A Different Sort of Monday
I am supposed to be in Europe right now. Instead, I am home. I'm supposed to be traveling alone. Instead, I am with my three kids. I am supposed to be on a working-vacation for seven days; instead I am home learning new vocabulary words like 'social distancing' and 'flattening the curve.'
I am supposed to have the world, or at least Luxembourg and Paris, at my fingertips. Instead I have my children's markers and lunch mess all over me.
The world changed overnight, and the expanding sense of unstructured time meets the constricting sense of opportunities. Most of us would choose limitless opportunities over limitless time. As we've come to realize over the past few days, our time will grow, while our opportunities will shrink. We simply cannot do as we please. This is a time to show deep compassion to our community and world by separating from it. This is a time where we will also need self-compassion. It is hard. And unprecedented. And hard. We are creatures of connection. And now we are being told that disconnection and distancing is required.
So how do we stare down the next few weeks with hope and not despair? I'm not sure. But as I've stumbled through the day, these four things have come to mind...
For those of us who are going to be home over the next few weeks more than we thought, we must be mindful of the activities we choose. It is essential to get outside everyday. To go for a walk. And another walk. To go alone; or with your family. Just go. Our one hour walk in the woods this afternoon spoke grace to my shuttered soul.
These days call for us to be just as mindful of our mental health. I will freely admit that I have a lot of fear and trepidation about the coming weeks. What will it look like to have school age kids home all day? What will it mean to try to work when schedule is provided. All sense of rhythm and routine seem to have vanished. News reports and cautionary tales fill our news feeds. It is scary and uncertain and it happened so darn fast that we are still reeling from it. Establishing the 'new normal' of the next few weeks, and doing it almost overnight, is overwhelming.
Cliches are the only thing that come to mind: one day at a time; keep calm and carry on; take a deep breath. They may actually be right, especially the last one. We'll need to carve out moments of quiet and calm throughout what could feel like never-ending days. To limit news coverage. To stay on the sunny side of social media. To employ helpful apps such as "Pray As You Go" and "Calm." These are tools that can help carry us through this chapter.
Kyle and I have used a wry phrase throughout the day..."just like Europe." As we loaded the dishwasher and helped the girls organize their rooms (again), I dryly laughed at the fact that I was supposed to be staying at manor house in Belgium at this moment. But like so many other people on this planet, my best laid plans were not to be.
Those big things like vacations, autonomy, perhaps even food and financial security are more uncertain today. Those last two things are serious and not a laughing matter. But there are going to be times over the next few weeks when we will need to laugh for the sake of our own well-being.
One way to start is simply taking stock of the smaller things around us. I looked around today and found delight in the the smell of lavender hand soap, the whimsical board game Madeline created yesterday, and the rays of sunshine that poured into the house. It's these little things that add up to one big thing: gratitude in the midst of chaos.
As we were playing Madeline's board game tonight, I landed on a 'double dare' spot that said, "Rub peanut butter on your face and keep it there until the end of the game.' Dare accepted. As I smeared Jif across my face, I turned to Kyle and we said together, "just like Europe." And we laughed.
It's time to get creative. People are mobilizing all over our community to help those who are in need of food and supplies. How else can we help? Perhaps it's creating new pathways of connection and generosity that still allow us to keep our social distance: phone calls, hand-written cards and letters, grocery delivery gift cards. Dropping off groceries for the ones who can't get out.
There are more and more online examples of this creative generosity. Online cooking classes, painting lessons, piano lessons, and lesson lessons...it seems as if there is no limit to the imagination on this one. My prayer over the next few days is contextualizing Frederick Buechner's famous intersection of the world's need and our passion. In these days, what does that look like? It might be different for everyone, which I suppose, is the whole point.
Friends, perhaps most of all, we must remember that God is with us: in our homes, with our friends and family we cannot see in person, in the nursing home with those we cannot visit. We are not alone.
There will be times when we feel like we are. Or that the world is spinning out of control. Or both. So take notice of the Holy in our midst. I'll offer these quiet, simple ways I am going to seek to be mindful of God's presence:
-Light a candle, each morning, in a prominent place in your home.
-Read through the Psalms.
-Read Romans 8. Everyday.
-Look for a glimpse of God's playful presence in your home.
We are probably not where we thought we would be today - whether Europe, the office, school, nor the store. This wasn't the storyline we expected. We are staring at a different sort of Monday, Tuesday, and so on. Fear, anger, restlessness will knock at the door--and of course, we'll be home. But how we answer back will define not only the next few weeks, but our own stories. Take care friends. Mind your health and holiness. Look for help and happiness.
And wash your hands.
Grace and Peace,