That good ol' existential feeling

If you’re anything like me, when the news of the pandemic of COVID-19 spreading to your state and the need to shelter in place came out, you were a little more than freaked. Maybe you still are, and that’s okay, too. 

The threat processing center of the brain, the amygdala, lit up like a damn Christmas tree, and your coping mechanisms kicked into high gear, and the next thing you know, you’re stress buying the most random survival gear like solar charging lanterns, hand crank radios, matches, and raincoats, and hmmm... should you get a tent? You never know when you’ll need a tent. Or maybe you just bought a metric ton of toilet paper. Yeah, same thing. It’s that damn lizard brain, the limbic system, taking over and giving reason a swift kick out the door. 

And now, months later, that pile of survival gear sits there mocking me, and I fight back  the urge to feel like a fool for something I was only doing to help me feel safe. Because that’s all it really was, I was doing what it took to feel safe. We all were. But now that the initial panic has subsided, and a new normal is on the horizon, another more familiar threat is resurfacing. 

That old friend, existential dread, starts to creep its way back in and make itself comfortable again on its favorite couch in the darkest corner of the mind. It waits. What is it waiting for? What does it want? ”Probably best not to go there,” You think to yourself. ”Too scary. Better to stay busy, stay distracted. Take your mind off things by looking for something to clean, or organize, something to watch, read, or a new podcast to listen to, something to drink, or smoke, something to escape into and feel productive, useful, or maybe to relax and unwind. Yeah, this is the best thing to do right now. It makes sense. I feel safer now.” 

Except, after that closet has been reorganized, the deepest house cleaning is done, the shows watched, books read, podcasts caught up with, the drink low, or the herb waning, those existential questions are still there, playing like a faint song you can’t get out of your head. What am I doing with my life? Where am I headed? Who am I? 

Sheltering in place, self isolation, quarantine, whatever you call it, means that going out to shows, meeting up with friends for a drink, heading to the movie theater, and any other amount of other things you may have once done to feel connected to the world and understand your place in it are now gone. You are confronted with the hard truth that distractions are limited. 

“We are social creatures! We’re not meant to live this way!” you may say, and to a degree, yeah, you’re absolutely right. But lately I find myself remembering, almost as if a dream, a discovery, no, a revelation that I had in the pre-COVID-19 world. I wasn’t really sure of anything, least of all myself. The connections I had with others weren’t as deep or strong as they could be. The connection with my Self* was obscured, blurry.

I was hiding from my Self, and the world around me. Surrounded with distractions, and working towards things I was convinced must be more important than living a life true to me. I was afraid of judgement, of not being “successful” enough, thin enough, liked enough, just… feeling not enough. I realized I had forgotten who I was, and understood that I needed and wanted to live a life true to what I value in life. I wanted to deepen my relationships, to finally move on my dreams. I began to prepare to go to college for Art. I traveled to Florida to visit a close friend from high school, to meet her baby daughter, and strengthen our relationship. I was doing it! I was on the path to living a life true to me.

Then we were told to shelter in place. All the plans I had flew right out the window. I panicked. I forgot who I was, again. I went back into hiding. 

I can’t hide from my Self anymore, though. Oh, I’ve tried, and I imagine you have, too. It’s so human to be unsure, afraid, and yet we hide this from each other, from ourselves, because it could be seen as weakness, and we might not like what we see when we look deep within our Selves. Flawed. Broken. Weird. Foolish. Insecure. Damaged. However you might label yourself or fear others labeling you. 

I’ve heard this pandemic referred to a few times as “the great pause.” Usually referring to the effect on the economy or sometimes the effects it’s had on the environment. Some days it feels like we’re in a holding pattern, waiting to get the news from the control tower that it’s okay to land the plane now, and things will resume as usual, thank you for your patience. Other days, the anxiety and fear surges again with speculation about what the future holds, because we can’t see an end to this. 

Waiting. Waiting for answers on when I can get back to my life and the plans I had. Still resisting the very real knowledge that this is actually the perfect time to connect with my Self. 

But I’m beginning to have this glimpse of clarity, that this time away from the world could be a gift, and I don’t want to squander it. So I’m saying, “Okay, fine” to the way the world is right now, in this moment, and greeting those scary, hidden parts of my Self, full of old questions long unanswered, and saying “Let’s do this.”. Because when I resisted and denied my deepest desires, I had been hitting pause on me and living a full life. I don’t know about you, but I want a life well lived now. Not some day. 

The path to that, I truly believe, is through connecting to my Self. It will be messy, I’m sure, but worth it. I’m going to meditate, do yoga, write, journal, draw, paint, and play. I’m going to attempt to drop the barriers of my imagination and lose myself, because on the other side of “lost” is “found.” 

I’ll be documenting, and sharing my experience, and what I learn. Sharing my thoughts, fears, and struggles as I go, because why not, right? I got this idea in my head that connecting more deeply with my Self will allow me to foster deeper connections with the world (even with social distancing). And in the end, isn’t that what life is about? Aren’t we all, as Ram Dass has said, “just walking each other home.”? 

I mean, really, I’m just looking for some company on the journey, and you’re welcome to walk with me, or just watch if that’s your thing. I’m a long time lurker myself.

* Self - a person's essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action.

Painting - Alexandra Levasseur 


  1. Thank you so much for sharing! I didn’t panic buy anything other than beer hahaha and I’m sure that’s telling enough! These are hard times — for sure. I think we’re all just doing the best we can to get by each day, knowing somewhere inside of ourselves that normalcy (the evil word) is never coming back. Whatever comes from these times - when all is said in done - can’t be wait it was. I’m glad to be on this journey with you, dear friend

    1. I’m honored to share it with you πŸŒΈπŸ’•


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