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Cocooning and change in the time of COVID19

Updated: Apr 16, 2020

We're now 4? more? weeks into strict sheltering in place in California. As I say when people ask how I've been, it's been a rollercoaster.

It's mostly been OK when I focus on the present moment, the table right in front of me, the cold cup of coffee on my left. The people inside my home.

Thinking beyond the present moment is the emotional equivalent of boarding the least-fun, most jarring rollercoaster ever. Thinking about the future-- illness? income?-- is like being at the top of a rollercoaster hill that's so massive, you can't see the bottom, and the track disappears into a fog and darkness. Thinking too much about the past-- now bathed in a rosy glow-- is like turning your head to look back just as the brakes slam. Emotional whiplash for sure.

The mix of emotions basically equals chaos. I have come to some equanimity around this by realizing that I need boundaries and can set them, and can also have some flexibility in these shifting times.

Boundaries mean different things in different contexts. But when we're talking about boundaries for safety, healing, and growth, I think about cocoons. A tiny caterpillar about to go through its remarkable metamorphosis doesn't check in with others to see if this is a convenient time for them. It doesn't avoid the stress of metamorphosis to self-soothe by scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. It doesn't even ask itself if they themselves feel like making the great change.

It's just time to do it, so the caterpillar simply does it.

It just stops, settles in, and allows the cocoon to change it so completely that it's a totally different animal when it emerges.

Now very much feels like when we as a society in the US, and even most of humanity around the world, are in a time of cocooning. And hopefully, of metamorphosis. And I hope when we emerge we #BuildBackBetter.

"Build back better" is a concept that originated in natural disaster recovery, especially post-Katrina. But currently I'm seeing organizations use this concept to think about how we might examine the circumstances that led to such poor outcomes in this time of COVID19-- circumstances that include but go far beyond simply not having a prepared pandemic office. Circumstances that include a long history of racial inequity, workplace injustices and exploitation, and lack of access to basic human rights and needs. How might we confront where we were, begin ongoing healing processes, and build back better -- better systems, better policies, better values?

Something to consider as we cocoon.

But this is a personal post, not a policy one. So I'm thinking about my most important personal boundary -- for me, that's at night, when I usually start to go pumpkin if I'm not in bed and cozying down (unless we're with friends-- I'm an extrovert so that's energizing for me). The boundary for me as a parent is this: if it's past a certain time and I'm in bed, I've decided I'm not getting up again unless it's an emergency. Modeling sleep hygiene!

During the day, I've decided to be very soft around interruptions. This is for my own stress levels. Because the kids and spouse deserve flexibility and ease as they try to figure out everything, and work folks get a sweet reminder that we're all human and doing our best.

And even as I'm flexible around interruptions, I've decided to stay extremely rigorous about honoring some good habits I'm working to keep up. If I'm meditating in the morning, kids can join me, but I'll stay sitting for five minutes. If I'm writing for work or for myself, I'll keep my focus there for the duration of a timer (10-25 minutes).

With these simple boundaries, I've found actual deep joy in this time. It's not that there aren't frustrations, anxiety, snafus. There are all of those and more. It's just that, in these times, I'm finally giving myself the grace to cocoon and to change, and grow.

© 2020 Anita Sarah Jackson


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