It’s Really Ok to Do Nothing, as Something!
Updated: Apr 19, 2020
Friends, I have to say this and say this loud! Are you listening? Ok... here goes, It’s really ok to do nothing. I mean absolutely nothing! I thought when the world shut it’s doors a month ago that I would use this time “wisely” by sorting the spice cabinet and the pantry. I vowed to tackle every DIY home project that’s been on my “To Do” list for 2 years and thoroughly organize every closet, cabinet and dresser drawer. At the time it sounded great. I had a plan. I was almost excited to have all this newfound time to do all the things and I mean all the things I was going to do....until I didn't. I started off strong and now as we end our 5th week of quarantine here in VA, I am struggling. If you had a similar plan and are still following through you are literally my hero, but so are all of you that, like me, just haven't.
I believe for many of us, our brains are wired in such a way that they automatically act or perform duties when they cannot immediately process a huge life shift, trauma or life altering event. This pertains to just about anything that falls into one or more of those categories. I recall when our sweet Gianna passed away, of course I was in immense pain, I cried hard and yes I cried a lot, but I did not really mourn for months. I was not the hot mess you or anyone else may think one would be. What was I then you ask? I was focused. What did I do? I planned and performed. There were funeral arrangements and family travel, florists and caterers that had to be booked along with so many other things that had to be arranged, reported and filed when an immediate family member passes on. Being the type 'A' person I am, I was diligent and timely in making sure all my t's were crossed and i's were dotted, as they say.
I did wonder for some time if this was normal. I was very well aware that I did not feel in those early weeks and months like I thought I would or rather should. I expected to have locked myself in my room for days without showering or eating but no, here I was making things happen. This response mirrors how many of us reacted when the world halted last month.
Those dark room days after Gianna died did come and they needed too but I wondered why they hadn't, many times, before they actually did. Then I read a book called "When the Bough Breaks" by Dr. Judith R. Bernstein. It is a brilliant book to help navigate child loss. In the book there are small excerpts and stories of other parents who had experienced loss and how they coped with such grief. A familiar initial response was, yes, the response to perform. In one story that has always stuck out to me (probably because I was able to relate to it so well) a lady named Veronica gets a phone call from her ex-husband that their daughter had passed away in an automobile accident. It goes on to explain how Veronica's immediate response was deciding whether or not to go into work because she didn't know what else to do. After deciding not to go in, the excerpt says "Reasoning that people might be coming to the house, she got out a mop and bucket and washed the kitchen floor." (Bernstein, 1998) I know, it may seem odd, unnatural and even cold but the truth is that this is normal, natural and a numbing response because we are not wired for such painful events and traumas.
The world right now is no different. While it is not the loss of a child, it is huge a loss. It's a loss on a much much larger physical scale too. Whether we realize it or not we have experienced a shift, a traumatic event and a loss all at once! The world will never be what it was prior to March 1, 2020 and neither will we. It's not all bad, but it is all true. I have seen so many social media posts on the different weeks of quarantine to date and the phases of feelings between week 1 and week 4. These posts get shared, loved, and liked so much because almost everyone has handled the weeks identically in some way, shape, or form. We can all relate and that helps. We are all human, different yet so much the same. At some point we likely were or will be efficient and performing all we can and then that will turn into dismal days and low motivation. We are adjusting and we have to go through so many phases and emotions in order to complete the process of what has happened and what is to come. Again, not because it is all bad, but because it is all new and I think we can all agree on it all being unexpected. As a nurse who is well versed professionally and personally on the 5 stages of grief, I can tell you how they align almost perfectly with how almost every human in the world is reacting. The stages do not have to happen in order and sometimes one stage takes longer to navigate than another. Stages can also cycle more than once. For example:
Stage 1: Denial. There is NO WAY I am staying in my house for 2 weeks or 2 months.
Stage 2: Anger. Why is the government doing this. This is ridiculous! What country started this disease and why isn't anyone prepared?
Stage 3: Bargaining. Ok maybe if I do my part to social distance this will end quicker. I can learn to cook and make forts with my kids. If I pray hard enough this will all be forgotten soon enough.
Stage 4: Depression. This sucks. I don't know if I can do this much longer. I cannot smile another day while this is happening.
Stage 5: Acceptance. Ok, this is what is happening now, Life is full of change and even if I do not like what is happening, this too shall pass.
We are all in some stage right now and they are all acceptable, normal, expected and FINE! If your organizing and making crafts...great, if you are pissed and complaining, that too, is fine. If your eating all the snacks and watching Bridget Jones and the Notebook rock out! And my friend if you are doing absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, like you are throwing the kids a device and then pacing your home aimlessly half dressed with cold coffee just staring at all the things, you know all the things you were planning and going to get to in week one...my dear friend I am here to tell you that, that is ok too! Yes, this too shall pass but it hasn't yet and to be honest it won't for some time. So much will feel uncomfortable right now, especially if you are forced into doing something you're not used to (like quarantining). The good new is this, discomfort usually does not mean something isn't good for you. Discomfort actually many times means growth, and we are all growing immensely right now. We also, are all exactly where we need to be, even if that place seems like we are nowhere. So again friends, It is ok to do nothing, because quite frankly sometimes nothing is exactly what needs to be done. Truly....nothing and that means you are still doing something.
"Sometimes doing nothing is the best something you can do" -Tia Hawkins
Sending you all so many blessings today and everyday.