Like many of you, my life looks nothing like it did four months ago.
My daily routine and habits have been turned upside down.
Life won’t probably ever return to exactly how it was before.
Lockdown has given us a lot of opportunity to think. About what’s important in life, what we need, what needs to change.
Here are 3 unexpected lessons I learned in lockdown about life, love, and being a woman.
Look Good for YOU
The first lesson I’ve learned is that I got it wrong when I thought I put on nice clothes and makeup every day because I was going to go out in public and people were going to see me.
We don’t look good for other people. We look good for ourselves.
I spent the first 3 months of lockdown in yoga pants with no makeup. I thought I was giving my skin a break. But when I looked at myself in the mirror, I looked old. I looked drained and tired.
Recently, I got a haircut. My hairdresser told me that she couldn’t believe people had stopped washing their hair just because they weren’t going out. She said that she wore makeup every single day, because it made her feel good about herself.
And it made me realize: maybe part of the reason I feel so tired and drained is because I’m not making the effort.
So I’m back to doing my makeup again. This time, it’s for me. It doesn’t matter if no one’s going to see me. I’m going to see me, and that’s what matters.
Hold Your Elders Close
The next lesson I’ve learned is about love.
Romantic love gets all the glory, but there’s another kind of love that fuels and sustains us: the love of those who came before us. The love of our grandparents, our great-great-grandparents that we never knew.
These are the people who give us our identity, our heritage.
I used to look at the daily reports of people in my state who’d died of COVID-19. It was hard to see how many of them were people’s grandparents, in their 70s, 80s, even 90s. Think of what those people have seen and lived in their lifetime. All that gone…
We forget to hold that love tight, but we shouldn’t.
When we keep our elderly out of sight, out of mind, we miss an opportunity for perspective. The arc of a life is long. Whatever stage of life we’re in right now is only temporary. To someone in their 90s, we’re all youngsters.
So value those relationships. Boyfriends come and go, but the love of our grandparents and ancestors carry us for a lifetime.
Mental Health Matters
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that mental health needs to be a bigger priority for most of us.
Even if life is hard, if we feel good—or at least capable—we can cope with it. But poor mental health makes an easy life feel really tough and a difficult life feel impossible.
We are in a global mental health crisis right now. The triple whammy of isolation, financial strain, and unpredictability is hitting us all hard.
We’re not just feeling our own pain. We’re feeling the pain of others. So many deaths of spouses, parents, loved ones. We’re facing up to our long history of racism and the pain it’s caused.
In normal life, we have our own little bubble. We believe that we’ll be able to go to the grocery store tomorrow and see food and toilet paper on the shelves. We believe that we’ll be able to meet up with our friends if we need some company. We believe that if we get sick we can go to the doctor and get well again.
Stability makes us feel safe.
But life isn’t stable. It only looks that way.
Good mental health helps us cope when life peels back that layer of illusion. We realize that nothing is given, bad things happen, and someone isn’t always going to catch us if we fall. If we have the resources inside, we can deal with that.
But we don’t always have those resources.
If you’ve been struggling, if you’ve been down, if you’ve been worrying, then don’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. See what support is out there.
Just as important, if you see someone struggling, don’t shame them for not being strong and positive. We often have this instant negative reaction to someone else’s pain, which means that the people most in need of support tend to hide it for fear of being judged.
Your partner might be struggling and never tell you, because he believes you’ll freak out. You expect him to be the strong one, so he plays that role even though that’s not how he feels inside.
We have to learn how to hold space for each other. The best video I’ve seen on how to practice that is this one from Brené Brown: