own emotional cocoon giving myself permission to feel only my own feelings. I do not have to take on the emotions of others. I do not have to engage in anxiety or panic that is not my own. But when those feelings do arise, I can tend to them with compassion and without judgement. If I feel peaceful, I can revel in that, while at the same time, having compassion for those without peace during this time. Grief is at the center of the world, and I’ve entered the valley of grief. Grief that is my own, for people and connection that I miss, but also collective grief for the world. I do not shy away from grief. In fact, entering the darkness is what actually allows me to bring a light into the world. For those wrestling with hard emotions, I will continue to hold a light for them.

I am staying home to my JOY. I have a lot of natural joy, that I often have a hard time expressing. Sometimes it gets big, and I can feel how much it overwhelms those around me. But this time, like no other, I feel called to share joy, laughter and inspiration. Here’s the thing, true joy only comes when we also allow ourselves to feel pain. So I’m doing my emotional work, making sure I’m not numbing out, so that even though I enter the deep valleys of grief, I can also stand of the mountain of joy.

I am staying home to my FAITH. I believe in a good God.

“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.” – Brene Brown

From years of therapy, church, spiritual connections, and literally walking through the valley of the shadow of death, I no longer fear death. I know that no matter what, I am held by the universe, and no matter what I will be okay. There is much to be afraid of during this time, but when I stay present, I realize what scares me isn’t actually happening. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that all the emotional work I’ve done over the years has prepared me to stay home.

The famous poet and author, Mary Oliver said, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with this one wild and precious life?” 

So, I will ask you, how are you choosing to stay home to yourself during this short wild and precious season?

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