f you've ever seen Stranger Things on Netflix, you've heard of the term the "upside-down world." At first glance, it looks so much like the everyday world that the protagonists live in. Look closer though and you'll start to see elements of the paranormal and supernatural. Typical suburban landscapes take on terrifying and surreal dimensions, which make you question everything you know. It is a different kind of horror than the no-holds barred gimmicky images we're used to seeing in movies and tv. And it is far more disturbing.
I experienced the contemporary version of the upside-down world yesterday, while making my biweekly run to the grocery store. Driving down the highway, I first noticed the empty parking lots of big box stores that are typically full around noon on a weekday. As I neared the store, I saw people in masks rushing around, maneuvering their shopping carts with a wide berth so as to avoid making contact with anybody. I sanitized my hands, put on a mask and wiped down my cart with disinfectant. I hurriedly walked into the upside-down world of the grocery store.
During the trip and afterwards, I noticed my heart was racing. I felt fatigued, having to be so vigilant of my surroundings so as not to infringe on other people's space. This mundane task, one I had done hundreds of times in my life, had become something that felt dangerous, and my body responded as if I had been walking a tightrope. Once I got home, I then worked to keep my young children from tearing through the groceries so that I could wipe everything down. I felt angry, exhausted and shocked at the toll that this task took.
The rest of the day, I made sure to do things that helped my body return to a normal state of rest. I connected with clients, talked with friends and family, and practiced mindfulness. I tried not to read too much news and watched an episode of a new, light-hearted show. I was practicing what I preached to clients all day. I had the urge to criticize myself for having such a strong reaction. After all, the grocery store workers have to deal with this all the time and their safety is way more compromised than mine was. But instead of going towards guilt, I reminded myself that in this new upside-down world, all feelings are valid and self-compassion is the only way to survive. I breathed. I let go. And I felt prepared to do it all again the next day.