Updated: Apr 13, 2020
When my daughter Lucia was a baby she loved to be swaddled. From morning to night and all through the night she wanted to be wrapped up like a little burrito, her arms tucked into her chest and her legs folded into her belly. My mom once joked that Lucia's muscles were going to atrophy if she didn't spend some time out of the swaddle.
Being born is our first big struggle. To make this passage, the baby must battle through the birth canal (unless it is a C-section) and put up the fight of their tiny lives to navigate their way out. Then, when they arrive outside, it is overwhelming-- it's bright, loud, and aggressive. No wonder Lucia wanted to be swaddled.
During this time of world disaster I have gone through bouts of extreme worry and anxiety; I've experienced a fear beyond any other in my life. Like most of us, I still fall into despair at times, but I'm aware of something else that's present now, a feeling of calm and even joy that's come from being in the confinement of my home. I am tapped into a sense of comfort in this containment, a relief of sorts. I feel relieved of the stressors that unconsciously plagued me when I roamed free-- the compulsion to be busy and productive, the need to be out in the world socializing, politicizing, shopping, always striving to become someone more successful, secure, happy; always seeking, trying to find meaning in the outside world.
I think of Lucia when she was a baby, of her desire to be swaddled, telling us in her infant way of communicating that she was not quite ready for the bigger world. She needed time in her swaddle, her womb outside of the womb. In this time she was waking into the world at her own pace, slowly integrating the different faces, noises, smells, tastes, sounds, and tactile sensations. And when she was ready to stop being swaddled, she let us know. She resisted being confined. She cried when we tried to restrain her arms and legs. She was ready for the bigger world.
And here we are, all of us now experiencing this world crisis, this grave and significant fear. The way we will survive, we are told, is to stay close, to shelter-in-place, to confine ourselves to whatever space we are living in right now. It's scary out there. If we do not abide the new rules we could become infected or infect someone else, so we do our best to stay inside, wear a mask, follow the guidelines. Lately, for me, the unexpected result of these safety parameters has been comfort, like being swaddled, safely contained. I am surprised at the experience of being genuinely fulfilled by this tiny little world of mine. I am delighted by the inadvertent magic of it all. In this great, crushing time of fear in our lives, we must retreat. We must make our worlds smaller, and we must get quieter. In doing this shuttering of the outside world we are deepening our connection to ourselves and finding meaning within.
I believe that the world will come back to being a more interactive place. We will have opportunities to engage with other people and explore new places. We will hug again and share meals. But right now I want to relish my time here in this swaddle, to hunker down in the quiet. I want to fill my cup with what's already here, with the internal messengers I did not make room for before. This is an opportunity to be in connection with a part of me that gets lost when I am tapped more into the outside world, looking to fill my cup from those external sources.
My hope is that when we all emerge from these millions of little swaddles all around the world, we will each have had time and space to fill our cups from inside of ourselves. I imagine that we will all have stronger, deeper connections to ourselves, but also to our purpose and place in the world, and that we will unfurl this newly discovered strength and resilience out into the wide open spaces and celebrate a new beginning together.