We are living in a strange and uncharted time. It is hard to get our bearings when all the rules for how we live our lives have changed. Even arenas where we pretend to have certainty are unstable. There is an open floodgate of changing rules and protocols on what we should or shouldn’t be doing. Our response to Covid-19 is formative as we get new information or face new shortages.
Our lives are on hold, and we have no idea for how long. Even when restrictions slowly cascade back, we don’t know how much our communities and our world will have changed. How many of these restaurants will remain shuttered? How many stores or hair salons? Will there be political party conventions this year or will large events continue to be restricted?
There are those of us with more pressing needs: the daily uncertainty of not knowing how to pay the bills, or what will happen if you don’t. Of not knowing how you are going to feed your family, or what to tell your kids or how to give comfort to aging parents living in isolation. I suspect all of us are experiencing some level of anxiety as we deal with our changed existence—and as we try to look forward to see what our path ahead might be.
So what can we do to feel better? Not perfect, mind you—just better. I guess I have to go back to look at where I do have certainty, and where I have some amount of control. That starts with what I believe in.
I believe in God. I believe that a divine and good Being is watching over us, and loves us. I celebrated Easter yesterday with a “Zoom service” in the morning with my church family, and with an online service in the afternoon. Prayer and worship grounded me. I know there are many that have no faith, or whose beliefs are unformed—including some in my immediate family. Perhaps meditation or a path of self-discovery would also provide comfort; I hope that is true.
I love my family and my friends. I can control the environment I create at home, and I work hard to do that. Marc is feeling the combined effects of the long work days and some trouble sleeping. I play music, I make good food, I welcome him home every day. I want him to feel my love the moment he walks through the door and I want him to sink into comfort. It is the least I can do to support the important work he’s doing at the hospital. I am connecting much more frequently with our kids, with our friends, with my sister. I can nurture all my relationships, and when I do, it feels like I am nurturing myself as well.
I believe in the art of kindness. I believe in being intentional and careful in all my interactions. Yes, there are people who can be thoughtless or selfish or mean or frustrating. I have found there are far more that respond to being treated with caring, dignity and respect. That is where my focus is. I have been accused in my life of being a “Pollyanna;” of only seeing the good and ignoring the rest. That isn’t true. How could I possibly ignore the cruelty in the world, or push aside its impact? I cannot. However, I can control how I treat other people, so that is what I do.
I believe that it is vital that we take care of ourselves. For me, that means eating well, but not too much, maintaining my weight and exercising. It means listening to music, walking outside, and getting adequate sleep. I continue to depend on structure, on accomplishing small goals and creating some expectation of what my day will look like.
Perhaps it is a distressing sign of late-stage immaturity, but I also need things in my life to which I can look forward. Sometimes they are little things—a good book I haven’t read or an evening dedicated to enjoying one another’s company without the practicalities of budget discussions or what we should be doing next on the unending “list.”
Sometimes it’s a little more significant than that. Last week, I traveled east to Ohio farm country, where I met my future dog “Gracie.” She’s no bigger than a minute, and she’s too young to show any real personality. She sleeps, she nurses, she poops and pees—that’s about it! But she feels and smells like puppy, like new life, and she fills my heart with a quiet anticipation. I might not know what the world will look like when we bring her home, but she will be in it, and that helps me.
What helps you? Take the time to really think about that, and to put everything you can in place to give you that sense of surcease. Don’t live with the anxiety, whether it is vague or acute—find small ways to blunt its impact on your spirit.