Dear Diary : July Edition (lockdown day 112)

July is a month known for independence….of the American people from the British monarchy in 1776; of the French people on Bastille Day in 1789…of the animals born each year in the spring who become self-sustaining during the course of July.

Independence can be defined as self-reliance or autonomy and implies a freedom from control by another. There is another side to independence, though, that implies a sever in relationship – a moving away from depending on someone or something and towards yourself.

The past 4 months in lockdown have given me a new understanding of independence; one as a fluctuating state rather than something attained. In my 20s, for example, I considered myself independent when I graduated from university and found a job that enabled me to pay my own rent and buy my own provisions. Sure, I had financial independence, but I never considered all the other dependencies: on other people for emotional support, on the farmers for the food I ate, to the government for creating a society with roads and laws, and so on and so forth. Over the years, I’ve moved in and out of various aspects of independence, and while I always considered myself a fairly autonomous person, it is through the lockdown that I realised just how dependent I am.

My relationship with food, as a starter, had to change dramatically once I was no longer able to shop for myself. As I became more self-sustaining, I still relied on the mill for flour, the local garden shop for seed and compost, and on other people to deliver provisions every week. My anxiety about health peaked when regularly scheduled check-ups were cancelled as a result of my doctors being reassigned to Covid-ICU units….and as we went through a drought toward the end of May, it became clear how much I relied on nature to keep clean. I started to recognise other dependencies – on gas and electricity, wi-fi and online delivery, to name a few, not to mention of a regular phone calls each week with friends of family. While I became independent from the yoga studios, in many other ways I felt more dependent than ever – simply by staying at home.

So, what am I, if not independent?

All those years on priding myself on being an independent person were, in fact, a misunderstanding. Perhaps the independence was a longing for freedom and self-dominion in a cloak of denial and privilege. I took many people, and circumstances for granted as I assured myself that I was a ‘strong, independent woman’. I have come to more fully understand, over these past 4 months, just how inter-dependent I am.

While looking at the truth is not always easy or comfortable, the reminder that I am but a part of a complex web of relationships enables me to be more appreciative of my reliance on the many other people who help sustain me. I am deeply grateful for all of you, as a part of that web. The ecology of humanity is one of inter-being-ness, yet somehow this is easy to disregard in the face of adversity, the hustle of daily life and the embedded power of stories fuelled by fear.

Perhaps the more novel realisation that I have understood more fundamentally in these 4 months in lockdown, is that not only am I inter-dependent, but I’m also inner-dependent. My livelihood, sanity, and peace of mind are reliant upon how connected I am with my inner world. This place, deep within, is a destination I have read about over many years, even a place that I have tapped into at times. Until recently though, I have rarely sustained an ability, or a desire, to spend any amount of time there. In fact, a few years ago I may have explained this ‘inner’ place as one I’d rather avoid. There were many painful memories and emotions that kept this sanctum at arms length; I wasn’t sure I had the resilience to do the amount of work required for me to gain full-entry. In the fleeting moments when I found myself inwardly resting, my mind never failed to ‘safely’ bring me back to the world governed by anxiety, planning and judgement; the world that felt familiar, the world that left me with a feeling I was paying my penance. For what, I couldn’t say.

This time in lockdown has been another reminder for me of the importance of balance between outer and inner relationship, and that life is unfolding now, even as it continues, for many, to feel on hold. While self-reliance is important, it takes tremendous pressure off of oneself to recognize the inter-dependence we share. With less of a burden to operate in isolation (even when we may be in isolation), the nervous system can relax, and the state of yoga, of which I speak above, is more accessible.

This has been a time of re-accessing necessity and accepting life, and myself, as I am; a time to move on from old stories and to begin again, with less expectations and more exploration; less ego, more humility.
Independence. Interdependence. Innerdependence.

Happy July.