Walking the dogs this weekend stressed me out.
We live in an apartment complex that is generally very nice. There are sidewalks, lots of grass, plenty of buildings, shared areas like a dog park, pool, clubhouse with a movie theatre, grilling stations – like I said, really nice, compared to my Brooklyn railroad apartment.
Thankfully, many of the shared amenities have been closed – but this weekend we were walking our dogs and looked over at one of the grill stations. A quick count showed more than 10 (our county, and now, our state is under restrictions) and the 10 folks weren’t any 10 – they were our apartment management, maintenance, and staff – literally, all of them, drinking with corn hole and bbq.
My level of anger was…high. I couldn’t stop snapping about it – who did they think they were!
All of them!
Why didn’t they think the rules applied to them as much as they apply to everyone else!
I went as far as to tweet and call my property management company, angrily reacting to the irresponsible behavior that was putting everyone at risk.
So what did it have to do with me?
Stop. Think. Breathe.
In reality, it didn’t. I’m keeping my space “clean” and safe – we are social distancing, we haven’t spoken to others in real life in weeks, we’re wiping down the valet trash can, our outdoor doorknobs, groceries, treating everything like raw meat. We are, in essence, controlling everything we have control over – so why the desire to control what other people are doing?
I know this isn’t just me. I see this stress and fury all over social media – why is this company doing this! Why is this person selling like this! A coronavirus CONTENT CHALLENGE?
That last one is just poor taste, but all of them? I KNOW I can keep scrolling and keep walking away, but for some reason, even though I know this intellectually, I feel like I can’t – and it’s because the landscape, goal posts, end of the tunnel keeps changing Every. Single. Day.
That, my friends, is why we are all losing our minds.
Control is a funny thing – it’s even more ironic that I teach improv for a living and yet I’m struggling massively with control in this very new and scary situation. Improv is best executed when you give up control: one of the rules I rarely talk about is “follow the follower” and it’s a doozy. Essentially you’re playing with the whole team, and your actions affect the larger group. It’s probably why I’m so furious at people that are thinking they are above and beyond the advisements to behave as if you have it.
We experience change and upheaval in everyday life constantly. Things change and we move through transitions and THOSE are difficult – and those are fast, comparatively, to what we are dealing with now. Imagine all of this like a Yahtzee game– in “normal” change, the cup shakes and the dice get dumped out and you deal with what’s there. The moment of shaking is the unknown, and it’s just a moment. During this particular change, it’s like someone is constantly shaking the dice, sometimes slowly and sometimes quickly, and there’s no relief from the dumped dice moment.
So what can we do, aside from grabbing our bearings and loved ones and hold tight to something while the world shakes around us? Not much, honestly. Something I hear in therapy a lot ties to what I teach in improv – be in the moment. What’s true right now? Not what could happen, what you could do, what you might be dealing with – what is true right now, in this moment, at this second? For me, what’s true:
My family is healthy.
My boomer parents are staying TF home.
My doggos are happy.
I have support.
I am healthy.
I control what I come in contact with.
That’s it! That’s all I know! No amount of yelling at people in real life or on the internet can change those things – and no amount of wanting them to change helps either. I can only control how I respond – and that’s it.
Other things you and I can control:
Who we interact with – mute, block, take a break.
Who we let into our mental space.
A quick note on emotions: feelings are INCREDIBLY COMPLEX during times of change and control. This handy feelings wheel always surprises me:
Take some time and figure out where your emotions are falling, and keep those in mind when you communicate and interact with those around you. I was finding myself in the blue, black, red, orange, green space A LOT – until I realized that this was just my control issues taking over. My goal is to keep letting go and focusing on things that directly connect with my six-foot bubble. What’s your goal?
All in all, please remember we can only control how we are responding to this – no more, no less. Find peace in that, and give yourself grace and space to feel your feelings.