by Susan ROELOFS-HAUGHN, 04/09/2020, GLEN ARBOR, Mi
Returning from 80 days of traveling on March 18, we were the lucky ones. Heading into isolation, we wondered what it would be like and friends shared fears of too much alone time. I listened and wondered myself…
As a psychotherapist for 40 years, I listened and helped a couple and an individual deal with emotional problems, but it was LIFE not Covid-19 they were worried about. Life and its anxieties continue even when another layer of anxiety is piled on.
As with everything else, it comes down to how you think about it. Simplistic? Maybe, but the self-fulfilling prophecy is real. If my thoughts were doom and gloom, then I would feel doom and gloom and I would act gloomy and not be available to listen to others or myself. Choosing to think about all the things I could get done during isolation rather than what I would miss made me move forward and those chores were a great distraction. I could look at the fruits of my labor and feel accomplished rather than helpless. Then I had more energy to listen.
Choosing to feel helpful instead, I sent out texts to friends I had talked with recently and some not for years to check on them. In listening to their stories, I learned of so many others’ difficult situations. A friend who’s husband has a bad form of cancer, a doctor who is on the frontlines and his wife and son had to move away from their home for fear of his infecting them, a friend who has been in pain for many years and now has to wait for a pain easing back surgery due to the virus. After listening, I sent them as much empathy as I could, and it took me away from myself – the doom and gloom is not going to get me.
Like everyone else, I listened to the news reports, the horribleness and then the hopefulness and everything in between. I listened for positive signs that we are doing it right, isolation is working. I listened for stories of those who have sent out sun beams to others not as fortunate. Clapping for health care workers! And there were many more rays of sun. And yes, I listened to the stories of how we may be in this for a long time. It was tough but I thought of other ways to listen – the wind, the birds on the lawn, the sounds of leaves under my feet and the voices of neighbors calling out from their yards.
If we choose to listen, perhaps the unhappy, anxious voice in our head will be drowned out. If we choose to think of what good can come of this- better health care options, more equality for all people to have healthy options surround them, an appreciation for those we take for granted; then our listening will have saved us from those feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Just listen.