There is a meme floating around social media of “Where’s Waldo, Social Distancing Edition.” Do you remember the childhood game of finding a microscopic figure on the overfilled chaotic pages? It was a satisfying challenge. The recent comic now shows Waldo, standing 2 metres apart from 4 other individuals in an open park, smiling and waving at the reader. Clever commentary and hilarious.
I can almost imagine Waldo in real life, happy to be seen, happy to be found and maybe even a little eager for a hug.
Beyond the social challenge I do think there is something darker and possibly more insidious waiting for us in these isolated times: ourselves.
Don’t miss the obvious. When we are isolated we are not alone. We are with ourselves. Now for some, this might be a delight (hello, to those who have done their counselling homework). But for others, this may be a greater challenge than you expect.
When there is silence outside of you, and you are alone with yourself, what bubbles up to the surface?
Social isolation has created a rare experience of being face to face with our reflection, with many external validation factors silenced. We receive validation for our values and our identity in our daily life. We receive validation through our work, our connection to others, our feelings of accomplishment in goals we set for ourselves. Think of areas where you feel confident or capable. I want to be clear, these are important factors for health and wellness. We are meant to have feedback about who we are and what we do. That feedback is ideally positive and helpful in a healthy understanding of our worth. Hopefully the feedback we receive reminds us we matter to others and what we do matters in this world.
But if it is stripped away, when no one or nothing is saying anything you, when there is silence outside of you, and you are alone with yourself, what bubbles up to the surface?
I want to make space for some who find this hard. There could be an inner critic, slinging insults about who you are or what you do. There could be questions about your work, your identity, your place in this world, your meaning or purpose. Maybe some bad memories. Maybe some shame. Maybe big negative feelings. A darkness under the surface.
I read this last night and felt it was a Spirit-led moment for our time in isolation:
“Gamache was the best of them, the smartest and the bravest and strongest because he was willing to go into his own head alone, and open all the doors there, and enter all the dark rooms. And make friends with what he found there.” (Louise Penny, A Fatal Grace)
There are two lessons here for us:
Do not underestimate the depth that can be found in a mystery novel.
This experience of finding something ugly or dark within ourselves is a normal human experience. It is also understandable to avoid looking at those things; it may feel impossible to befriend them.
So I sit here and wish I could be with you, to be an external source of validation. I know that pain and wish I could be the one who gave you the hug you need. But I can’t. Because. There is so much distance. (See: Waldo). Instead, I want to give you something greater:
There is someone who wants to go into your being with you, open all the doors there, enter all the dark rooms, and make friends with what he finds there. He wants to befriend depression, anxiety, shame, and self-hatred. He wants to hear your nightmares and bad memories and hold you together as you fall apart. He has been called by some the Wonderful Counsellor.
His name is Jesus.
If you have tracked with me this far and only judged me slightly for cheesiness, thank you. If you are genuinely interested all you have to do is close your eyes, open your heart and invite him in: “Jesus, if you are wiling to come into the dark I would be happy to have you here with me, so I am not alone, and you can help me see me as you see me, with mercy, grace, compassion, acceptance and love”
Start with Jesus, our Wonderful Counsellor.
As a Registered Clinical Counsellor, I understand this is not the only option for care, and many times we require help from another human being, especially trained medical professionals. If there are struggles too big for you to handle, I believe Jesus is a needed answer, but there are also very important and needed resources such as Crisis hotlines, Suicide Prevention hotlines, doctors, psychologists and counsellors who would also like to walk with you into the darker parts of your self. You are not alone. Jesus, and many other professionals, are willing to help. If you are needing a referral for any of these resources please contact us or visit stpf.ca/care