How are you handling quarantine? How is this whole experience changing you? Are you feeling the shift? Have you been changing anything about yourself and your daily habits to adapt to the situation? What changes have you made and how do you find and maintain balance?
Finding balance during this time can be especially difficult. It's like fumbling around in the dark trying to find the light switch to illuminate the room you can't see -- now imagine doing that while drunk. You can feel it, and all of your other senses switch to overdrive as you attempt to adjust to the change. It can be super disorienting at first, bumping into all sorts of objects and walls while you awkwardly, stiffly make your way around, but eventually you begin to adapt and relax. You pause and breathe for a moment. You stop panicking and flailing around and clear your mind as you slowly feel your way to the switch. And just like that the room is once again illuminated. Tadaaaa!
This, among other metaphors, is something my uncle recently shared with me over a phone call during one of my anxiety attacks; he has this uncanny and magical way of guiding me through pretty much anything, and I'm constantly asking for a pocket version of him to carry with me at all times. Haha! When you think about it, this can easily apply to this whole pandemic. We're all just fumbling around in the dark, some of us drunk, trying to find the damned light switch. It's like a grand scale of something quite simple, we're all just in slo-mo right now. And this pause, this chance to catch our breath, really clear our minds and re-center ourselves, is the medicine to get through this.
Lately, I've been adjusting to the shift better. I still have more than a few days where I'm just so damn itchy to just do something that it's difficult to imagine life will ever be at a different pace again (MASSIVE extrovert here). I'm still human. I'm still waiting. I've been nesting, which is not something I particularly enjoy too much. Internally, however, I'm growing and changing and I'm in a constant state of change and discomfort.
While traveling teaches me how to grow externally (as well as internally, of course), in terms of adaptability and thinking on my feet, and improving pretty much every single other aspect of my life, being forced to sit still and pause teaches me to look internally and focus on aspects of myself I had previously been side-stepping, because, life. It's not particularly easy, and I definitely can't honestly say I enjoy all of it, but growth isn't meant to be comfortable.
Living during a pandemic in a completely foreign country is incredibly interesting. Language barriers are a real thing. Recently, my smart self being all into myself with my head in the clouds decided to take a jog to one of the nearest grocery stores, Biedronka, to stock up on some of my favorite vegetables and other goodies for my soul. I had planned it out (seemingly) perfectly. I had a 3 hour window in between classes that I deemed to be THE time to do this. Perfect, right? Wrong.
I get to Biedronka and notice no lines (WOW I can't believe my luck!), and with a big grin on my face (under the mask) decide to stroll in. I pass by the guy at the entrance and proceed to grab everything on my list, still in my own world and not even paying a bit of attention to anyone around me, other than to note there's hardly anyone around. I make my way throughout the entire store, then finally make it to the line. Perfect! All is right until an elderly woman in front of me points at her wrist as if she's asking about the time. I open up my phone to show her what time it is, only for her to start speaking incredibly fast in Polish. I blink several times, having only picked up like 3 words, then stuttered, "E-e-english, proszę?" she huffs, then in broken English, "10-12 seniors only". My stomach drops, and I immediately drop from the cloud I was floating on.
I furiously start typing into my Google translate app how sorry I am, that I legitimately didn't know, and tell her I will happily go and put up ALLLL the items in my bag and come back later. Cue the lady behind me showing up. I make a move to go put everything up, and she immediately tells me, "Nie, nie! Proszę, proszę!” (No, no, please, please!) as she waves me forward. Okay. Now I'm just an awkward turtle attempting to retreat into my shell. I literally have no idea what to do now. It gets better.
The two ladies begin arguing, IN POLISH, about ME. Shit. I'm over here typing furiously, unsure of what else to do, and basically causing a scene over the fact that I'm here at the wrong time, ready to do the walk of shame out of the store. The lady in front of me gives up and heads to the next line and the cashier waves me forward. I am fifty shades of red in the face from embarrassment as the lady behind me keeps waving me forward repeating "proszę, proszę". Okay. I'm bagging up all of my items when I thank the lady and look up to see basically the whole store staring in my direction. HAHAHAHA. Lovely. I leave with almost none of my dignity intact, but otherwise, relatively unscathed. But, word to the wise, when you're living through a pandemic in a foreign place, it's wise to make sure you stay up-to-date on all regulations BEFORE you attempt to do well... anything.
With recent lifting of some restrictions here in Poland, I'm able to go out more and actually socialize a bit. We all still have to wear our masks but… baby steps. Progress. Just last weekend in fact I had a little mini adventure with a new friend I made here and took a nice stroll through Łazienki Park and witnessed Frédéric Chopin's monument! Yes, the very same brilliant Polish composer many of you have cherished for years. As if that wasn't sweet enough, we continued on through the park and spotted a line for ice cream which we obviously HAD to have. I EVEN MADE FRIENDS WITH A SQUIRREL! Okay, I kinda lied to him by acting like I had food for him, BUT HE STILL APPROACHED ME AND WE CHATTED FOR A MOMENT. Being surrounded by so much greenery in such a big and beautiful park was just the sort of social outing I needed.
My first time out of the new normal I've found myself in, even before my big, exciting excursion to Chopin Park was meeting up with previously mentioned friend, Jay, in the Old Town Square. I'm telling you guys, it was surreal. I treated myself (yes, treated. It had been almost 2 months since I've been in a vehicle AT ALL) to an Uber ride to meet up, where my senses were all but overloaded, and I felt that old, familiar spring in my step again, and soaked up absolutely as much of the moment as I possibly could. Masks and all. It almost brought tears to my eyes.
We walked so much that day, with the purpose of practicing TaeKwonDo together and staying physically active and healthy. Jay took me to a wonderful spot on the bank where we had plenty of wide open space and a gorgeous view (ESPECIALLY gorgeous when illuminated at night). He had this great idea to practice in the sand, and off we went. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. And boy, was it a challenge. It was an extra struggle, but we felt so energized afterwards (like an hour of intense kick combinations and stretching, IN THE SAND), that we decided to keep exploring afterwards. I'm not sure how much we walked that evening, but I saw new things among other views that reminded me of other places I’d been that were welcome memories. The whole experience was so beautiful and special to me. We walked to the point I thought my legs would fall off, and at the end of our adventure, we climbed five flights of stairs to his apartment and enjoyed some well deserved beer. A great end to an eventful experience. And I fell DEAD asleep when I got home.
Through all of this quarantine so far, I've been learning to appreciate the small things even more. Things that used to seem so trivial and completely normal have become highlights of my day. Riding in a car, actually *GASP* ordering fries from McDonald's for the first time since I was in Switzerland and subsequently hearing about it later from my not-so-happy stomach (my tastebuds were all about it, though), taking a stroll through several parks, running and dancing in the rain while letting mindfulness have its way, SOCIALIZING (with masks), drinking in familiar sights I once took for granted (and I didn't even know it) to even having a very exciting, sexy, and one-of-a-kind webcam boudoir photoshoot with the incredibly talented photographer, Angela Duncan. It's rendering a whole new perspective for me daily.
I'm not the typical homebody type. I rather prefer NOT to be indoors for extended periods of time (hello, adrenaline junkie and adventurer-extraordinaire), and my biggest challenge throughout this whole thing has been, wait for it, BALANCE. It's a constant balancing act of finding ways of being OKAY. Not amazing, not out-of-this-world phenomenal, not excited every single day in anticipation of what's to come because to be honest, my 100% is always out in the world, exploring and expanding. This is my quiet time. This is a pause I'm pushing daily to honor, because a lot of it is within a comfort zone I ditched to travel the world. My comfort zones became OUTSIDE my comfort zones. I lived a constant, natural high exploring and traveling from one place to another, and this has been a sucker punch to the gut to slow my ass down and look internally at the other uncomfortable places that need exploring and work on.
My days are currently filled with more positive self-talk and affirmations than I ever thought I needed; of gentle reminders that on the hard days, it's OKAY to not be okay. That just because I still get anxiety and other bullshit surfaces to the forefront, doesn't mean something is wrong with me; it means I'm tackling a lot right now, I'm out of my element and I'm doing my best. And that, that's good enough. It's understanding that even though I'm not feeling those high vibrational feelings of bliss that I witness other people on social media displaying, doesn't mean I'm not doing exactly what I should be doing, for me. It means taking breaks from social media to filter out all the unnecessary comparisons that automatically happen and finding other helpful things to fill my time with. It means baby steps. It means grace. I'm essentially a baby learning how to walk all over again. I'm stumbling. I'm falling. I'm fumbling around in the dark (sometimes drunk) trying to find the damn light switch in a room full of other equally lost people across the globe trying to do the same. Seriously though, WHERE IS THE DAMN THING?!
When we re-emerge from this and reflect, experiencing all the new fuzzy feelings from drinking in our restored freedoms all over again, I'm hopeful that we will transcend into a new mindset. A healthier one.