April 10, 2024
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April 10, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Finding—Not Making—Meaning

I know so many of us are experiencing both exasperation and intrigue with regard to news and discussion around COVID-19; we don’t want to hear anymore and we also want to hear all the news and updates that are released. We are living in a time of uncertainty and for a month I kept thinking, “Just get through Pesach.” Now with this holiday having come and gone, I’m starting to feel the effects of all the major questions being posed as our world holds its collective breath.

I am someone who typically thrives by keeping busy, while simultaneously wishing I had more time. I look forward to markers throughout the years (holidays, vacations, important dates) as they tend to keep me going, forging ahead to the next date, time or celebration—allowing me to check off a particular event or experience. I prepare and process and debrief and this has been what has worked for me for a long time now. We all cope differently and I can safely and self-assuredly say that this time is not the usual way-people-like-to-cope type of experience; living on the edge, wondering about health and finances and questions of access and occupying time typically don’t leave people feeling rested and rejuvenated. We are all coping because we have to—some of us more actively and in a connected-to-the emotions way, and some are avoiding and coasting.

One way that people have looked to fill their time is by charging forward on a personal reformation or by preventing what has been considered “undesired outcome,” i.e. weight gain. People are posting their glamorous shots of themselves in pristine homes with labels like “you should have seen the chaos on the other side of the room!” or doing an incredible art project with the kiddos while also making a gourmet meal. The reality is that this can, for some, be a time to practice adventure: make those new dishes or work on that project you’ve been neglecting—but only if this has given you time you may have not previously had before mid-March. When I see these posts I want to yell, “Show us the before shot!” Let us all be aware of the chaos that is really taking place as a means of normalizing and solidarity.

This time does not need to be all about how you used it and made it meaningful. It is about finding meaning for yourself, not making meaning to prove a point. Finding meaning includes working with what you have and being realistic about limitations, and allowing yourself to feel frustration and sadness while also recognizing or pursuing how to go about putting one foot in front of the other.

This time is also about recognizing fear of change. I have seen countless posts about “how to eat while in quarantine” implying the need for us to accept that this should not be a time when people should “let themselves go”—the phrasing of which offends me. (Let us go where? I previously wrote a piece about this.)

Honoring hunger and fullness is important. Recognizing that people eat emotionally at times is important (and okay!). But making this time about an already existing issue of fat-phobia has no place. Making jokes about gaining weight is fat-phobic and breeds hatred. Noting the fears we have of our identities shifting at a time when maybe your identity is being put on hold (job, hobbies, relationships, etc.) is normal and must be explored. But not by becoming obsessive about any particular area, including food, weight, shape or exercise.We are all figuring this out. We are figuring out how to remain in touch with ourselves and the people around us, how to cope with major issues and big questions. We may be on socially distanced paths, but remember that we are on this journey together.

No matter how you do it, remember: We cope differently, but it is important to make the effort to cope. Too much focus on anything can yield slippery results. This time is about so much more than one identifier, so there is no need for tremendous pressure. As my dear friend and esteemed colleague, Colleen Baker, LCSW stated, “This time need not be your personal renaissance.”


Temimah Zucker is the Assistant Clinical Director of Monte Nido Manhattan. She also works in private practice and is currently seeing clients virtually. To learn more about her work (including public speaking) visit www.temimah.com 

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