Fear and panic is contagious. But so is peace, rest and calm.
Of course it took a year of abject loneliness and severe lack of intimacy to realise this. I’ve known this in theory, as the Polyvagal Theory that suggests our nervous systems are primed for connection, and comes equipped with the capacity to reach calm states through “co-regulation” simply by sensing and responding to calm states in the other. Through non verbal cues, like breath, and social cues like smiling.
2020 has been the loneliest time of my entire life. And it took me months to accept how much it hurt. As someone who virtue signalled a lot (if you’ve read this blog long enough, you’ll know) about the privilege and joy of solitude, I really hated and struggled a lot through it. To a point where it got physically painful and manifested in really heartbreaking ways.
Yes, a lot of the time I need quiet and stillness from solitude. But this year, I realised that I feel dead without connection. It is what we are born for. Community, conversation, camaraderie, collectiveness. And as I sought it in virtual spaces like yoga, zoom workouts, many, many, many more video calls than I have ever made (both for work and socially), shared drinks and food and stimulants across a screen, in cooking, eating, housekeeping and cuddling with my homebodies, I also settled into the grief of it all. Accepting that this is also a part of this life that I cannot escape. A dance between retreat and rest, and connection and action that has its ups and downs.
And as always, the place of calm returned in the middle ground. In allowing silence and retreat, but also venturing out when I needed to. In not feeling ashamed to ask for the time and attention of people I love when I needed it, in not feeling like I am letting my tendency for solitude down by wanting connection, or vice versa. In dropping labels like needy and hyperactive.
I can do both. I can have both. I can be both. I can trust myself to know when I need what. And they can both contribute to my calm and peacefulness.