Sunday, August 1, 2021

When the First Harvest includes the final straw.

 Blessed Lughnasa, everyone!

I've written about this cross-quarter day on the Pagan Wheel of the Year several times over the years. The Irish god Lugh decreed that this day would be observed in honor of his foster mother, Tailtiu, who died from exhaustion after plowing all of Ireland's fields for planting. But Lughnasa was never meant to be a solemn memorial; instead, Lugh ordered that it become a harvest festival, including many games. 

So here we are today, beginning the 17th month of coping with COVID-19. This was supposed to be the summer of reopenings. We were supposed to have beaten this thing back so that as long as you were vaccinated, your life could just about go back to normal. And then the Delta variant happened. 

I could blog about how the unvaccinated have ruined the summer for everyone else (in fact, I kind of did, about a month ago). But Lughnasa is a harvest festival, and as alert hearth/myth readers know, Pagans tend to be all about improving themselves. So could we be reaping, as individuals, at this First Harvest?

One day, a couple of months back, I found myself wanting to cry for no reason. Life was actually going fine for me at that point; I should have been relaxed and enjoying life, but instead I had this desire to, you know, sit down and have a good cry. So I started shopping for a new place to live. That's how I found the condo I'm moving into in a couple of weeks. But I recognized that house-hunting is a lousy long-term strategy for coping with the blues. I made a mental note to sit down with myself, once the dust cleared, and figure out what was going on.

Then a couple of days ago, I saw a thing on Facebook -- a tweet string from @gwensnyderphl, who I don't follow on Twitter -- and shared it. You can click here and read her tweets for yourself, but here's what she said in the first couple of tweets: "You just went through 1.5 years of a profound ongoing threat to your health/wellbeing/life, social isolation, aggressive disinformation, political turmoil, and financial uncertainty. OF COURSE you are not functioning at your peak. OF COURSE you are stressed out, burned out, unproductive, disconnected, anxious, depressed, exhausted, aching, and/or sad. YOU ARE TRAUMATIZED. This is what trauma does to the human mind, to the human body, to human relationships." And she went on to say that we shouldn't feel pressured into going back to normal, just like that: "Give yourself permission to not be okay."

That was my light bulb moment. Of course I felt like crying, as soon as I had a minute to catch my breath. The reaction I thought was weird and inexplicable was completely understandable. We've been through hell. We thought we were out of it, but now we're not. It's exhausting. 

Anyway, as I said, I shared the string of tweets, and immediately somebody piped up in the comments and said, basically, "Not everybody's exhausted. We're doing just fine here." 

I mean, there's one in every crowd, right? 

The thing is, trauma's impact -- on the body and on the psyche -- is cumulative. You may be the sort of person who can live through one horrible thing after another and weather it all okay, but then one day, you may have one more horrible thing happen and you snap. It might even be a tiny horrible thing, but it still becomes the straw that broke the camel's back.

You can keep pushing yourself, ignoring the burden you're carrying until you break -- until you die from exhaustion, as Tailtiu did. Or you can acknowledge the burden and cut yourself some slack, as Simone Biles did this past week at the Tokyo Olympics. She bumbled a vault and realized she was at a breaking point. So she has pulled out of the other events she was scheduled to compete in, except one (she's still undecided about the balance beam, which is coming up on Tuesday). She has taken a lot of heat for her decision, much of it from people who appear to believe she owes her country a bunch of gold medals, no matter what the effort costs her personally. But she's also had a lot of support, and it's coming from those of us who have also reached our breaking point this year.

Good for her for recognizing she needed to take care of herself first. If the rest of us could do the same, we'd have a very respectable First Harvest this year.


These moments of bloggy unburdening have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed! And have a good cry whenever you think you need one.


Ey Wade said...

Good post and all so true. I've also been wondering why I was in such a funk and it is as if I were grieving for lost peace of mind. It's been a hard 4 years of neverending stress wondering what dangers a mad man would reap on us to going into the horror of hopefully surviving a pandemic, while those in charge are playing games and we're a pawn without a way to get off the game board. We've been in fight or flight mode and we're exhausted.
All that mental trauma has shaken our foundation and in the end, some of us are like Simone. Stuck in mid air and hoping our inbuilt mental muscles will bring us back to where we can react on instinct and help us land safely.

Lynne Cantwell said...

Fight or flight mode - that's it exactly. Nobody can keep that up forever.

Unknown said...

You hit the nail ,on the head. The unrelenting stress of Covid and what it may mean for all of us, especially the more vulnerable, IS trauma, of a sort. It takes a toll, much of it cumulative. I have certainly felt the effects of it.

Lynne Cantwell said...

A whole lot of us have. A friend who worked in healthcare during the first surge says she wishes she could cry - all she feels right now is rage. I told her it's two sides of the same coin.

Ey Wade said...