The Invisible Battle – I know I am not alone

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During this uncertain time, I know one thing to be certain: life will bring stressors - including the invisible ones.

By Becky Clabaugh, Life Coach | September 1, 2020

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Have you ever struggled with an invisible battle? That is, have you ever internally wrestled with a circumstance that is emotionally difficult for you to process and which no one else can physically see? For example, maybe you are dealing with a worrisome diagnosis even though you look perfectly healthy.  Or you got laid off from your job and are trying to provide for a family of five. How about battling an invisible and deadly virus? If you have, you are not alone.

What comes to mind for me is one particular day near the end of March, as I am coming back home from a long walk in my neighborhood. A Colorado spring is definitely in the air. It feels fresh and crisp outdoors with birds chirping in the still quiet, just the way I like it.  

As I walk, I inhale and my breath mixes with the cool air, piercing my lungs and leaving me feeling “over-raw.”  I am raw from worry, and I am physically tired of what the news has to offer. I return to my breathing practice to calm my nerves.  Deep breathing like this reminds me of my compromised lung challenge which no one can see. I have a rare lung disease and know how vulnerable I am. That thought is always in the back of my mind and sometimes it makes me feel alone and disconnected.

Nevertheless, I continue with the exercises because I understand the power of being present and mindful, and taking control of how I choose to think and feel. In fact, during the walk, I am able to get in touch with my emotions, sorting through them like a layer of an onion and finally settling on the fact that what I feel is fear. I pause and ask myself pressing questions with deep curiosity. The initial questions that stand out are how am I going to dodge COVID? When will this pandemic ever end? What can I do besides physical distancing, wearing a mask, and avoiding all the public places I enjoy in order to outsmart such a sneaky and wicked virus? 

As I approach my house from the walk, I notice my two daughters decorating the driveway and entry porch with sidewalk chalk. They are drawing pictures and writing colorful phrases in purple, pink, and blue chalk, transforming the grey concrete into a heartfelt and vibrant message of encouragement and hope.

I stop and stand there, looking at them in awe. I watch them and think back to when they were about ages  5 and 8, (now 16 and 19 years old) listening to music, singing, and dancing while drawing sunflowers, rainbows, mountains, and crafting phrases like: “You’re Loved” “Welcome!” and “Hope.” I begin to weep because witnessing something so simple and beautiful has lifted my fear-filled dark and stormy mood. My girls are present in the moment; shining light and joy in a way that made me feel safe. I begin to believe that all can be well.

In that moment, I decided everyone has a story that needs to be told. I believe that there is no way I could possibly be all alone in my feeling that the world is ending. There is no reason to hide my fears and insecurities. I want to know how my extended family and peers are coping, and I want to know if they have similar doubts and insecurities. I want to help those who are hurting from watching someone they love battle this virus or dealing with the unimaginable pain of losing someone to the virus. I feel like I am on some deep quest to find something huge and profound; I am in search of authentic connection in an uncertain circumstance.

I start to reach out even though a part of me feels like people might think I am weak. I begin by emailing a small group of my friends to Zoom with me. Each week, I invite a “surprise guest” and when the new attendee pops up on to the platform, everyone is happy and cheerful to see one another. Even my neighbor who lives a few houses down decides to start joining our calls.

Connection. Don’t underestimate the lifeline it creates for the people around you. Connection is like a ripple in water, touching the next person and then the next. It is like filling up a bag, one bean at a time. And when I think of a full bag, I am filled with feelings of satisfaction, wholeness, and peace.

During this uncertain time, I know one thing to be certain: life will bring stressors - including the invisible ones. Coronavirus has taught me that I am capable of changing how I manage any circumstance. I know that by shifting my thinking and letting myself feel all the emotions, I can have a positive energy that will inspire me to take action to get the results I want. It really is up to me.  

Another season has come and gone. On my walks, and throughout my day, I continue to breathe deeply, listen to the birds and look for the silver linings. These silver linings - like the messages crafted in chalk or scheduling regular Zoom calls - build my muscles of resilience. I am grateful I have the muscle and the grit to bounce back, one invisible battle at a time.
 

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