These two past COVID years have been among the most formative years of my life and tremendous amount of growth that occurred. Up until then, we lived predictably and in someone constant state. After COVID struck, so much changed and most importantly, the pandemic tested us, our resiliency, our agility and adaptability. As with challenges in our lives, when we can overcome them, we grow and become stronger.
As with many other parents, school closure meant our young (and older) kids now at home, isolated from their friends and away from the playgrounds. The first few months of my daughter's virtual online school period created chaos for me. She was 8 years old and completely disengaged from the multiple hours of zoom. I get fatigued after 1 hour of zoom and the thought of my daughter spending multiple hours everyday online crushed me. In addition, the energy she would otherwise have been venting in the playground got transformed indoors into difficult and restless behavior. Instead of understanding, I became frustrated, exasperated and some days, angry. At some point, I had a shouting match with my 8 year old. That night, I paused and reflected. What is wrong with me? She is a child. I needed to get help and I did. I googled and found out there are parent coaches, paid psychologists who help parents identify and use effective tools. I found and got a parent coach and we started weekly coaching sessions to help me draw boundaries, set expectations, and improve my interactions with my daughter. It helped about about 30%. We skipped morning class so that she can get outdoor playground time, and set activities in the afternoon to keep her active. We set routines to help develop good habits. My frustrations improved too....also about 30%. But, I was still very highly tense, and well above my pre-COVID baseline.
Around that time, my daughter had been taking the Buddhist class on Zoom over the weekends (previously in person), and I listened in on the teachings and became curious. I bought the Dhammapada book and started reading it. Ever since, I've completely transformed. One month after reading the book, I stopped needing parent coaching altogether. It was amazing. My parent coach couldn't believe how quickly I transformed after a couples weeks, even though little had changed after many weeks she had been coaching me. All the negative feelings completely dissipated. One of the key teachings the Buddha taught that changed my perspective on my situation was a story he told. Imagine that a catastrophic event happened, perhaps an accident, or in our case, COVID. The event has taken place and that itself is terrible. Then, you hear about the event and all of a sudden, you react negatively and severely to the event. The emotional/mental response inflicts major harm on you (e.g. sadness, depression, despair, anger, etc). It's not the event that inflicted the harm; it's us and our emotional reaction to the event that caused us harm. Buddha explains that you can disassociate these events. Although the event and response are linked, we can unlink it like unlinking a chain. We have control of how we respond to the event. In my case, my daughter was doing virtual learning which leads to various changes in my daughter's physical and emotional wellness. In addition, I let all of the changes cause me frustration, impatience, and anger because she was not meeting my expectations. This latter component is under my control. Instead, the better alternative is to accept that things are bad and it is. COVID sucks. In addition, I can choose not to let it affect me, disconnect the event and my emotional state. This simple understanding rescued me from the rabbit hole I was going into. I recalled this whenever I find my emotions welling up and then, intentionally let it go, and dial down that part of me which I control. Impatience, exasperation, and anger only lead to poor outcomes and there is no place for it, even if it is justified. It's like the quote, darkness doesn't take away darkness, only light take away darkness. These negative emotions are like darkness and only keep us deeper in the dark spaces. Even when justified, these negative feelings will never bring us peace and joy just like darkness will never shed light. So, let it go. Move on and move forward. I did. Now, I'm grateful for COVID because it forced to learn and apply this simple yet profound teaching which has transformed my life.