The Painful Agitation of Clarity

Ptarmigan Trail, Silverthorne, Colorado

What a privilege my work is.

Once again, insights about life integrate and synthesize in the patient encounter, and my life is that much richer for it. These encounters make me think, they give me material to process here on the blog; but most importantly, I am allowed into people’s lives such that we both connect and benefit synergistically. It’s the relationships, of course.

This time Patient and I bonded over a shared experience of people just being more and more shitty to each other these days. Ironic, isn’t it, that as we emerge from restrictions on travel and social gatherings, we find ourselves yelling, honking, and just aggressing more than ever? Every day I witness escalating impatience, intolerance, judgment, and contempt. Hard to stay optimistic about our species right now.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged all of our status quo defaults, and we suddenly understand the deep flaws and disadvantages of our old assumptions. Global business can be conducted effectively via remote connections. Some outpatient clinical care can, too. Other work, like education, judicial work, acute clinical care, and essential retail, suffers profoundly or simply cannot be done remotely, showing us all just how much we have taken for granted, for so long.

I imagine each and all of us, through both individual and collective adversities since early 2020, have probably experienced at least a few epiphanies of clarity. If you have faced death in any context these few years, you may feel it even more acutely and painfully. Grief unfolds over time and transforms us. How much clearer are you today about your core values and life priorities, compared to three years ago? What activities, tasks, and even relationships, are just not that important to you now? What others are elevated? How has this shift disrupted and altered your whole existence, if you really think about it?

And how much agency have you today, to make changes in your life, to better align your daily activities and interactions with a reassessed, reoriented life perspective and world view? Are the things that demand your attention worth your finite and precious energy and resources?

Once we know deeply what we do and don’t want, what serves and nourishes us and not, the latter things become increasingly intolerable. And if we have little or no control to change our circumstances, to move toward the former things, we get agitated. If our coping skills are fragile, or our stress overwhelming, our agitation accelerates and behavior deteriorates. We lash out, triggering others’ distress in a maelstrom cascade, and in no time we’re all boiling in a collective, co-created, toxic social soup–and we have no idea what happened. We just feel shitty, and the downward spiral churns on.

Sometimes it’s okay to just be with the miserable feelings a while, simply acknowledging them, naming them, without judgment. Validating the suck for one another can be profoundly therapeutic. The next time someone lashes out, I can take a breath. I can refrain from reacting in kind. I can self-regulate, maintain my own peace, and not add acid to the soup. And if I can muster it, maybe I’ll offer a kind word or gesture, an expression of empathy, and turn down the heat a little, even if only in myself.

I feel my own impatience and agitation these days; lots of transition, inflection, and reorientation going on. I lean heavily on my tribe for understanding, reflection, and encouragement. I move my body regularly to release tension. I breathe slowly and deeply more often. I look for small changes I can make now, starting with my attitude, that create the new reality I want. If we can each and all slow down, see how the realities we crave align, maybe we could even work together to co-create something better for us all.

One day, one moment, one breath at a time. ODOMOBaaT, my friends. We’ got this.

6 thoughts on “The Painful Agitation of Clarity

  1. Your blog brings to mind the song The Lonesome Road by James Taylor:
    “If I had stopped to listen once or twice
    If I had closed my mouth and opened my eyes
    If I had cooled my head and warmed my heart
    I’d not be on this road tonight.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Epiphanies of clarity” is a perfect way to describe the personal transitions many of us experienced over the last 3 years. The pandemic for me took my priorities – some of which were slightly out of focus – and made them all completely clear.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Liberated | Healing Through Connection

  4. Pingback: Bringing Our Best Thankful Selves | Healing Through Connection

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