I wasn’t doing so well at first this past week, the first of the “stay at home” order. Wife and four children at home 24/7.
I don’t like my routine to be changed. I like to have at least a few hours a day of alone time. I know there are some of you out there who are getting way too much alone time. The differences between the right and the left used to be a macro-reality. Now our differences are more on the micro scale. There are some of us who are suddenly in the home-schooling, young-child-entertainment, short-order-cook, and cleanup business. I was not feeling it at first. Well, not true. I was feeling it. The anxiety. The dread. The “OMG we are going to run out of soap, or baby Tylenol, diapers, or Doritos. And the angry mobs are going to show up at the door demanding that I feed them.”
But I am better now. I’m feeling okay. We can do this.
There has been a lot going on the internet to help my perspective. Did you see the memes about focusing on what you can control and not on what you cannot?
For example, one meme suggested that you can control how much news you watch. “Hi, my name is Ann Marie, and I am a CNN junkie.” I watch it way too much; first thing in the morning, all day long, and for entertainment at night. Not anymore. And, as a result I am feeling way calmer. You can also choose how much hysteria you can take at any one time, how much repeated and repeated “information” you need to flood your brain with. I am choosing less and it is making a difference.
Instead of focusing on the overload of information delivered in panicked tones, take a walk. Plant a garden. Clean out the garage. Bake a cake.
Turn off the news for hours at a time. It will give you room to relax a little.
You could even limit your social media, although it is good to reach out to those you love. Maybe try the phone instead of short Facebook partial sentences. Have longer conversation, with pauses to really listen.
Write a letter. Take the time to express your feelings fully.
We could take this as an opportunity—this “new normal”—as a chance to do things differently.
We could work less. Most of us have been working too much. And for some of us who can work over the internet or the phone, this stay-at-home time could present itself as the perfect set up for working WAY more time than we usually do. For some of us, at home now with a thousand interruptions and who can’t work as much as we’d like to, we have to just be okay with working less. If we can’t give ourselves permission to work less, we will just drive ourselves crazy with anxiety and guilt, with self-imposed pressure.
What are you trying to do too much of? Do less… give yourself permission to do less.
And for heaven’s sake, give yourself permission to be less than perfect.
The ground is shifting beneath us, no doubt.
I had a really bad cold last week and finally took a daytime medication that dries you up without putting you to sleep. The side effect is that it makes me feel like I am surrounded by cotton or some form of thick insulation. When it must have been at its strongest time-release point, I just felt overwhelmed with the dual sense that this is all so unreal. It can’t be happening.
At the very same time, I felt immense despair. How will I cope? What will happen to us? Will I die? Will we run out of money? How will life be different than I had hoped for these children… for you… for the people I care about?
I fell asleep worrying. When I woke up, I was determined to focus on my spiritual health. I had dreamt about camping and was remembering why I love it so much. For me, at least, camping brings a kind of focus, especially when one is really roughing it, that has to do with taking one thing at a time. Making a campfire. Or cooking a Dutch oven meal. Or putting up the tent. If you want a place to sleep, if you want a meal… you have to remember the steps that you must do, one at a time, to make each of those things come into being when they need to. Gather the kindling, stack the logs, pour the fire starter, wait for it to soak in. Light the fire. Put up the tent while there is still some daylight. Then cut the carrots, dice the onions, etc. Pour in the right about of Bisquick and way more liquid than you think you need. Set it down on the fire coals that are finally ready. Sit in your camp chair and wait.
We can’t control everything. We can’t do everything. But we can limit the distracting things in order to do what is essential. It is essential to have warmth, shelter, food. It is also essential to enjoy music, each other, the beauty of the world, the young children learning what life is.
There will be sadness. There will be suffering. Some of us may die. We are a congregation and we will do what needs to be done. We have before. We will again. Don’t stop living a focused, purposeful life.
Take care of yourself. If you start to panic, take a walk, read a book, hold a child’s hand.
Feel what you feel. It is okay to grieve. It is okay to feel despair, to cry. And it okay to laugh and love.
Wash your hands, but don’t look at the child with snot running down their face and worry that they are going to kill you.
Let them remember you thriving. Remember you confident and focused on loving them, and on what it will take to move through this new normal fully present to what is now.