As of today I have been working from home for a month. March 16th was the last day I went in to the office to figure out what I needed to start to move classes online. For those of you who don’t know, other than yoga, I teach English Language to new immigrants who are preparing their language to enter into University studies. The groups that I teach clearly have a certain level of language before they can be accepted in to our program. You see, the students that we have often had to leave their countries for difficult reasons and often leave behind professional careers and often even a lot more than that. I started teaching English shortly after I graduated University. I moved to S. Korea to start my career, and even though I had only planned on staying there for 1 year, I returned 4 years later thinking I was done with teaching. Little did I know that teaching was not done with me. However, enough about me, that is not what my focus was meant to be about today.
Teaching English to new immigrants, or second language speakers in general, it gives me a lot of empathy for the struggles that other people go through. Whether someone left a country in the middle of war, moved over seas to study by choice, or whether someone is just looking to learn something new and make a change in their education, they all face challenges that we cannot understand. I say this as a teacher, but the reason I say this is because it is also true as a friend.
We are living in a time of trauma. Whether you have been through a traumatic situation of your own, or whether you’ve see others go through trauma, you must know that we all react differently. We all have been through different life circumstances that bring us to where we are today. We all get triggered in different ways for different reasons, and we all have skills and tools that help us cope when we need to get though these difficult times (some skills and tools maybe better or worse than others). What we don’t have is knowledge of everyone else’s situation. I don’t know what my students have been through, and I’m honestly often too afraid to ask. I’ve heard stories that many of us can’t even believe, but when you look at those people if you don’t know those stories you will often assume things about them related to your own experiences. We can’t assume people have the same skills or tools that we have, or that they will react the same way that we would, or maybe that we would want.
In times of trauma I often hear people say things like, “well I sure did learn who my real friends were during my difficult times”. No …. no you did not learn who your friends were. First of all, this is the most ridiculous thing that I’ve ever heard. Just because someone can’t be there for you when you need them has nothing to do with you or the value of your friendship. What is does show you is there ability or inability to deal in that situation. We have all been through our own traumas, and even though you Want a friend to support you through something… and maybe that friend says they will be there for you and really really wants to be there for you…. maybe there is something deep inside of them that prevents them from being able to do that…. and listen to this…. it has Nothing To Do With You!
We are going through a world wide pandemic at the moment and everyone is going to react in a different way. I can say for myself that there are days when I haven’t been able to get off the couch, I couldn’t return text messages, or calls…. I honestly just wanted and needed to sit in a very dark room and do absolutely nothing but binge the entire season of Tiger Kings… and you know what… that’s ok. Other people need to be motivational and share optimism and help others exercise, or pray, or preach gratitude. Neither one is wrong. If one of my friends is struggling right now, as I’m sure many are, I would do my absolute best to try to be there for them, but some days my absolute best is not getting off the couch because that’s the best that I can be those days. Other days I will reach out, I will share the optimism, I will bake you cupcakes, I will do everything that I can…. when I can. However, I don’t always know what you need because you too are sitting in this world of uncertainty and fear of the unknown and are probably taking time to react in ways that you need to react.
So… back to my point. You friends are your friends and if they can’t be there for you…. maybe try being there for them. I know I don’t always say the right things, I know I’m not always my best and can’t be there for my friends. I know some days I skip over all the happy chipper posts on social media because my brain actually can’t handle it. I know sometimes I withdraw and hide in my own solitude because it feels safe, and I know I can handle that. I know that these are the things I do in trauma… but sometimes they are things I do in general because of traumas that I have faced in the past. I know sometimes I can’t handle celebrating other people achievements because I’m struggling so much much with my own situation. If you have ever told me that you’re getting married, pregnant, have a new boyfriend, got a new job…. sometimes I just don’t know how to respond. I know it sounds silly, but I try… and I know sometimes I don’t react in the right way, but…. I also know that I don’t mean anything by it and I do truly want the best for all of the successes of my friends. Sometimes I just need that time to process my own junk before I can celebrate with you.
I’ve also realized recently that I’m not good at endings. You know that feeling you get when you get close the end of a good book or a TV series. You want to savour it because you just don’t want it to end. I realize that I do this a lot. First, I rarely finish a book. Sounds weird right? But… it’s true. Secondly, I often withdraw when someone is moving away or leaving because I’m in denial of it ending, or in general I just don’t know how to enjoy an ending. I act weird, I put it off, I hesitate letting things linger.
I know it’s tough when people can’t react the way that you want them too, but this does not make them any less of a friend or make them a bad person. If you are struggling through a divorce and your friend has no idea what that’s like, they might not be able to support you in the way that you need, and if they can’t… they might just withdraw. If you have a health issue and you want your friend to support you with doctors appointments or other things, they may have experiences that prevent them from being able to do this even though they really really want to. I can tell you, a friend of mine once ended up in the hospital with a broken shoulder, and I could not bring myself to go there to see him in the hospital. I went after he was home, but hospitals make me feel dizzy and nauseous. Don’t ask me why… but I am really bad at going to hospitals, thank goodness I’ve never had to spend much time in one.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that they can’t wait until “things go back to normal”. I don’t believe that our future normal will ever be the same as it once was. This shift is going to be big. We will all be facing this in one way or another for a long time to come. Whether your friends decided that you were the problem and maybe will never be your friend again, or if you’ve lost a job that you won’t return to, or felt the overwhelming fear of everything that the news is promoting everyday…. you will be changed. Things will not go back to normal, and that is ok. One thing that you can see overwhelmingly right now is peoples fear of change. So many people just want what that had, even though a couple of weeks ago they were probably complaining about that too. Sometimes we just need to sit in the “in between” and feel the feels and prepare for what is next. There is no other time in our lives that we’ve had to endure something like this as a collective. So many people just want it over now, as do I, but at the same time they aren’t actually sitting in it and focusing on why they want those things or don’t want them.
In saying all of this after my big long rant, I just want you to know that It’s not your friends fault they can’t be there for you. Your friends are all dealing with this pandemic in the way that serves them. We all want to connect and have support. Believe me I know, here I am on my birthday one month in to self isolation with no end in sight. I spend all of my days and nights alone and even though I dreamt of maybe having a date this year, the sad thought is that this is not the year for that to happen…. again. I appreciate my community who has been supporting me through this as I feel like I’ve found more online friendship and community over the last month than I’ve found in a long time. I haven’t written here in awhile because I just didn’t know what to write. I find that the social media is crazier than ever and that if I’m going to post, I want it to be with a purpose.
I’m still finding my way thought this all. I feel like it took me a good month of living life on a roller coaster to feel comfortable in this new normal. Things have changed, and that’s ok. Times have been tough, and that’s ok. I’ve had good days and bad days, and that’s ok. I’ve worked out some days and others I’ve hardly gotten off the couch, and that’s ok. I’ve got more friends I communicate with daily and others I’ve learned, because of their own situation, I will never talk to ever again…… and that’s ok.
Trauma is difficult whether you are going through it today or whether you went through it ten years ago. This pandemic is a time of living history that none of us will forget. Some of us have lost jobs, friends, family members, and communities. Ten years from now many of us may still be feeling the affects of these few months…. and that’s ok.