Introductions: Quarantine


Dear friends,

I do not wish to fill up your screens with another opinion, another video, or another piece of advice in the midst of what is probably the strangest situation we have ALL encountered collectively (and we have experienced strange situations...). Interestingly,  the most valuable thing we can do for each other nowadays is probably doing less, except in what relates to basic needs. The sun, which is for me a symbol of compassion, does not make any effort to share its light and warmth and we all receive it according to our needs. I offer here then a few paragraphs only to those that are curious enough to continue to read on.

The COVID-19 crisis is an atypical situation for me for very personal reasons. I believe that the virus, as any life circumstance, hits each one of us wherever we hurt the most (wherever we are vulnerable and where our attention was already required before the virus came on). I had already isolated myself at home, happy to do so, when I stopped "working" last February in order to invest in my own projects. I was already facing financial uncertainty, happy to do so, in exchange for the hope for a calmer future. I had left my stressful job as a healthcare provider because I had decided it was intolerable. I already had the opinion, as many, that the system to which we contribute was, is, unsustainable and lacked efficacy. I was dreaming about something else. It all shows in our world's messy response to a virus.

I was leaving the stress behind, or so I thought. Like we say in Spain, "if you don't want soup, we'll give you two plates (or two scoops, depending on whom you ask)". I was not expecting to find this great need for online mental health services at the end of march or the anticipation that there will be even more. I want to help people with all heart but I am also facing once again my everlasting anxiety, that one I was trying to run away from. We could call it, in my case, sensory overload, reminiscent of a much greater challenge for people on the autism spectrum. It is that and the fear that people will not love me if I don't meet their expectations. This is the reason why I haven't been able to remove myself from WhatsApp for at least  2-3 hours each day for the past week (fortunately, I never became hooked on FaceBook or Instagram, which I only use professionally); this is the reason I started this frantic race to organize a calendar of online meditations that I had already planned many months ago, as everybody in my close circle knows.

I made the the decisions I wanted to make and I am doing what I've always wanted to do. So why the stress then? If I feel overwhelmed, why don't I take a break and continue afterwards? Which unrealistic goals am I imposing on myself on my day-to-day routine? Here is this anxiety again and finds me "trapped" in quarantine. Trapped within myself, without perspective, not being able to see what is in front of my eyes. Forgetting about the best way to meet others' needs within my possibilities, forgetting about the greater story, and neglecting my own needs because I'm obsessed with these very same needs. Trapped in this dark hole of my fears trying to avoid these fears.

Actually, my fears only inform me about something that I can do better. I could insist on fighting them, denying them or avoiding them, and make my life more difficult, or I can do what I already know it works and sometimes I am able to do with success, thanks to my mindfulness and compassion practice. I can befriend them, make space and put them in context, in the context of what I want and what I can, in the context of the greater story of all. I can accept them this way, listen to them and even let them advise and guide me, without resisting them but without becoming hijacked by them either (both things being two sides of the same coin, as the more I resist something, the more power it has over me). 

What I want to say is that, in the midst of this crisis, in the midst of depressing news and inspiring applauses, of fears and opportunities, all part of the truth, of the greater story, I choose to accept it all. I choose hope to be able to build something together that comes from this uncertainty, as uncertainty is a previous necessary condition for creativity and for the possibility to improve collectively something that was not working. Our unsustainable model left most of the planet's population in misery, the minority who was supposedly "making it" in severe distress, and it was depleting our natural and human resources. However, it would not be possible to improve something had we had it all figured out already.

Light does not exist without darkness. The sun is only meaningful in a dark boundless sky. My fears build who I am and they are the promise of my freedom. My friends and family, overwhelmed and anxious just like me, insist on staying connected and on reminding me that I'm worthy even if I do absolutely nothing, even if I don't meet anybody's expectations. They remind me that I am brave even with fear, or precisely because I have fear. All together, we are worthy and we are brave. Improving is scary, uncomfortable, of course, like it is for the lobster shedding its skin when it grows. But I tell you what I tell myself every night before I fall asleep. "Do not be afraid", which I believe means "do not entertain fear but do not resist it". Somebody, I don't know whom, may whisper it in my ear. Or I must have heard someone say it. But of course, as I am not alone. None of us is alone.

Samuel Fernandez-Carriba