Last night I had to have the, “no we can’t go anywhere and no we can’t have anyone over” talk with one of my kids. And then in answer to the question, “how long?”
“I don’t know, buddy, I’ve never lived through a pandemic before.”
And there it is, the unknown creeping right up into my five-year olds life. We’ve explained in the least scary terms possible. We’re staying home to help keep vulnerable people safe. We didn’t explain that I’m one of the vulnerable. We’re practicing love of neighbor.
I’ve talked to a lot of people this week and there’s a thread that emerges. None of us have lived through anything like this and we are grieving everything from regular social interactions to trips planned to enjoying march madness or other sporting events or what have you.
People are scrambling to keep different aspects of work or church or what have you going with video conferencing so for some this week has been busier than others, but strange.
And then there’s the school closures, the work closures, the coffee dates with friends.
The word that comes to mind is untethered.
Suddenly things that tied us into our lives have all been cut loose and great uncertainty and anxiety are all that are seemingly offered in their place. Days feel strange and it doesn’t take long for them to both feel very long, and start blurring together, making us feel untethered even in space and time, and it’s incredibly disorienting.
I think there’s a way through this though besides imposing schedules on our days, which may or may not be helpful depending on our personalities. I think it involves first of all compassion for ourselves and allowing the feelings of sadness and loss and anxiety to just be. We have a tendency as humans to minimize our own feelings and not allow ourselves to feel. We tell ourselves that things could be worse, or “at least __________ isn’t happening so this isn’t a big deal.” This leads us to be cut off from our feelings and also means we are prone to minimize the feelings of others in the same way. Feelings are just feelings and they are all valid. Just acknowledge them, and let them be.
After we’ve moved through a period of acknowledgement, this disorientation may be an opportunity to reexamine our tethers and see which ones are holding us to vital areas of life and which ones are holding us down. Temporary freedom from many of them may give us some much needed space to examine them.
It also gives us a perspective on how interconnected we are to the entire globe and I fervently hope that gives us a way forward to build a better society as we emerge from this historic moment in time.