Being in the unknown is hard for me. Truth be told, it's nearly impossible. I have immediate and persistent physical manifestations that remind me I am struggling. Like many people, my dis-ease appears in my breath. I can't get a deep breath. Each time I try to inhale, it is like a bird flying freely and then smashing into a window pane. The breath reaches the spot right before my lungs open and gets turned around. I try again and again until finally I can get a deep breath. But the multiple attempts render me even more anxious and frightened. This newest COVID surge has got me back on the crazy train and I'm in a daily battle with my breath.
The teacher in my meditation group told us yesterday that she likes to start her day by stepping outside and feeling the weather. But before she does that, she says, she does a brief inventory of how her internal weather looks. My partner Nancy is from New Orleans and has lived through dozens of hurricanes. Last night she was talking about the eye of the hurricane-- the moment of quiet where it seems like the storm is over, but it's not. When the storm comes back though, is unknown. Without warning, BOOM!, it's back. When she was talking last night I realized that this is how I feel when my breath is tight. It's dark and ominously still and scary and I am petrified in waiting for what comes next. I hate this moment. I want it to be over. My weather right now is that of a hurricane, in the eye of the storm, hidden indoors, trying to avoid the inevitable winds and rains and floods that I know will come before the storm is over.
About a month ago, one of my oldest friends disappeared. She's still there, but she doesn't want to be in contact with me. The circumstances are complicated and confusing. The truth is I don't fully understand why she doesn't want to be friends anymore. I tend to be direct, maybe too direct. I want to work it out, talk it out, get to the bottom of it all. But that's not her way. I understand now that her way is to do what she's doing-- to disappear.
In response to her dropping away, I've had to do some uncomfortable self-study about my reaction to her disappearance. My feeling of discomfort is familiar, like a mild version of my anger, fear and frustration about COVID. I am sitting in wait, anticipating if and when this friend will show up again. But my real feelings are bigger than that. I am mad. I am hurt. I am outraged. In not giving myself permission to feel those feelings, I am putting myself in the eye of the hurricane. I have rendered myself powerless, waiting for her to make a decision. Sitting in the eye of the storm is the safest. I'm contracted, not letting myself feel the full range of real feelings about this friendship. I know why I'm sitting here, waiting. I fear that if I let myself go beyond the eye of the storm, into the turbulent emotions that are really there-- the mad, sad, and rejected feelings-- that I will not be able to turn back, that I will be saying goodbye to the friendship forever.
It's the same with COVID. In really sitting in it, acknowledging how painful the losses are, I am letting something in that I really don't want to let in. I am opening myself up to a reality that deeply saddens and frightens me. But being a bird banging into a window over and over is not fun. I don't like being here. I would rather be in violent wind and rain, knowing what is happening, than in this waiting, the unknown, anticipating the destruction at any moment. At least after the stormy weather I know there will be a moment of calm.
And so it is-- the only way out of this emotional hurricane that has hijacked my breathing is to move beyond the eye of the storm. I must venture into the torrential rains and gale force winds of anger and sadness and loss and fear. I have to make room for all of that before I can step out into a clear blue sky. And even as I write these words, understanding their truth, I can feel my chest soften. I feel a sense of relief. I can breathe again.