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Only a few days into our voluntary sequestrations and I can tell people are going stir-crazy. I went to our community outdoor park to do some “social distancing” exercise and it was as busy as I’ve ever seen it. The trails and incline steps were packed with moms and dads trying to entertain kids who were already bored from being home for two days.
Life has shifted. As companies adjust to try and salvage what they can of their business and livelihoods, our inboxes are being flooded with more emails than we can read, each reflecting back our sense of desperation. Our productivity is down and the void it creates has an existential feel to it.
In the coming days you may be tempted to venture out simply because being isolated is so uncomfortable or boring or annoying. Please don’t unless its absolutely necessary for existence. Our collective effort to stick it out for a few weeks will have huge ramifications on how fast we can get back to normal.
I posted an extra post this week sharing 5 Ways to Avoid Squandering this Pandemic. I want to reiterate one of the key points in the post. Allow your annoyance or boredom to take you deeper. Resist the knee-jerk reaction, force-of-habit, impulse to distract yourself. Before you anesthetize your life with “stuff to do”, or video games, or movies, or computer, take this time to sit still. Sit quietly with your thoughts. You will have time for the other stuff after you get your life centered. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- Why am I so agitated? Why am I so bored?
- Why can’t I turn off the news?
- Now that I finally have time with my family, what am I actually going to do with it?
- Is there a bigger lesson to be learned in all of this?
- How is my life going, really?
- What changes do I need to make today while the “rat race” has slowed?
- Where is my soul? How is my faith? What do I really believe in right now?
Keep in mind that if you are annoyed or bored, your are among the most privileged. While some of us are greatly inconvenienced, many of us will truly suffer. Please don’t forget those who are suffering.
Whatever you do during your sequestration, at least find some time to go deeper. Restructure your day to include everything you truly believe is important. Then self-empty into each thing in its turn. Perhaps in a couple of weeks you will have established a few new habits that you can take with you into the new normal. A small change, repeated everyday can have either a destructive or redemptive effect on your life.
If you find yourself overwhelmed with fear, or anxiety, or a sense of dread or even resentment for the state of our world, give yourself some time for soul care. While some of the new realities are dire, they are not all that is true about your life or this world. There is so much to celebrate. In the midst of much loss and disruption is so much opportunity and re-creation. Turn off the negative news and focus on the good things.
“Count it all joy, my brothers (and sisters), when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:1-6)
This passage helps me to see the thing beyond the thing. Can I count it “ALL” joy? This goes beyond looking on the bright side…way beyond it. We’re learning that we are all in this together, but will we see that each and every one of us is being tried, tested, and developed through this? Can we see the perfect and complete end to which this is taking us? I know its hard to see, that’s why James (the writer of the quote) offers the caveat about lacking wisdom.
Our world really needs what is happening right now. We really need this. In the big picture or in the long view, this is really good. If it doesn’t feel that way just yet, then please, take my advice, and find some quiet time. Ask the hard questions. Answer them honestly. Yes life has shifted. Pivot with it. Do what you must do and do it with excellence. Then look forward to your role in re-creating the new world.