Are you feeling out of control right now—perhaps as though out of control is piled upon out of control? I’ve been debating on whether to write about COVID-19 for you or not. It’s not about midlife crisis, right? But at the moment it’s the elephant standing on the earth. So, I really can’t ignore it either. My goal when writing for you is to give you value regarding how to deal with MLC issues in your marriage.
Control and Fear
Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch has estimated that COVID-19 could infect between 20% and 60% of the world’s adult population. I’m scared. I think that’s coming as a bit of a surprise to me. Typically, I don’t need to worry because Chuck worries enough for both of us—he has an anxiety disorder, so it’s something we all live with. I compensate with his anxiety by being calm; seriously, the more anxious he becomes, the calmer I become—deliberately. But I have 5 precious children who depend on me and if I think too much on what can happen, I’ll admit I can make myself scared.
I noticed fear creeping in the other night as I was lying next to my youngest, Elijah to snuggle him to sleep. We’re working on teaching them preventative measures like handwashing. But there’s so much that’s completely out of our control. Two and 3-year-olds like touching body parts—and I’m not just talking about labeling eyes and ears and mouth and nose!
Lying next to Elijah, I thought back to those desolate weeks after Bomb Drop when Chuck was clinging to his edge of the bed at night. I was scared. What did I do then? I thought back to what solutions I used then. Looking into your own history for how you successfully resolved a similar issue is a main tenet of Solution-Oriented Brief Therapy. You are the expert in all things you, which means you have the power and knowledge necessary to solve your problems. In this case fear was the similar issue—MLC and COVID-19 themselves are quite different, but what they cause in me and perhaps you as well may be similar. I’m scared because I feel that this is something I can’t control—even with a host of control measures such as hand-washing and social distancing, I’m still not in control.
My solution was mindfulness. I focused on meditation, creative visualization, hypnotherapy and affirmations. I’d started Yoga about a month before Bomb Drop because my new job covered gym expenses and shared a building with the gym. But other than what we were doing as part of class, I’d never really meditated before. I felt awake and alive and rejuvenated and relaxed all at once. I soon began to feel my pulse, first in one finger and then with focused concentration I felt it dance across my fingers. This may seem trivial, but to me it was delightful and exciting. I learned I could practice control—bio-feedback. I know, it was just a pulse that was already there, but now my attention was also there. While Chuck was clinging to his side of the bed during those sleepless nights, I was able to get a little bit of restfulness. Practicing meditation helped me to reduce my anxiety.
On two occasions, while in a meditative prayer just before the start of church services, I felt my self floating! I recall being so excited and aware and wondering if my awareness would crash me back to the pew—it didn’t. While meditating, I regularly feel energy coming from my hands as though I can send it out into the world. I feel like I’m making a difference—somehow—and this helps me feel more in control.
There is an irony regarding control: to have it you must accept that you do not. Control is an illusion, that’s a message we may get from various philosophies and religions, 12 step groups and psychotherapy.
So, was I gaining control? Or was I accepting that I had no control? Or is control something we can have, but with limits? The control I regained and learned was the stabilization of my emotions. I can follow every best practice to prevent COVID-19 from knocking at my door, but I may fail. I’m not in control of the disease or its spread. What I control is my response. The same is true of midlife crisis and your marriage. You can do everything right as a Stander and your MLCer may still choose not to return to your marriage.
Regaining control of my Self was the vehicle that gave me hope because I saw and felt immediate shifts in the dynamics with Chuck. I started meditating very soon after Bomb Drop, so I still had a lot of moments of anxiety, but I was better able to bring myself out of them. This meant I was able to stop being reactive and become responsive. I was able to deflect his attempts to engage me in arguments and when I did engage, I was able to recognize what I was doing, stop and often turn the situation around. I didn’t always simply walk away, sometimes I was able to calm him down with me.
Do You Want Anxiety or Peace?
If you hold an anti-war rally, I shall not attend. But if you hold a PRO-PEACE rally, invite me.
Being betrayed can leave you feeling confused and angry and those are justified feelings. Anger is acceptable, but I wanted to use it for good and not allow it to become hatred or rage. I didn’t want to fight, I wanted to peace—make peace a verb. I didn’t want to focus on resistance. Look up the word resistance in a thesaurus:
What do those words do to your body when you think and live them? Those are words often accompanied by the word against. Do you want to be against your spouse? Do you want to struggle? How about repel, is that really what anyone wants to do to their spouse? Of course not, if we insert repel into the situation, it becomes obvious that it’s not something we want to do, but we have become so accustomed to using the word fight that we fail to realize the impact. Those fighting and resistance words are tension and anxiety-inducing in your body. Tension and anxiety are unhealthy for you and they won’t benefit your Stand.
Grace and Agapè
Anxiety is about fear, and control—actually over-control—is often a coping mechanism to manage anxiety. Over-control isn’t a healthy coping mechanism. I didn’t have a problem with anxiety before Bomb Drop and I certainly didn’t want it to become a problem for me as a Stander. I made a conscious choice to focus on Grace and Agapè. I didn’t want to oppose Chuck, I wanted to love him. I didn’t like the alienator, but hating her only focused my energy toward anger which caused tension and anxiety and if you verbalize anger and hatred toward an alienator to your MLCer, you’ll often get rebuked as your MLCer vociferously defends their new soul mate.
Practicing meditation enabled me to direct my focus toward Grace and Agapè. Along with the standard preventative measures, this is part of my plan for dealing with COVID-19 as well. One of the focus and visualization techniques I learned and use is imagining my body healing. Some people imagine little people or machines inside scrubbing their body clean. Often these thoughts visualizations come with fighting words: I’m going to fight this and they may visualize soldiers rather than doctors. Meditation helps calm my mind and my body. I don’t want to reintroduce fighting concepts and undo or block positive change. I visualize Grace, Agapè and healing instead. I even visualize love for the illness—I know, I’m kinda weird, but this state of peace then allows me to alleviate my fears and reduce and even eliminate anxiety. Peace helps boost immunity, whereas anxiety has the opposite effect. I’m not in control of COVID-19. I’m taking preventative measures, but it still may enter. I hope not, but if that happens, I have prayer, I have meditation, I have friends who can help with shopping and I have control in that I can and will respond rather than react.
So many of the keys to Standing are the keys to surviving and thriving in all aspects of life. Please be safe, choose joy and be Grace.
Grace and Blessings to all of you,