Love in the Time of Covid

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Being a “last line” worker in the midst of a global pandemic is not easy. People are stressed. With each new wave of the virus comes a new wave of impact on jobs, relationships, and mental health. In the psychotherapy world, we have adapted, moved on line. Virtual sessions are a good compromise, but they are certainly more tiring. What keeps me going, in spite of the fatigue, and the daily exposure to fear and uncertainty, is quite simply, that I get to be a witness, more than ever before, to the incredible human capacity for love and courage.

Love is the couple addressing the impact of living in close quarters 24/7 on their relationship.

Love is the exhausted new parents adjusting to caring for an infant in the absence of helping hands.

Love is the person living alone, struggling to stay both safe and connected.

Love is the front-line worker worried about about being fully present to their own family.

Love is feeling weary of forgoing personal freedom and convenience to keep others safe.

Love is the helping professional addressing symptoms of burn-out so they can keep helping.

Love is the family worried sick about their elders living and dying in long-term care.

Love is the laid-off worker figuring out a new path.

Love is the business owner having to make tough decisions.

Love is the disenfranchised grief of the family who were not able to say goodbye.

Love is the young person negotiating schooling and social relationships in a virtual world

Love is people committing to a social bubble of mutual care and concern.

An observation from the “back-lines” in this time of Covid : addressing the impact on our own well-being and the health of our families and relationships is truly an act of love. More to follow in subsequent posts.

Em-bracing Winter

Eco-therapy is based on the premise that people are healthier and happier when they are immersed in nature. Trees are oxygen-producing and sunlight-filtering geniuses. They smell good, and makes us feel good. I for one, feel more alive and grounded in the woods. My mind is clearer, my heart lighter. Forests are magical.

My natural survival strategy throughout this pandemic has been to spend regular time amongst trees. walking off the workday stress by the river’s edge close to home, and venturing deeper into the forest trails on the weekends. The practice has kept me sane during a crazy time in history. I walked almost daily through the burgeoning spring through to fall, alone or with a friend or on a phone call. The constancy of the path and the subtle changes in the scenery and the wildlife from March to October brought life and hope.

As winter descends and the days shorten, I find it more difficult to motivate myself to get out. Dampness seeps into my bones the moment I step out the door, and conspires with the bitter, breath stealing wind that sweeps off the river, tempting me to stay inside and hibernate for the winter. The deciduous trees along the path look barren now against the bleak November sky. Stark and quiet, easily forsaken after shedding their autumn splendor. They sadden me.

I have to remind myself that these trees are still very much alive despite their subdued, seemingly depressed outward state. They have merely slowed down and turned their attention towards tending to more introverted tasks. I imagine them whispering lullabyes to the animals wintering within boughs and branches, tucked in tenderly amongst their roots. The trees are conserving strength for the bitter months ahead, collectively taking time to rest and heal after the busyness of the warmer seasons.

My new plan is to take heed of the trees, and shift my focus towards em-bracing the restorative properties of winter rather than my usual bracing for the harshness. Bright days will be bookmarked for replenishing daytime walks with friends, stretching our branches towards the sun. When the cold winds howl and the sky is gray, I will turn my attention inwards, extending roots into creative projects and connect with love ones over warm soup and meaningful conversations. I will take time this season to process the happenings of 2020 and tend to the introspective emotions of winter.

What is your survival plan for the shorter days of November and December?

I’m launching a website!

Like trees in a forest, clinicians in private practice may appear to be standing apart, but In order to thrive our roots are deeply, intricately interwoven. We lean into each other for connection and support.

This Thanksgiving, I am pausing to convey heartfelt kudos to some of the trees in my personal forest. I am grateful to have an amazing network of family, friends and colleagues, as well the good fortune of mentorship and belonging to more formal supervision, community of practice, and personal development groups. Their kindness and expertise helped make the daunting process of transitioning to a mainly virtual psychotherapy and consulting practice in the midst of a global pandemic remarkably seamless.

As I step into this next chapter, I think back with gratitude to the nurses who mentored me with toughness, tenderness, and a holistic view of health and illness. They taught me to lead collaboratively, with care, composure, levity and respect for human dignity. The families I worked with as a nurse, a nurse practitioner and a cancer coach taught me by opening my heart to compassion for illness and suffering, and my mind to the true meaning of resilience in the face of adversity. My paediatric patients taught me about the importance of play and choice in healing. Working both in Indigenous health and with newcomers to Canada broadened my perspective on the diversity and interconnectedness of human experience. I no longer see people as separate from intergenerational family, community or the natural world.

There are many perspectives on mental health. Not all of them are kind or person centered. I am grateful to my Narrative Therapy mentors for guiding me in such a deeply reflective, collaborative, strengths-focused process of getting to the heart of each person’s story. I am at heart a storyteller, fond of metaphor and poetry, and helping people reclaim their positions as heroes of their personal narratives. I appreciate belonging to Collaborative Practice groups. Connecting with diverse mental health practitioners around narrative concepts every month keeps me engaged, passionate and grounded in this work.

I am grateful for ongoing mentoring in experiential, mind-body approaches to therapy. Profound and playful, Sand Tray Therapy goes where no words can venture. I love this little corner of my practice and the deep work that happens there. Somatic Experiencing Therapy training and supervision are rocking my world, enriching my work with clients. Both trauma and healing are embodied experiences. So is pleasure. I feel deeply privileged to have learned from Dr. Peggy Kleinplatz and able to bring a slice of her years of dedication and research on Optimal Sexuality into my practice with couples

My spiritual path keeps me centered and making meaning in this work. I owe a debt of gratitude to a long line of wise and compassionate teachers of yoga, meditation and dance, as well as Reiki and Therapeutic Touch, and the Inner Journey community. I have soft places to land, learn, laugh, and connect with myself and others. I receive insightful, practical and heart opening teachings that enhance my life and my work. I care deeply for the people I have met through these communities, and look forward to reconnecting in person once this pandemic is over. In the meantime, we Zoom…..

A heartfelt shout out to Erin Nazarali, communications genius, for the infinite patience, technical skill and creativity she brought to designing this website, Michelle Valberg and Leslie-Anne Barrett for extraordinary, soul-capturing photography, and my mentors with the Wellness Leadership Academy for their coaching and expertise.

I am incredibly grateful to the clients and supervisees I get to work with every day. Thank you for trusting me and teaching me. Thank you for your patience during this time of adjusting to a new normal of working mainly virtually and by phone.

Lastly, I want to express deep appreciation to my family and close friends. I feel loved and supported.

Happy Thanksgiving!