“How’s it been going for you?” I asked my client last week.
“These days are hard and wonderful,” he said.
The simplicity of that really struck me. He’s right.
Duality is profound.
Back in March, when Covid kicked into high gear, I scooped up a few items from my office to dive into a make-shift telehealth operation at home, I never thought 7 months later, I’d be strangely adjusted to this new normal unattached from the timeline of how long it will be this way.
But here I am.
The pandemic has been incredibly intense for so many people. Some have experienced significant loss, trauma and tragedy, others are just mildly annoyed by the inconvenience of it all, but everyone has been forever altered in one way or another.
The first few weeks of managing the shift from in person therapy sessions to exclusive telehealth sessions was intense! My regular practice full of high functioning clients who mostly experience mild to moderate complications and symptoms were suddenly launched into a new level of intensity I’ve never seen in my entire career as a therapist.
Almost every single session shifted from their original presenting problem to coping with a tremendous amount of anxiety and uncertainty. Every single session focused on one common topic - coping with the pandemic.
Adjusting to a zoom, phone or facetime platform after spending my entire career sharing a whole therapy room with each client felt very confining, limiting and required an enormous amount of focused energy.
On top of that, the pandemic poured gasoline all over every single session and lit them all on fire in one giant burning inferno of stress, trauma and tragedy.
As therapists, we are clinically trained to handle a lot, but this was unprecedented.
I leaned hard on my family for that first month. My husband closed the doors temporarily to his bakery that he had been running nearly nonstop 7 days a week for the past 7 years. He caught up on years of lost sleep in about a month's time and carried away my teacups between sessions and left me bowls of hot soup and little sandwiches on trays outside my therapy door that I could grab between clients to keep me going. My kids cleaned the house and folded baskets of laundry. They walked the dog with me and like many across the globe, we did puzzles, played games, got crafty, baked bread and cleaned out closets to pass the time while in lock down.
I completely stopped blogging, dreaming, planning and thinking big. I was mostly in survival mode, just like everyone else. We had to pull down 2 international culinary tours we had already booked and planned in France and Italy, and all of my plans to launch another international retreat were also halted.
But that stop action actually allowed me to awaken.
I stopped running so fast and started to merge into slow living. Things felt a little easier in some ways. My entire social calendar was wiped clean. All of my board meetings, all the activities for my kids, all of our plans came to an abrupt stop.
I was able to make more time for long walks in my neighborhood, sleeping in a little later, not worrying about putting together fancy work outfits, jewelry and heels.
Suddenly less was more and that was really wonderful.
But the duality existed and at the same time I was slowing down and relaxing into this new pace, I was also helping calm my daughters fears about her transition to virtual high school and helping prepare my son to move abroad in August for his university studies in Lund, Sweden. We weren’t even sure until the last minute if he would be able to get there, considering the US travel ban to Europe and how high the Covid numbers were in the states. But I’m proud to say, he made the journey safely, navigating 4 border crossings alone, mid-pandemic and is thriving now in his program at Lund University.
All in all, I am immensely grateful.
I have a deep sense of gratitude that my family and friends are safe, that I’m able to provide support to the clients I care so deeply for, that I’ve been able to not only adjust to telehealth sessions, but am absolutely loving it now and that even during the pandemic, I also managed to build and launch an online course that trains other therapists on how to build a thriving practice - AND - I’ve added a therapist under me to form a group practice because I have been getting so many referrals, I decided it was time to expand in order to meet the growing need for care.
So yes - these days are “hard and wonderful” and what I’ve gained the most from this time is a sense of presence and connection with myself, my health, my family, my work, my purpose and even simple pleasures like slow cooking, reading more, tending to my garden, noticing simple beauty in my neighborhood and the kindness and compassion of good people in the world.
I hope this blog reaches you in good health and that your days can be hard and wonderful too.
Megan Gunnell, LMSW Founder & Director of the Thriving Well Institute, psychotherapist, retreat leader, speaker, writer and entrepreneur. Loves to experience the world through food, culture, art, music and travel. Believes whole-heartedly that practicing gratitude, self-care and mindfulness are the foundation of thriving and living in joy.