In some yogic traditions they say it takes 40 days to make or create a new habit and when I search the significance of 40 days, while there are many, the gist of it is that we use this term to mean a really freaking long time! It seems to be the amount of time we can refrain, or give something up, as in Lent for 40 days before Easter…
This past week I hit the 40-day mark of sheltering in place, quarantining, isolation or whatever you want to call it. My only outings, the dreaded grocery store runs and walks with the dog. I was fine. We were all “fine”, you know the Ross Geller kind of “fine”.
(Watch here if you want more of Ross and “I’m fine!” ) But when day 40 hit, the shit hit the fan. I heard more words of frustration, sadness, grief, anxiety and helplessness than I had heard the entire time. It seems this past week was, a breaking point for many.
Teachers saw a decline in kids showing up, parents found themselves completely exhausted from trying to parent AND work all day and the emotional strain was starting to rear its ugly heads as everyone in my family had their “day”. You know the “day”. The day you freak out because life has been standing still and all you want to do is bust out and say screw it! Or the “day” that you are so tired, your body aches deep into your bones and the idea of getting ANYthing done seems herculean. Or the “day” you just sit on the couch and stare out the window or binge on Netflix with bad snacks…you know the kind of “day” I am talking about. We have all had them and will continue to have them…so why not embrace them and take it on full force. Give yourself permission to get NOTHING done and well, even feel good about it or at least don’t judge yourself.
We need these days. We need them because it is our very soul reaching out and telling us, for the love of GAWD, to just STOP! But stopping seems to be one of the hardest things for us to do as Americans and as a country. We suck at stopping.
We thrive on the go, go go and initially I was reveling in the slowing down…in the beginning. But then the 40 days hit and my inner child screamed out, I don’t WANT this to be the new normal. I miss hugging people. I miss sitting in one of my graduate classes in person, and watching the group dynamic, each nuance and facial expression capable of shifting the energy and the direction of the group. I can’t do this on Zoom. And as one of my brilliant teachers, Sara Cross stated, “for empaths, using zoom makes us feel disabled”. Aha, I thought when she said this. I TOTALLY feel that way. What happens when your only superpower is stilted, lost in translation, sidelined by which person the zoom decides to pick up on the audio? My groups are lively and like family. We often talk over each other and become most animated and we discuss and share our thinking and ideas around teaching. These classes bring out the passion in people and give voice to the deepest insecurities, thoughts, ideas, successes and yes, even failures. All of this fails to transfer in the Brady Bunch blocks on the screen. Zoom is not my first choice, nor that of many others and still I move forward, like the rest of the world, and make do with what I have.
And in that I changed what I was asking teachers to do based on what their current circumstances were. I responded to what they needed and what they needed was not to discuss and reflect on Chapter 6, but to talk about their “new” teaching lives. To give voice to all of their frustrations, successes, discoveries at getting to know new students in this new forum and to talk about those students they can’t find…
I am hoping we will learn something through all of this; that we might boil down what is essential in life and learning. And yet, I often see the opposite, such as school systems expecting teachers to recreate the rest of the school year in a vacuum. We must remember that much of a school day is structured around managing large groups of students. This isn’t the case with kids at home. Loosen the schedules and let kids find projects that motivate them intrinsically. What are they interested in? What do they want to learn more about? I advocate for a weekly school schedule that might look like this:
Try to do 2 of these things each day, or one if you are really INTO it!
Instead I see complicated schedules with kids in high school taking on hours and hours of home work and busy work each day. Why do we insist on thinking that busy means learning? When I make these changes my teachers respond in kind, “Thank You for understanding.” Can’t we extend this olive branch to everyone right now? Everyone needs understanding, compassion, and to be heard.
It’s been a long 40 days and 40 nights plus. Let’s collectively admit and accept it and now loosen the reigns in all areas of our lives where we have the power to do so! Let’s give ourselves permission to take care of not just everyone else, but ourselves, utilizing the power of creativity. One does not have to be artistic to be creative. Creativity is an energy inside of us all that we can tap into to make sense of all we are going through. You see evidence of this all over the internet with crazy stunts people are doing, TikTok dances and musical performances we all try to mimic, or even just silly pranks. My son Zachary watches this dude in New York City unwrap boxes sent to him each day. He has adapted from being a destination pizza reviewer to a frozen pizza reviewer and now he receives over 100 packages a day so that he will unbox new products all live online. He has a major following.
As human beings we NEED creative outlets and so do our kids. What can you do to help your kids create today? (sidewalk chalk, legos, trains, blocks) What can you do to unleash your own creative spirit? (sidewalk chalk, legos, trains, blocks) It might be baking, gardening, weeding, coloring in a coloring book, daydreaming, picture taking, singing, dancing, meditating, breathing, envisioning, problem-solving…the list is endless…let your imagination run free while housebound. Please understand, I am not advocating for you to use this time to create the novel of the century or to have any product AT ALL. I am suggesting you engage in the process of creativity in any way shape or form that works for you, whenever it works for you.
It has been a long 40 days and 40 nights. We have done our Pandemic Lent, our season of reflection and preparation is up and now it is time to celebrate, to open up the next 40 to possibility, promise and play! What do you say?