Ultimate Mannequin Challenge

I woke up and realized it had been more than two months since we entered the second lockdown here in the UK. (For those of you who don’t know, it’s been a strict lockdown where not only non-essential shops are closed but we’re required to remain in our homes, leaving only for a limited time to exercise, alone or with our household, or to shop for medicine and food.) My first thought was: Damn that was fast! After all, we had been busy moving into a new house, preparing for the holidays, which in a blur came and went, and settling into our routines. I noticed a faint pressure in my chest, but I didn’t think much of it, so I got out of bed and continued with my day.

After lunch, I watched a Youtube show I forgot I had subscribed to, Ofyr (pronounced oh-fire): a cooking demonstration channel for people who own one of their outdoor grills. This episode happened to be recorded in Stockholm, a city I lived in for over five years. Watching the chef cook Gothenburg’s prized langoustines on the hot metal ring, the old town’s silhouette behind him, I escaped for a moment to take in the crisp Swedish air and smell the fresh brackish waters of Lake Mälaren. A fleeting yet lovely respite and travel back in time to life pre-Covid-19.

I’ve been living in London for two years – the first half settling in and taking care of the required bits of moving to a new country, the second under some version of lock down. There’s a world to explore out there, and I can’t help but feel I’m frozen in a Mannequin Challenge.

It’s been okay though. I’m rather proud at how I’ve managed myself and my loved ones throughout this pandemic, keeping our locked-down lives as positive and productive under the circumstances. (Not sure I could say the same if I had little ones to homeschool. Hats off if that’s you.) I decided that even though I’m in a freeze frame I would enjoy this unique time to self-reflect, focus on health and family (here and distant), and plug away at work, steaming ahead with confidence we’d soon unfreeze and resume a more normal life outside these four walls.

In the afternoon, I joined a zoom yoga class. The instructor, an Australian friend from our Stockholm days, began practice with a question: What does connection mean to you?

We were to take time, sitting cross-legged with our eyes closed, to think about this, to see what surfaced. What I saw behind my black lids were images of people and places that are seared to my heart. As I watched the reel play, my heart tugged and ripped to fold into itself. I used my breath to move through the pain and to acknowledge its existence, until I could return to contemplate the question. Again my head filled with memories that felt warm like the glowing sun these grey skies have hidden.

I sat with the pain, breathing it in and out of my body. Accepting it as loss, as the heartache that comes with missing friends and family. I could feel my heart swell with gratitude for what I hope soon to reconnect with, the simple things in life shared with family and friends: enjoying a long walk along a wooded path; sharing a cup of coffee and diving deep into meaningful conversation; cooking a meal together and lingering at the table hours into the night; the hearty laugh-tears and side-rocking bear hugs that come with a shared laugh or cry; celebrating traditions; volunteering; being trusted with a personal story; the awe of first-shared experiences discovering art, food, wine, a new park, village, or distant city. These are the things that make me feel connected, experiences I look forward to living again. They are the yang to my yin, the yin to my yang. What roots me to the soil and my place on this earth.

The end of the challenge is near. Vaccines are being administered, and there’s a real push to unpause life. In June we will move back to the US and begin another chapter, repatriating after eight years abroad. In the meantime, I will try and savor this experience as much as I can, living in the moment (frozen or not) and ever grateful that no matter where I may be, I’m connected to what matters most.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts. What does connection mean to you?

Thank you for sharing and for listening.



“Only through our connectedness to others can we really know and enhance the self. And only through working on the self can we begin to enhance our connectedness to others.”

– Harriet Lerner
River Thames, Chiswick – Photo Courtesy of Craig Johnson