When the World Ground to a Screeching Halt

By Bridgette

Suddenly, it’s okay that I’m moving slowly. The impossible pace set by life, family, WORK. The nature of my body is to move at a pace that I can sustain and in a manner that won’t cause me further pain later.

I know I’m too slow for some, but I like to think of my progress through the world as measured. People rushing to walk around me as I make my way to my destination; my coworkers and students urging me to work harder, faster, longer.

Ten years ago, I thought I was up to the challenge. I can’t force the world to fit me so I did what I could to gamely fit the world. Prayer, Red Bull, necessity and sheer dint of will got me through the start of my career, a divorce, two degrees and countless other invisible but crucial hoops I needed to jump through.

As I approach my fourth decade, I’ve been forced to modify and adjust. My family has grown, my workload has tripled and my body has gone AWOL. For years I have been mired in guilt, shame and frustration as I watched the world rush around me. I struggle with thoughts of being a burden, virtual dead weight. My heart is large, but the pain and fatigue are greater.

As I kept an eye on the news about this novel virus, I pushed forward with going to work—with all of its thousands of germs—and often forgot to distance myself from students and coworkers because having dealt with the pain of rejection, I don’t enjoy making others ache with that pain. It was business as usual: I absorbed the stress, the anxiety, the additional pain that occurs when I push past my limits or deal with negative emotions like grief, anger, depression, hopelessness and feelings of being trapped. Since the schools have now been shut down and the speed of daily life has slowed to a crawl, I have time to think. Less stress means more realistic expectations which for me equals less guilt, less shame, less self-flagellation in a body that already beats itself up daily.

COVID-19 is a scourge and a trial; the demarcation of before the tragedy and after the tragedy will be significant. My heart goes out to the sick, the worried, the jobless, the widows and widowers, the people and children who have lost everything… And yet, I am experiencing what can only be described as relief.

The impossible bar has been lowered. I’m shut-in, but so is the rest of the world. My schedule is in shambles—but so is the world’s. My life has been turned upside down—but so has everyone else’s. It’s taken a pandemic for me to make peace with my imperfections. It’s taken almost 20 years of living in this differently and disabled body to come to a type of acceptance of my reality.

And on that day, when the dust has settled and the smoke has cleared, I just hope that I am still working from a place of acceptance and not guilt and shame. Shame and guilt have held me and my body hostage long enough.

Be grateful. Be vigilant. Be well.

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