I don't have time to play. There will be no dramatic unveiling, cute set-up, or creative build-up to this post. I doubt you have time for that either. So here are your 5 words:
We just have to survive.
I intentionally said "we" and not "I" because "we" no longer have the luxury of only thinking about ourselves. "I", "me", and "my" against "they" and "them" is what ultimately got us into this mess. The rabid self absorption, the rancid anger, and the rank stupidity that says, "I can do whatever I like, when I want to," regardless of its impact on others has the capacity to kill us all. No, we are in this together and the sooner people start acting like we, the better off we all will be. So even if it is just you, quarantining alone having no direct responsibility for anyone else in this world except yourself, you are still part of the we. Every time you stay indoors, adhere to social-distancing measures, or provide essential services in the safest way you possibly can, you are helping the we survive. So please, think in the first person plural.
Now that we have that settled, let's get to the down and dirty. I, like many of you, have been reading and hearing about how overwhelmed everyone is. (I have also been living it, too). All of life got tossed into a giant bowl and thrown into our homes. The dividing lines and compartments that helped us navigate the 50 'leven things we have to do is gone. We've lost the means to outsource as much as we once did. Work, school, housework, exercise along with all of our social, spiritual, and civic activities are now headquartered in our homes. We can't escape it like we once did. Many of us are being terrorized by "projects" and piles of stuff that could easily be ignored before, but is now demanding our attention. And that's if we are blessed enough not to have to travel through these Rona run streets. Add another layer of stress for the new decontamination protocols engaging the outside world now requires.
We started this pandemic using words like "reset" and "the great pause." We had visions of more time together or the ability to focus on what's important. We were going to get things done. Now, the reality of the situation is (or already has) hit many of us hard because this "pause" is actually more work than not pausing. And not pausing was no picnic either.
Over the weekend, I was cleaning the house (actually the same 3 rooms I have cleaned the past several weekends because after the hours I spend on them, I have no more energy to tackle the rest of the house. Don't judge me). As I was sitting down to catch my second wind, my mind started wandering. I found myself thinking about where we are and how stressed everyone is. Then, my mind went back to those first months of being a new mom. Shout out to all the supermoms who handled it like a champ, but I STRUGGLED. The pain from being ripped to shreds, the fatigue, the constant worry, the feeling like I wasn't doing enough and was failing because my forebears pushed out babies in cotton fields and kept on picking, was overwhelming. And I remembered a conversation with a friend who had given birth about 6 months prior and she said that the only thing I needed to do was survive. That's it. My job was to keep me and the baby alive.
I didn't get it at first. Surely , it could not be that simple. There were so many other things I needed to do. THEN, it hit me. None of those other things could be done unless I first survived. That was the first step. That was the foundation. I had to "survive" in a way that I could be functional. I had to survive in a way that would aid me when this season passed, not make life harder because the crutches I used or created to survive were actually detriments to my survival. It wasn't about just scraping by, but recognizing that I had to drop all of this expectation and obligation I had put on myself and figure out how to find my way in this new season of life. I needed to get through my now as best I could in order to get to my next-that place where I was settled and had a better handle on things. I had to prioritize, take care of the important and essential things and not beat myself up because I could not do everything or all the things I once did.
Right now, a lot of stress is coming from the sheer magnitude of the things we are supposed to be handling well. Meanwhile, everything has become a bazillion times more complicated and time consuming. Dare I even mention grocery shopping? homeschool/remote learning?transitioning to working from home? The process itself may not really be that bad or complicated , but the the fact that so much has changed overnight and the reason why things have changed can throw a switch in one's brain. We are in a crisis. We may not be running around screaming. When we look outside, things may still look deceptively the same. We still have the same responsibilities. Therefore, many of us are feeling like we should be mastering pandemic living.
If I am honest, I have to admit that at the core of so much of my worry is the fear of not being able to keep up- keep up the bills, my career, the trajectory of my ministry, the kids' education, the housework that has exponentially increased with everyone home all the time, the cooking (because I don't know about you, but my kids want to eat dinner every night and start inquiring about the day's menu at breakfast and now lunch has been added and they want snacks, too!). And you have your own list which is compounded by the isolation and monotony of one's surroundings.
So, today, I am giving you and receiving again the advice I received six years ago:
We just have to survive.
Please, go back to the basics. Figure out what you need to survive physically and figure out what you need to survive mentally. Put those things in place and build from there. Add as you can. Whatever you think is the next step, divide it in half. Things take longer in the Corona-verse. Give yourself grace for whatever you think you should be doing or what level you think you should be producing, but can't. Focus on surviving because we cannot add or do if we don't survive.
Beloved, Good Friday has past. Paul writes, "The death he died, he died to sin, once for all" (Romans 6:10). Easter has come and gone, both liturgically and historically. So what are you saying, Reverend?
Get off the cross and the live. Suffering is not required for survival.
We may have to go through. Times are hard. However, we don't have the make the way rougher than it already is. Where you can, make it light on yourself.
Remember that you are not alone, even if you are quarantined by yourself. You are not the only one having a hard time figuring things out. You are not the only one "behind." Your kids will not be the only ones whose parents couldn't devote their entire lives to homeschooling. Focus on making them better people. Cereal is a meal. The rest of the house will get cleaned or at least the space you need to occupy at a given moment. And I truly believe that God will supply our needs.
Like Martha, we can easily find ourselves "worried and distracted by many things" (Luke 10:41). Jesus told her that "there is need of only one thing." (Luke 10:42). Perhaps, it is time to start there. Figure out the necessary things-necessary to live, necessary to stay sane, necessary to keep going, necessary to bring some joy. And you will be surprised how the rest comes together. It won't be perfect, but it can be better than what it has been. I'm a witness!