Being Present in Painful Moments

So, how is everyone out there handling the COVID-19 stuff and social distancing? Or maybe you’re in quarantine, either by choice or due to necessary circumstances…

It’s been one week since life seemed like it got turned upside down – at least in my part of the world. I work at a university library, and one week ago we found out our university was extending Spring Break and moving to online classes for two weeks (which has now been extended through the end of Spring semester, and possibly beyond.) Every day new information would come out, and whatever we had heard the day before wasn’t accurate anymore – things kept on escalating.

Initially I was not worried about the coronavirus, or about how it would affect my life. But by about Monday or Tuesday of this week, I could tell my anxiety was starting to kick into high gear, as maybe it did for many others out there. As more and more news came out, I found myself not being able to think about anything else – I wanted to know more, but also wanted to not know at the same time.

I doubt that my reflections on this past week are novel or earth-shattering, but I’ll share them anyway:

My first thought was that it’s crazy how just two months ago life was so different – I was so busy traveling every weekend – for my birthday, for my mom’s birthday trip to DisneyWorld, for the My Hero Academia anime convention my husband and I went to in Dallas… My worries then were so different, and I took for granted that all my plans would just happen, like they always seemed to. Being forced (maybe “forced” is a bit strong, “obligated” works too) to stay home and not go out or be with friends reminded me that we just aren’t guaranteed much in life – we’re not in control of very much at all. This is difficult for anyone that has anxiety.

My second thought I wanted to share came about because I was rereading a journal entry I wrote back on January 22nd, and here’s what it said:

I read recently (though now I can’t remember from which book because I’m reading like 5 books simultaneously!) that instead of trying to avoid painful experiences, it’s better to embrace them and to be mindful of them just like anything else. No matter how much control we have over any situation, we can never avoid pain forever. Instead, when we have to go through something painful, we can think to ourselves, “this is painful” and move on

As I sit here and am reminded of that, and am aware that we’re all going through a painful experience to some degree, I want to acknowledge that yes, this is painful. It’s painful to be so uncertain about the future, to be so isolated from others, to not be able to easily find what we need in stores (we still haven’t found any toilet paper by the way!) Maybe your painful experience looks something more like worrying about the health of a friend or family member, or maybe your own health is at stake.

Whatever painful experience you’re going through, I think the advice is still appropriate: acknowledge that it’s painful, and live in the pain for a while, so that you can move on more easily later. Sometimes we work so hard to avoid pain, that we can actually cause more pain for ourselves – I know this rings true for me. I’ll worry about an upcoming possible painful event, experience said painful event, and then relive or be upset about having had to experience it for a long time. This just extends my pain and emotional response to it.

I’m not very good at being present in the moment, especially if it’s a painful one – but I want to try to get better at it. Mindfulness is something that can be practiced and improved over time, which is good news!

To end my post, I’ll share three good things about the last week (working on being grateful, which is another tactic to battle anxiety):

  1. Spending more time with my three-year old son, and seeing his joy and laughter in the midst of hard times.
  2. Getting to watch Frozen II every day and sing “Into the Unknown” (no I’m not tired of it yet!)
  3. Being able to walk more and more on my left foot – I really think by the end of this month I’ll be done with crutches!

Thanks for reading.

P.S. I think the book I was referencing in my journal entry might have been The Conscious Parent by Shefali Tsabary, or possibly Think Good by J.L. Gerhardt.




2 thoughts on “Being Present in Painful Moments

  1. I think Frozen II is even better than Frozen. But it might be because of the novelty! I don’t know! “The Next Right Thing” resonates so much with me. But also there are so many fun songs as well. And Olaf is extra funny! Wish we could hang out, but maybe we can do a coffee FaceTime this week?


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