Resolving Life
I Just Want Things to Go Back To Normal…and Fast!

Few could have predicted the way that Covid-19 would wreak havoc on our lives. Covid-19 has become now a marker of time, distinguishing what life was like prior and what life is like now. As the world begins to slowly “open back up” and as we enter into summer, many are beginning to test the waters of this new unknown. As we embark into the official start of summer, surmounting questions arise such as how to keep children entertained during the summer months without day camps, parks and outings? Some may be contemplating how to possibly continue working from home or what a return to work or school will look like? Nearly everyone has financial concerns and fears about the economy and on a personal level people are resourcing new ways of coping in these unprecedented times. As we sit in contemplation, it takes few by surprise to be met with compounded emotions of nostalgia, longing and sadness, highlighting further a discrepancy between what is no longer and the normalcy that we crave. As we transition into this “new normal” many can agree that we do so, but not without difficulty.
In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy there is a concept called Radical Acceptance. For those familiar with DBT, it can be said that we are always striving to balance acceptance with change. One of the ways that we reduce suffering and distress as odd as it may seem, is simply by leaning into it. To illustrate how this is done and the benefits of doing so, first it is important to examine:

What is suffering?

Suffering is caused in part by trying to dispute reality. When faced with a situation that we disagree with, dislike or detest it is not uncommon for people to put up some resistance towards aspects of life that are difficult. This looks like conjuring up an ideal of how things should be, or could be different. When faced with the difficult, the painful and the uncertain, our mind attempts to seek solace and does so through generating solutions. At times we invest ourselves into playing out an alternative reality in our minds where we have generated solutions for essentially different problems. Disputing reality also involves focusing on what we may have given up, getting angry at the situation or people who have caused us pain or unsolicited change. Herein lies the birthplace of suffering, the space that exists between how we think things should be and how they are not and the discomfort that is generated.

What if I told you that this is exactly what contributes to making life so difficult and hard at times? By focusing all our energies upon “what is not” we are increasing suffering. All the while, we are somewhat denying ourselves an opportunity to come to terms with “what is” and all that it entails. Consider for a moment, how much mental, emotional and at times even physical energy can be consumed by suffering. We may lose sleep, productivity or connection living in this space of resistance. We may find ourselves feeling angry, overtly declaring resistance or even shutting down.

Enter Radical Acceptance.

It has been said in dialectical philosophy that before we can change anything we first must accept it. This means taking an inventory of “what is”. Taking extra precaution not to omit the painful parts, the uncertainty and the despair. We take in ALL of IT. When we are able to do so, we slowly begin to abandon the idea of how things should be different and acknowledge how they exist as they are. We turn towards validation of the self, of the pain, of the discomfort and lean into it. To accept something radically, does not mean that we have to like the situation, approve of what is occurring or give up passively to the experience. Rather, we see that life is a chain of events, all having led up to this exact moment, and in this moment, we have choice. We can continue down the road of increased suffering and distress while potentially giving credence to unhelpful and heavy emotions or we can liberate ourselves from these false realities and EMBRACE ALL of It. To accept something radically, allows us to consider choice. We can choose what we make of the situation, how we experience life, who we are during this time and how much energy we devote to wishing that things were different.

In a tug of war between what is and what isn’t, to accept something radically can mean, putting down the rope.

In the Time of Covid...

Radical Acceptance means leaning into these unprecedented times. It means taking in and validating the difficulties of all that has changed. It can mean choosing to pause for a moment to mourn what is lost and what is yet unknown. It is all okay and can be done without judgement of self, others or of the way the situation is being handled. Again, RA is not about advocating passivity, we can still generate solutions and push for change, but we are from a better vantage point. We become more closely aligned with having befriended the problem, meaning we are more effective. Our energies are more directed.

So if you find yourself longing for life “pre-covid” or contemplating questions such as “What is a summer without(fill in the blank)? I don’t have the answers to those questions. I can speculate that it may be difficult, it may be full of loss, nostalgia, memories, and all of that is okay. All of that can coexist in a space of uncertainty. What I do know is that putting up a fight and rooting oneself in comparisons or expectations of how they could be different will not likely be helpful. We can also entertain the possibility that a summer in the time of Covid may also be full of opportunities, differences and novelties. It can also be that we have power over how we exercise choice regarding our own participation in such.

Some statements of coping that may be useful to you during this time are: This situation (fill in the blank) is as it should be right now. With the information I have right now, I trust in my ability to make decisions. Can I pause for a moment and take in what is, letting go of comparisons, expectations and fears? Can I lean into this situation for a moment, without judgement, resistance and anger/ sadness/fear? Can I acknowledge what is known to me at this time? Can I embrace what is challenging and hard? I cannot change the context of what is happening, but I can choose how I participate in this experience.

Emily Spagnolo MSW, RSW