Rina Rodak and Milena Romalis
We are writing in the last week of October, as the world holds its breath. There are a lot of uncertainties this fall—more than we have ever faced globally, at least within our lifetimes.
As a collective, we have been facing these unknowns for eight long months, since the initial school closures. It’s widely understood that this period has been particularly hard on families or individuals who rely on outside supports. Therapeutic services, respite, community centres, places of worship, and visits from grandparents all ceased to be, and have resumed slowly and insufficiently, if at all. Family members who are caring for children or adults with significant needs have been working around the clock without stabilizing, outside help.
The long quarantine has affected each family differently. But as humans, we all seek solace, security, consistency, rhythm, connection. We are innately social; we move through the hard days by anticipating the milestone events and the community gatherings and the intimacy of our friends’ quiet presences. Social media and Zoom are poor substitutes for hugs, cuddles, and high fives. So now, we collectively grieve. We grieve the loss of normalcy, the loss of predictability, and the loss of anticipation.
Family and personal challenges are often a messy and complicated affair, where hopes and fantasies collide with the unanticipated, the unwanted, and the less than ideal. Our families are experts in the domain of grief, loss, unpredictable circumstances, days full of the unexpected and the disappointing. In this realm, there is no choice but to shift expectations to the achievable rather than the desirable or comfortable.
At NowWhat? Supports, we work in the domain of human and family well-being, with a broad range of people, from young children to adults. This includes both those with diagnoses and those without, but all who are struggling with a myriad of challenges, such as runaway anxiety, unharnessed attention, or emotional dysregulation.
Last spring, against the backdrop of the pandemic, we shifted and our NowWhat? families shifted with us. We had no choice. Our office moved to the inside of a suburban garage and our clinic became a backyard canopy. Our therapists and families waded through mud, baked in the sun, masked on steaming hot days, tolerated mosquito bites and cold nights and found a way to connect and grow despite the less than ideal circumstances.
This fall, we shifted again! We moved into a new clinic with expansive indoor and outdoor spaces. We dug up masses of mud in order to put in a radiant heating system under our outdoor canopies. Hands get cold, feet get wet, and snow will inevitably invade our senses. We will adapt and overcome.
Our families have continued to shift with us, making concessions, tolerating inconvenience in the name of crucial in-person connection. We’re masking and sanitizing madly, donning smocks, changing clothes. We bundle up outside and stockpile mittens. And some days, we literally dance in the rain.
The irony is that families who are accustomed to finding ways around, over and through the obstacles are already quite expert in this situation. And in some ways, have struggled less than others to accept the new realities. For some, there has even been a silver lining in the flexibility, low demands and privacy that COVID-19 protocols have allowed.
This has been a time of biblical-level tests and transitions. It’s been an incredible exercise in both acceptance and non-acceptance. But for those living with mental health challenges and other obstacles, straddling the line between acceptance and non-acceptance is a way of life.
Those who are experts at dancing in the rain and making the best of the less-than-ideal, serve as a light in the darkness.
We wish all a happy Chanukah. May we all find our joy in the unexpected, shift our expectations to the attainable, and accept that less than ideal can become enough.
Milena Romalis and Rina Rodak are the founders and co-directors of NowWhat? Supports, a comprehensive therapeutic clinic that provides creative, wraparound supports at every stage of life.