Pandemic or Chrysalis?

In the late spring, summer, and early fall, basically as soon as the snow is gone and until the snow flies, I cram my laptop, dress, high heels, and lunch into a backpack, put on padded shorts, clip into my pedals, and cycle-commute to work. Bicycle helmet hair is officially my spring to fall ‘look’ and I pretend like I mean to have strange waves in my hair for the first hour of the workday. I work with men who don’t seem to notice my hair, so this works for me.

I try to ride every day and then take the long way home a few times a week. A good week of riding, including a long ride or two on the weekend, is around the 180 – 200 km mark.

Three kilometres into my daily ride to work, there is a rusty overpass that I use to cross over a main artery in the city. It links downtown to a lovely neighbourhood that hangs over the river valley. Every single time I ride across the bridge, I smile and lay the hammer down.

Why, you ask?

A decade ago, I rode over the bridge, turned around, came home, and collapsed from exhaustion with a massive smile on my face. I made it. Now, there is no way that a 7 km round trip ride without any elevation should nearly kill a woman in her early thirties who is relatively fit and active.

Unless you’re recovering from a near-death experience.

It was my first bike ride in a few years, and if you know anything about me, you know how much I like to ride. If I am not riding, I must be dead … or nearly dead.

I was nearly dead.

Cycle Moraine Lake

One of my favorite cycling adventures! Mountains + bike = one happy woman!

The previous year had been spent in bed, going to specialist appointment after specialist appointment in order to figure out why all my hair was falling out, why my basal body temperature was at 95.5 degrees, why I couldn’t do anything without nearly passing out, and why I was gaining epic amounts of weight while only eating 900 calories a day.

Suffering in a terrible life and unable to do more than a few hours of work a day while nudging a fledgling business along, I was confined to the four walls of my condo. My life was in shambles; everything was fractured and broken, including me.

A few diagnoses had been handed to me, but the possibility of a brain tumour was still on the table and the results from the clinical investigations unit at the U of A Hospital were still pending. There is nothing quite like signing a waiver that if you die while they perform tests, no one can sue them for wrongful death.

Three hours, 48 vials of blood, and one medically induced metabolic crash later, I opened my eyes to a blinding, white light.

It turns out it wasn’t the end of my life, just the hospital lighting system.

I distinctly remember the day when I accepted that I was probably going to die. It was a warm spring day, but I was in bed under a down duvet with three layers of clothing on and a toque, shivering and unable to sleep because I was so cold, nearly hypothermic in my house.

Sobs wracked my body and I finally let go of all my worry and despair, it was what it was and I couldn’t change it. A warm acceptance of what was, despite it being terrible, came and I slept.

The gift of loss.

There is something interesting about losing nearly everything and having your life come to a possible end. There is a gift in being trapped by your reality and not being able to be distracted by shiny objects – you are forced to see what truly is.

If you know where you are, you can go anywhere, but it is hard to find your way to your next destination if you are lost. In order to go somewhere, the first thing you need to do is orient yourself and figure out where the heck you are.

Unwinding myself from severely sick to well took years. After being trapped in a terrible life for so many years, one that greatly contributed to my illness, it took a lot of time to change things, reframe my brain, and remove toxic behaviours and people from my life.

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You always get to choose your next adventure.

COVID-19 has confined all of us in our lives as they currently are. We are unable to fill our lives with distractions and we have lost all the superfluous things that keep us from looking at our core happiness and doing what is necessary to live our best lives.

This is a wonderful time to accept what is, figure out where you are, and decide what kind of life you want to live and the person you want to be when the distractions come back and life becomes ‘normal’ again. This is the time to build wonderful habits that help you be amazing and to celebrate the wonderful small things that usually get overlooked in life.

Being basically confined to the four walls of my condo 10 years later, I find myself happier than I have ever been before. Laughter, kindness, controlled chaos, and hilarious antics fill every corner of the house and the ever-deepening creases on my face are from smiling too much. Adventuring with Speedy, a job that I care so much about that it makes me absolutely crazy, writing, cycling, hiking, running, and savouring the things I love fill up my days.

We may not be able to control what happens to us, but we ALWAYS get to control how we go through it.

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Life is a compilation of moments – make as many of them as you can great. After all, how you go about life is completely up to you; nothing else is. Take control of your reactions and find your way to happiness moment by moment.

Do the weird things that make you laugh, have fun, make incredible memories, love your people with your whole heart, play outside as much as possible, drink great wine, and eat dessert.

Let this time of loss, chaos, quiet, inability, and time be your chrysalis.

Instead of bemoaning everything that you can’t do and fighting against everything and everyone, figure out where you are and where you want to go from here. Be the person who comes out of this time stronger and more amazing than before you went into the pandemic. If my guess is right, you have more time than you’ve ever had in your life. Why don’t you do something meaningful with it?

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Eventually, the caterpillar emerges from the chrysalis as a butterfly, but it isn’t without a time of quiet change. At the right time, the butterfly emerges, but the time and date are not up to the caterpillar who enters the chrysalis. We are all in a pandemic-induced chrysalis and eventually, at some right time in the future, the chrysalis will fall away and we will be able to spread our wings and fly. Until that time, work towards being your best self because even though it doesn’t feel like it, life won’t always be like this.

Oh, and always eat dessert! Life is too short to live without chocolate!

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Comments

  1. Such wise advice, Donloree!

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