Thinking back on the first week we, in Missouri, realized a stay-at-home order might be issued, even now I am flooded with a sense of intense grief. My husband and I had decided the week before (was it March 6th?) that we should prepare, and do whatever we could to limit our contact. We had already planned to keep the boys home from school for a few days, just as a precautionary measure.
I had gone to the store to grab a few items that would carry us through the next two to four weeks. I had, really, no idea what else was going on – the toilet paper outage, what the governor was saying, Trump’s messages to the world – I don’t watch, read, or listen to the news, so much to my surprise there were a few things missing in the aisle’s. I vaguely remember seeing a FB post referencing toilet paper, but honestly, I thought it was a joke. Thankfully, I had hit Sam’s Club just one weekend before, and we were already stocked up. As I think about this more and more, I realize that God has been preparing us, for years, to be sustained through this situation. If you knew me, and my significant lack of ability to plan ahead, you would agree that it WOULD take divine intervention for me to be ready … for anything, really.
Each time, during the stay-at-home order, I went out to pick up essentials – primarily milk – the grief would wash over me again. What a strange world to be in, people walking by not saying hello or making eye contact. It was so silent in the store. Thinking about it, now, still strikes tears. We were not suffering … but I could imagine so many … SO MANY … that could be. That silence still seems just beyond my awareness, I feel it there, I wonder what lurks in it. I squirm, a little, with the discomfort of what is unknown.
There are so many emotions tied to this whole process:
- Guilt – for not keeping up with people who matter, for not seeing family that we love dearly, for not maximizing this time at home, for being different, for not suffering
- Awe – for the provisions of the Lord, for the almost immediate response from our church, for the way friends and families demonstrated their resilience, for the collaboration of those – that could – to meet the needs of those that couldn’t
- Fear – not for myself, but that I could spread something to someone and not even know, fear for the children that would no longer have access to their much needed resources, fear for what would happen to my patients that are depressed, isolated, alone
- Secure – we have what we need, we can respond, relate, and engage, we can be responsible, we can reach out, we are on a firm foundation
- Sad – indescribably sad about the state of America
- Anxious – that I would not be enough, that I would not do enough, that I would lose something important, that my ramblings on Marco Polo with friends would be off-putting or sound crazy
And probably a dozen or so other emotions at any given time. And then it happened …
I crashed. One day, I fell apart. This one day turned into many. I could barely hold it together enough to get through my patient sessions. It wasn’t anything horrible, terrible, devastating. I became mopey, tearful, slow … it was like my brain wouldn’t turn on. I can’t really put a finger on how long that lasted, but I was brought out of it as suddenly as it came on. It was a weekend in June, maybe mid-June, that I opened my eyes and I was on the move. I worried I might have become manic (I didn’t), by the sheer number of racing thoughts, plans, and sudden ideas that were filling my mind.
What came next is what I believe has been an integral part to my resilience during this strange season. Aside from sharing that this has not been an easy process, I wondered if it would be helpful to share what has helped us to move again. There are some key factors that sustain us, that are required for growth and well-being, that set you free from any stronghold keeping you still, frozen, or stuck:
- You have CHOICES: every.single.day … you have a choice. You can see the positive or the negative. You can establish your own routine. With every movement, you can decide how you are going to respond to the environment. Who will you decide to be? The persecutor, the hero, the victim, the creator, the challenger, the coach. What will you do with your choices.
- You can recognize your OPPORTUNITIES: this is a big one for me. My business was failing. I was incredibly unhappy and felt stuck. When I felt stuck, just trying to survive from day to day was a challenge. However, I realized that there were some things happening around me that I had only fantasized about (For me? working with my husband, homeschooling the boys, seeing my patients from home, my son learning to cook, taking care of the household).
- You can CONNECT: THIS IS ESSENTIAL. Whether it is an online group, a 6 foot away conversation with your neighbor, a sprinkle drop (this is a gift basket FB page), marco polo, daily phone calls, prayer, online book clubs … whatever it is, you MUST FIND some way to connect. Don’t wait for someone to connect with you, reach out and ask for what you need.
- You have RESOURCES: Every community has them, some are harder to find than others. Almost always, you can contact a church and ask about local resources. You can reach out to the local health department, extension office, city office. You can call a hotline number (Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255). You are surrounded by support groups – most of them occurring online. Join a FB group (beware of trolls – but just block them!).
- You can take ACTION: Determine what you need, what resources you have and what resources you need, and make a plan. It doesn’t have to be a big one. The most important step I took was to start walking. My agreement with myself was that I would just walk to the stop sign at the end of my street (that would be 15 steps, approximately) and then I would decide if I wanted to do more or turn around and go home. I did not, at first, take on more than I could handle.
- You can set your own PACE and your own LIMITS: This is YOUR life to live, only you can decide how to live it. I know it may seem unrealistic if you have outside pressures, but at the end of the day, YOU have to decide what is BEST FOR YOU.
And finally …
You can decide your own NORMAL.
Did you know this? There are so many people out there with so many opinions about what should be going on, what is right and wrong, what is factual and fantasy, what is shameful or acceptable. I stopped listening to what other people had to say about this, look at my own values and best practices, and decide for myself. Don’t get me wrong, there are some basic human principles that I subscribe to that are likely informed by my heritage, American history, my village, my family and my lifetime experiences. My set of values didn’t change though … so if they were faulty before corona, they are still faulty … but how I was going to live out my values has changed. My day to day actions, I hope, are more consistent with my values than the “should” representation of values from others.
What does this mean for me? It means I can live according to my natural introverted state of being. It means I can set reasonable limits. It means I can schedule my time in a way that is best for my family. It means I will no longer compare myself to others. It means I will trust God, to the best of my ability, educate my children the way I want, protect our health in the way I see fit. I might challenge some of the social movements happening or align myself with them … but I will decide!
What does it mean for you?
If you or a loved one are struggling, please know help is out there.