I am lost in a mirror universe. An extrovert by nature, I suddenly find myself thrust into an introvert’s world due to the pandemic rules. The tables of my world have turned and I am at a loss.
Sometimes, on a lazy Sunday like today, I wonder what I can do, this day, to cope. It is not an unhappy or ugly cage I pace. My home is peaceful, sitting on the bank of a beautiful lake. Backyard walks are cathartic as is sitting on my pier, trying to spy the odd bass jumping high to catch a wayward bug. The neighborhood is quiet, almost “Stepford” like, with few children outside and very little noise. Yes my cage is quite idyllic, yet a cage nevertheless.
I talk to family via phone, because none live in my city. We even do some facetime. I call my friends to catch up, and they also reach out to me. But, ironically, I do not like talking on the phone to people I care about. It seems so artificial and loosens the natural bond of the personal meeting. Plus, the difficulty translating feelings/thoughts by phone and text fail to bring those giant belly laughs and warm connections of face to face time. In other words, although we talk, I miss the important people in my life.
And yet, life continues to proceed, ever turning, despite my chagrin. My work continues as do I. During the daylight hours of the work week, my Zoom schedule is daunting: Meetings, Strategic plans, Crisis Interventions and all that entails ensuring that the agency continues it’s mission. Interestingly, I don’t have time to think about what I am missing while I work. Thank God for that. But then the night comes, and I walk the floors. There’s only so much television one can watch before going crazy. Last night I found myself diagnosing all of the characters on the sit-com I watched.
I’ve taken on projects: restoring furniture, beginning a second novel, and even cooking. (Things are bad, when I take to the kitchen). I am also continuing with my French lessons and taking a virtual class in Quickbooks, and Grant Writing. These distractions help me pass the time, but they lack the human interaction, which I crave.
I must point out that I am not depressed and I am not unhappy. I find happiness in the little things: hearing the birds sing in the morning, putting finishing touches on a pair of hounds-tooth chairs, meditation on my daily devotional. These things bring a smile to my lips that warms my heart.
But in-between the space and time I feel lost. Not unhappy, just lost.
I pondered this new feeling today, wondering what my mind was trying to tell me. To just accept the facts and make the best of it? I have to say, that is a bitter pill to swallow, as I am someone who questions most things in life and has a difficult time accepting that some things have no clear answer. But, there’s no quick resolution to our current situation. Life will continue to be different until a vaccine can be developed to stop the spread of the virus. Stores may open, people will eventually return to their jobs, but much more time will pass before we all return to the feeling of safety we had “before”. When I really examined my feeling of being lost, it finally came to me. I think, for me, the sense of loss came, not from the curtailing of my daily activities and interactions, but more from the removal of something I also hold dear: control.
What I have truly lost is my sense of control.
When the realization bloomed, I immediately felt a sense of empathy for those children and families we work with. Long before COVID, the control over their lives were lost. Some gave up control when they gave in to drug addiction. Some families lost control when the ghosts from their own abusive childhood caught up with them, and they took it out on their children. However it happened, these families became trapped in a world where others dictated their lives.
Just last night, I got a call from a staff in the field. A teenage foster child had lost his temper, damaged some belongings and pushed his foster father. The worker immediately dispatched to the home to try and help them work through this eruption. His uphill climb to save that placement had little chance of success, as the foster parent wanted the child removed. My first thought, upon hearing of the outburst was not one of administration and damage control. No, my first thought was, “that poor child.”
I know some would scoff and say that the teen was violent, angry and stepped over the line.
Yes. He did.
But I imagined that this placement, his Nth number, had been out of his control. Disruption after disruption, the reality of lost connections and pain became his teacher. He learned, through experience, that it was easier to bust a placement before he got attached and then abandoned. This boy felt he had no control over his life. The conviction,that he would be cast aside after the first infraction, became a self-fulfilling prophesy. He subconsciously decided that connections hurt too much. Anger was safer than hope.
I wanted to take this “aha” moment to heart. How could we use the knowledge of this child’s trauma and anger over loss of control to move towards more understanding and more patience. How can we increase the empathetic response to his cry for help?
Empathy is putting yourself into someone else’s shoes. And even briefly walking in the shoes of those with no control, gives me pause to consider how we can do better.
Today’s Challenge: Use this experience of control loss to construct an empathetic bridge with your clients. Look at your foster children and their families with fresh eyes. How can you help them to gain more control, more choices in their lives? Undo the symbolic tape that has been placed over their mouths and hear their voices? Find ways to help them gain some modicum of control. Understand that they are feeling lost and lets work harder to help them find their way.