My word to start out this year was "intentional", and while I was able to fulfill some of that intentionality there was a big pothole on 2020's road of life, called Covid-19. At first it felt like the zombie apocalypse without the zombies, I was anxious, on high alert in anticipation of what would happen next and then felt the freeze seep into my body. And we were all frozen, life as we knew it just stopped, society screeched to a halt and hospitals around the world filled up. Certain businesses, just had to close, people not working, not earning, not spending, not visiting, still and sitting with uncertainty. The news and social media were filled with dire warnings of this new, rapidly spreading, no cure virus, all us having to just watch and unable to fight.
Traumatic Stress: The response to shocking and emotionally overwhelming situations that may involve actual or threatened death, serious injury or threat or physical integrity.
I was able to make some sense, because of my Somatic Experience ™ training, what was happening to my nervous system and to the nervous system's around me, we were all like an antelope caught by a tiger and frozen in a self-protective freeze. It was in this shared experience that I felt more connected to my fellow humans as we globally were in this together. We together were, no matter who, rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight, trans, fighting an unseen enemy and being affected ALL at the same time, in different ways by the same unseen tiny virus. Then watching the news became a nervous system trigger, seeing images of dead bodies from hospitals being stored in refrigerator trucks, because there was no room in the morgue, and the unceasing rising numbers of new Covid-19 cases. Seeing myself and others as "germs" was really foreign to me, and started to miss what I had taken for granted, regular social interaction, hugging and teaching yoga in person. Those simple things, in their absence, started to become more precious, and with each passing day more missed. It was then I deeply questioned what was important in life for me. I had to ask myself, “What messages, social constructs of what I previously thought life should look like - no longer fit? “The internal messages of; “more is better”, “try harder”, the badge of “I am so busy”, started to look very unimportant and a waste of precious energy.
Then came the death of George Floyd, the spark that lighted the constant smoldering fire of social injustice experienced by the Black Community, to a national bonfire. The anger, pain and rage of this shared globally, the excessive police brutality, the underlying racism in the USA starkly exposed, piled onto the stress of a world pandemic. All of us vicariously traumatized in witnessing the last minutes of Mr. Floyd's life, horror at the sociopathic action of the police officer, the cold detached disregard for another's life seeping away under his knee. The other officers standing by looking on for almost nine minutes was also horrifying to watch and as I saw it on my TV screen my throat felt an urgency to scream and I wanted to take action, to yell and push off this white officer who was killing a black man so coldly.
Vicarious trauma – the emotional/physical residue of witnessing a horror, pain or suffering of another.
I felt the mixed feelings of gratitude for the capturing on film of this tragedy, compassion/horror/sadness for the direct standers by and for the person who witnessed and filmed the murder. I knew that by capturing that solid proof, even though the perpetrator was a policeman, he murdered George Floyd period. Justice though swift was bittersweet. Though George Floyd's death leaves a terrible vacant hole for his family, it has been a catalyst for change, creating a stark look at the underbelly of police brutality and racism. The ensuing riots, violence on both sides, stories highlighting African Americans being unfairly targeted by police, guilty of nothing but being black, highlighted my own white privilege and guilt. It was hard to watch and at the same time I could feel the shift in the collective, the beginnings of no longer being able to ignore what has always been there. Just maybe an acknowledgement of injustices and the beginnings of increased acceptance for all (black, brown, sexual orientation, etc.) might start to be more deeply integrated now. I attended a Trauma-Informed Yoga Training during this time through Collective Resilience (Hala Khouri and Kyra Haglund) and had a further awarenesses come to the surface, of what being in a black body down in the States is like. Where folks, who are law-abiding citizens, well-educated, are afraid to walk the streets for fear of being targeted just because they are black. Even though I acknowledge the change will not be fast, maybe it will be more lasting and old prejudices will start to unravel. I will never forget the poignant words of George’s daughter, Gianna, when she said; "My Daddy changed the world!"
Falling on the heels of this came the 2020 US Election Campaign, which was another eye opener for this Canadian as I had not really paid that much attention to US politics before. The nervous system stressor for me was seeing the angry and sometimes violent polarization of our neighbors down south and I had to renew my commitment to self to get updates, in little bits, from the news. I am grateful that the election is over, and no matter who you support, I am sending our neighbors down south, continued wishes for healing of polarizing sides, peace and unification as a country for 2021.
I know that as a white woman, my optimism might be viewed as naively idealistic, and there is probably some truth to that, as no one can completely understand another's bodily experience (especially a white woman) unless you live in their brown/black skin. Not to single out our neighbors, I am also very aware that Canada is not without its own ongoing racism horrors presently and historically, especially for the Indigenous Communities across the country. Racism is unfortunately everywhere, has many faces and we are being called now to look and see with the renewed eyes of awareness.
Life was still moving forward and during this time, I was able to complete an Intentional Communication Course, Intermediate year of Somatic Experiencing®, two Trauma-Informed Yoga Trainings, two Somatic Experience™ Master Classes, and I started teaching yoga online through Zoom. I have gained gratitude for Zoom as it has enabled us all to look at life and connection through a new lens. People started working from home, were able to keep jobs, reducing commuting time, their carbon footprint, and be closer to their families. The air pollution around the world decreased and we were able to see that Mother Earth can rebound and rejuvenate if we give her a chance. The lasting gift will be our collective, heightened awareness of our shared struggles, our shared tragedies and the beautiful connection with each human that we all share
My intention is stronger than ever, to be working as a trauma therapist through sharing Somatic Experience™ healing, Trauma-Informed SE based Yoga, to my own and the global community. I am still continuing to gain knowledge in trauma therapy and will be taking further trainings in 2021. My dream is to give people the opportunity to regain their nervous system regulation, reducing anxiety, stress, PTSD, creating renewed vitality by coming out of nervous system freeze and gaining self-confidence and agency. When there is healing, there is hope and I believe this year has been the small beginnings of a greater global healing.
The blessing of awareness is once you have seen atrocities, you can no longer un-see, and at the very least, let this year be just that. To keep seeing, keep feeling, talk about what we have learned, and not to go back to sleep again. We are all simply human beings more alike than different, with lives, dreams, loved ones, and all sharing this beautiful planet. Let us all keep awake, get curious, mindful about our own prejudices/biases, and question what we have always assumed to be true. Let us get back to what is important; our health, our family, friends, sweet connection, being stewards of Mother Earth, and the balance of work and life. Not living to work, but to work to live. Let us all be brave in seeking our own paths of truth and healing, as our healing is part of the collective’s healing.
I send you all love, hope and healing in 2021!