finding the rhythm during a pandemic

episode 12

Sarah Pottle

written by

Hey everyone, how’s everyone doing in this super strange social, health, education, life experiment? I know that calling it an experiment doesn’t necessarily connote the gravity of the situation many many folks around the world are in, but we’ve all sort of got our hypotheses of what’s going to happen next and variables we can control for and variables we can’t control for, and man is anyone else tired of the grave, serious, and yet daily calculations we are trying to make? Like, I’m thinking things daily about finances: how much income will Mike’s shop make this month? Then obviously the things about myself and my family: Should I risk going to the store? Should I bother wiping down my deliveries? Then my extended fam and friends: How likely is it that my grandparents will get this?

As I mentioned in the last episode, it’s been really helpful for me to just say, “I don’t know.” And, still, to know that I’m grieving a loss of normal, of how the world used to function even just one month ago. I hope that you saw that article that’s been floating around in the Harvard Business Review-- I put some of it up on our Instagram stories-- It’s titled, The Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief, I’ll link to it in the show notes. It’s an interview with David Kessler who is a grief expert and has written many awesome books on the subject. 

In the article, Kessler shares that one of the key things is to find balance in your feelings. He says  that we can’t ignore those images or try to make them go away because our brain doesn’t work that way. But, the goal can be to find the balance in that type of thinking, he says in the article. 

 I used this, just today. Actually, several times today already, but one of them was really pronounced. I was out getting our garden ready and my kid was running around, and suddenly I pictured him in a really bad scenario, like a scenario from a tragedy scene in an awful movie, a scenario that I don’t even care to think about again now. 

Maybe you’ve pictured that sort of scenario recently. Anyways, I literally shuddered and took a deep breath, and then I remembered Kessler saying that, in order to strike the balance,he says, and I’ll read his quote from the article:  “if you feel the worst image taking shape, make yourself think of the best image. ..Neither scenario should be ignored but neither should dominate either.” 

And let me tell you that it brought me so much comfort, because I was able to feel that fear, but then remember the balance: and I just looked at my kiddo and saw the sun on his hair and saw him moving around healthfully, carefree. If he wasn’t there I could have easily pictured a time we were snuggling together, or even an equally happy future projection that hadn’t yet happened. Kessler says, it’s about that balance. Not ignoring the first scenario, but not allowing it to dominate. 

When I think of the first terrifying scenario,, I sort of assigned it a not or let’s say a sound. Let’s say, BOOM.  Right? Like a boom you don’t want, like a scenario landing hard in your imagination. A little sub-atomic explosion in your psychy. Boom. Left without another note, it stands alone. There’s no rhythm there. Just sort of a chaotic boom. The scenario popped into my brain chaotically anyways, not sure where it came from. 

BUT, but, if we listen to Kessler, and we think of things in balance, and I like to think of rhythm and beats as a balance, we could add another note. A second, balancing scenario.  So, if the first scenario is a boom, the next, lighter scenario of my kid happily jumping around is a, let’s call it, a “cha”. Now, instead of a chaotic vibration, I’ve got the beginning of a rhythm. I’ve got a Boom, cha.  

I don’t know why my brain wanted to put sounds or vibrations to these scenarios, but it did. And it got me thinking about rhythm a little more, specific to this time we’re all in right now.

Like many of you, the rhythm to my day has been COMPLETELY disrupted. Total chaos. We’re getting better, but it’s still chaos. Both my husband and I are still working, thankfully, but our kiddo is not at school any longer. So we’re tag-teaming the homeschool thing. And every week week slash day we come up with a new schedule where one of us is saying, okay, I”LL wake up at 5:00, get in 2 hours of work before anyone else wakes up, etc. … Maybe you feel the same way, or maybe you’re in the other camp, the one where it feels like everything is on a little hiatus right now. Or maybe things are upside down for you right now if your loved one is affected by Coronavirus or-- hey-- the myriad of other things that haven’t stopped happening that can affect the flow of your daily life. 

I work from home a lot usually-- my organization is mainly virtual work with teachers--but I usually get out of my leisure wear. I usually wash my face-- more or less. I tell myself I’m not getting out of my leisure wear so I’m ready for my workout. But, well, even though I’m still working from home, it’s just all interrupted. We’re all trying to find this new, natural rhythm. How many memes or emails or tips have you gotten that have said “SET UP A STRUCTURE FOR YOURSELF!!!” And you’re like “good idea!” and then it’s just overwhelming.

Nature is harmonious in rhythms. We WANT to be in rhythm, in harmony. Birds sing their songs in rhythm. Rhythm is how we understand and can make music.  It’s how our heart pumps blood. It’s how we dance. Rhythm is what happens when we’re flowing in yoga. Rhythm is how we stroke our kid’s hair, pet our dogs. It’s how we laugh. Good things--like babies--come out of rhythm.  It’s how a mom sways when she’s rocking her babe. It’s how we rock when we’re crying to soothe ourselves. Rhythm happens when we’re relaxed and harmonious. 

Rhythm is a type of pattern, There are patterns in nature too, obviously. Patterns everywhere. Patterns in animal skins, in tree rings, in the way a caterpillar eats through leaves. Patterns and rhythms are present in nature when things are more or less smooth. 

I think finding comfort in natural patterns is helpful, but lately, thinking in terms of rhythm as a vibrational pattern actually helps me more. Maybe it’s because it seems like rhythms move beyond the cerebral or something. A rhythm is something that you feel. Something beyond language or even a visual pattern. You feel it. Like, I’ve have that Kate Tempest poem “people’s faces” in my head for DAYS now, the one that facebook recently used on their add, and, man, it is so good, in my opinionof course, because of the rhythm. This is why some poetry is different than prose. The way the words are strung together in some sorts of poetry or-- ya know, song lyrics-- to create a rhythm, which touches us on a level that isn’t just the words, it’s a little beyond the verbal. 

You wouldn’t describe a tornado as rhythmic. Part of what makes it so scary is the lack of rhythm and predictability. And that’s where I sort of feel like I am right now-- in a sort of tornado, where we can’t really settle in. We’re in this transition state where it all feels a little tentative, a little unpredictable. And some of us have schedules that actually won’t allow us to try to create a super-rhythmic way of being so far. Or, it’s just too much to think about creating that rhythm of daily life right now. So, yes, obviously, as you’ve read maybe in a million memes or in emails from your principal as you’re now working from home, setting up a structure to your day is very, very important. SO, yes, do it. Try, in small ways to make those new rituals.

But, in the meanwhile, while you’re taking days and weeks to create your new normal, if you’re like me, Its been really helpful to  create little pieces of our day that have rhythm, little parts where we can find comfort in finding a beat. Here are a few of my favorite ways to do that.

The first one is the one I mentioned earlier only after reading that Kessler article about grief-- when I find myself slipping into a moment of a panicky future hypothetical terrifying scene, I don’t try to push it away-- I allow myself to feel the BOOM. Today, I even literally mumbled a little “boooom” when I thought about it. But, then, I followed it with a “cha”. Again, not to automatically bypass the boom -- quite the contrary. Instead, I allowed myself to feel the fullness of the boom. But then, a cha. As David Kessler says, the goal is to find the balance in the things we’re thinking. Not to try to erase or push back the fears, but to create balance. To me, that’s a rhythm. It’s a boom, it’s a cha. It’s a balanced rhythm.

Other ways to create find a beat during this time for me have been putting on a great song and dancing. I love music, but I have been soaking in news podcasts for too long now, forgetting about the most embodying type of rhythm i can find which is in my favorite music, especially at a time when my life at large has less rhythm, i need to infuse more rhythm! Don’t forget about music!

Okay, here’s another one I discovered today: I was coloring this afternoon with my kiddo, and I found that I often wanted to move my colored pencil or marker in some sort of rhythm, and it was really calming for me, and I know that folks find coloring meditative for other reasons, too!  

Another place to find that beat is in Yoga flows and breathing practices but also,  I worked out the other day-- which unfortunately I haven’t really done in some time, i just couldn’t get myself to do it--  and I did as many jumping jacks as quickly as I could for one minute, and then laid on the ground for one minute, listening to the rhythm of my heart, and then I repeated for 10 minutes. Health coach hat for a second: This type of workout is not only good for improving insulin sensitivity, decreasing inflammation, and increasing lung capacity-- all great for any human right now-- but if you take that one minute while you’re lying down to tune into the rhythm of your heart, you’re merging the benefits of a hit workout and a meditation, all in one.

Finally, just listening for rhythms can be helpful and meditative. While I love tuning into a woodpecker outside because we live in the country, I get satisfaction from closing my eyes for a second and just  hearing my washing machine go “whir, whir, whir, whir”. Let yourself soak these rhythms in, particularly if you’re feeling like your whole dang life is out of rhythm like I am feeling these days. Take solace in these predictable literal vibrations all around you. 

So, since this is usually an education podcast I would normally share how to apply this to students. My biggest thing right now, though, is just talk to them about it. If you feel like it, share some of the things with them that I just shared with you. See if you can help get them into a distance learning routine (every Sunday night you post for the week, every Wednesday they submit something, etc.) but, also, just, like, check in on them. Ask them about their favorite songs. Create a class playlist on spotify with a different theme of the week. Whatever! 

But, also, know that you don’t have to apply all this to students right now. Right now, you getting yourself in rhythm is just good enough. And then, as a byproduct, living that way will actually help you as you start to think about your students. 

I hope that you’re safe, that your loved ones are safe. I know this is a hard time. I think we’re at the beginning of it, and I know that it’s a lot. These are just my humble thoughts-- maybe they don’t apply to you at all! But I hope that there was something helpful in here. If not, just go read the grief article by David Kessler and listen to Kate Tempest’s poem, both of which were huge for getting me through this week, and maybe they will be for you, too.

Onto a new week! 

In the meanwhile, if you like this podcast, please rate and review wherever you listen. It means THE WORLD. Also, you can follow us on Instagram or facebook @groundedteaching, or sign up for our newsletter at We had our releasing fear and anxiety for educators workshop last Thursday and 96 folks signed up! It was really awesome.So we’re doing another one on the 16th. Totally free of course, you can sign up on our website.  You can also leave a voicemail to let me know what you think of this episode. Would love to hear your feedback so I’m not just speaking out into the void!

Stay safe out there, friends. Stay home, wear masks if you go out for something essential. This sure is something. 

In love and peace,


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