Everything is different
The second time around
But you’ve got time
You’ve got time
These are the final few lines of Regina Spektor's iconic and atmospheric theme tune to the TV show Orange is the New Black. The show explores the experiences of women incarcerated in a US prison. This amazing song is floating around in my head today.
Don’t worry, I’m not about to be locked up but Ireland is facing into a second wave of Covid-19 with numbers rising and talk of level 3 restrictions for the capital, Dublin. This would see Dubliners under similar restrictions to what they endured during the peak of the first wave.
Boy, does it feel different this time though! The solidarity and adrenaline that accompanied the entry into our first lockdown has long since evaporated. Business owners who voluntarily shut their doors in the public good are now facing the prospect of shutting those doors for good. The strange excitement that accompanied a ‘once in a generation’ event that would cause all schools to close has been replaced with sheer dread and exasperation amongst school communities facing more disruption.
Why is everything different the second time around? What does Regina Spektor know that we need to understand?
Brene Brown calls it the ‘Day 2’ phenomenon. She speaks about it in a recent episode of her podcast “ Unlocking Us” (which is well worth checking out incidentally). Brene describes day 2 as the “messy middle”, when you’ve passed the point of no return and you have no choice but to move forward. That’s where we are now with Covid 19. We’re in the “messy middle”. The adrenaline has long since subsided. We want to find someone to blame. We want to get back to our own lives and we want someone else to clean up the mess.
But there is nobody else! The only way through this is straight ahead together and with a shared vision and goal of a world free of this insidious virus.
I’ve spoken to a number of people this week and I think that we are experiencing a communal anxiety right now. This is the point at which we really need to draw on our resilience and resourcefulness. However, I do think we need to make space for the negative emotions that are inevitable.
We have lost a summer! We’ve had no gigs, festivals, holidays or big family gatherings! Our workplaces are unrecognisable. One of the key reasons people enjoy their work; connecting with other people, has been ripped from us by social distancing restrictions. We have experienced a collective loss of our carefree way of life. We may not have realised just how much agency and choice we had in how we went about our day to day lives. But regardless of this, we are now experiencing intense emotions associated with a loss of that agency and choice.
Susan David, a psychologist and professor at Harvard Business School, recommends that we lean into negative emotions rather than ignoring or suppressing them. Positivity and optimism can get us through a short term crisis. However, there is a point at which we need to make space to feel the emotions that are a natural and necessary response to adversity and hardship. Grief, fear, anxiety, depression, anger, confusion, guilt…Susan argues that these emotions, although labeled as negative are not “bad”. It is human to feel negative emotions and we learn to better manage them when we acknowledge and accept them.
Last night, I got the email I had been dreading. My children’s school has closed down due to an undisclosed number of positive Covid tests in the school community. I have been acknowledging and accepting a number of negative emotions since the news came through.
This is day 2. It’s messy. It’s hard. Let’s not fight it. Let’s accept it and continue to breathe in and breathe out. We’ve got time! We’ve got time!