Something within me shifted during the pandemic, this is possibly true for most people, but there is one change in myself that’s unmistakable.
I recognise this feeling not because I think about it, but because I feel it in my bones. It is evident to me in my nervous system, in the softness I feel in my shoulders, in the spaciousness I feel within.
I’ve unlearned a lot of urgency.
Urgency has always been a big part of my identity. Urgency to have an opinion, to meet deadlines, to be supportive, to accommodate others. Urgency went hand in hand with my goodness, and offered me a sense of security in my relationships because I had earned my place with my utter usefulness.
Urgency is not levity, it does not feel like ease within the body. Rather it feels like dread, like a racing heart, insomnia, dry mouth. It feels like walking on eggshells. It feels like being triggered. It feels like assuming the worst of everyone and every situation. It’s resisting rest when you’re exhausted. Sometimes it can feel like a dopamine rush but it does not feel good for long.
Urgency was a survival mechanism I picked up early in my life. It was a distraction from my own needs and desires, and the more I ignored those, the more my body protested with more urgency and overwhelm. When I experienced other feelings, I could not connect to them. Who had the time? I was too busy, busy, busy practising urgency.
I’ve attempted to let go of urgency many times. Working with my hands, or in nature, watching sunsets, limiting my screen time, these are antidotes I’ve tried. They’ve worked too, to some extent.
During the pandemic however, I was largely offline. I had no personal social media accounts, did not follow anybody I know from work accounts, and did not engage with any news on social media.
In the last five years, I’ve realised how my online habits exacerbated the sense of urgency I experienced in my nervous system, always adding a veil of necessity to things that were probably optional. Adrenaline coursed through my veins, and my brain was consumed with mental checklists of “must dos” and “should knows” and “ways to be”.
Urgency is a part of our culture. It’s the essence of capitalism, and what companies and technology employ to be more profitable. It’s bled into our personal and professional lives. We have all had that demanding employer with bad boundaries or a friend who is sooo busy. Slowness goes unrewarded. Pausing? Forget about it.
My mindfulness practise has helped me unlearn urgency above all, because urgency does not live in the present moment. My support system helped too. But a year off socials during a crisis-at-scale gifted me with stillness, space and all the time I thought I didn’t have. Without the frenetic pace of the pandemic news cycle and everybody’s dinner updates, urgency began to leave my body.
In these quiet moments, I began to become attuned to both my own needs, and my true feelings to everything. To myself, to work, to relationships. It wasn’t easy or painless. Without the balm of social media escapism, I began to notice how much resentment burned inside me, behind my ears and on the nape of my neck, having friendships in which I was urgently obliging but receiving little in return. I realised how badly I wanted to keep making art. I realised what and who mattered. I realised how much I didn’t know myself.
It has been a period of great healing, even though healing is hard, don’t let anybody convince you otherwise. Healing hurts. Before it can begin to feel like wholeness, it can feel like shame, grief, self pity, loneliness and guilt. Healing is also ongoing, to be healed is a misnomer. Leaving urgency behind too is a continuous work in progress.
If you’d like to make space to connect with your own body, Mindful and Body offers one-on-one somatic counselling, group workshops and listening spaces that integrate mind and body.