There is much talk of “returning to normal” these days. What that looks like for each person is, of course, different – different considerations, factors, apprehensions, and all of this will be done at varying paces. What I keep thinking about is how wasteful this phrase feels – “returning to normal.” As if nothing has happened the last two months. As if we pressed a giant pause button and now we are simply pressing play. That doesn’t sit well for me. The last 2+ months have been difficult, stretching, gut-wrenching in so many ways. I hate the idea that we press play and go on our way. I hope we have learned things in the last couple months that we will not quickly forget – ultimately, things that will change us forever. I hope that we can slow down and really be thoughtful about what we are adding back into our lives – that we are intentional about what is meaningful enough to be there and what just doesn’t fit any more. I have to try to see that this hardship has purpose, has meaning.
There is a mental health metaphor that I share with clients often. It is the story of the messy middle. I tell them that if they were to walk into my office on any given weekday – it would look fine. It’s clean. It’s pretty organized. Sometimes there are a couple workbooks open on the desk by my computer and my purse and cardigan hanging off the chair, but overall nothing is too unkept. It’s tidy, it’s cozy. It’s not rigidly clean, but it’ll do. Then I say, what if I came in here and decide to really clean it? I would open all the drawers and you would see receipts and papers and sticky notes. You would see office supplies and a note I wrote to myself to remember to pay the rent. I would take out each item to evaluate if it’s in the right spot, if I want to keep it, if it needs to be thrown away, whether it would make more sense in the supply closet because I do not use it often, or if it’s something I should offer up to the other clinicians in my suite because they would be more likely to use it well. If someone were to walk in at this point, my office would look worse than it had to start with. It would be open, messy, raw. It would be in process, the process of evaluating what goes and what stays. It would look messy – but it is the only way to get to the other side with thoughtfulness and intention.
That is a little what right now feels like. Let us open the drawers. Let us be thoughtful and intentional about what we are returning to. Let us make sure it needs to be there. If changes need to be made because we are not who we were 10 weeks ago, let us make them. I want to encourage you in who you are now. Take your time. Give yourself grace. Be thoughtful. Be brave. Seek support. You got this.