On Monday I wrote about all the anxiety around going Back to School. Way back in March, the day before we in Michigan were ordered to stay home, I wrote this piece. It’s interesting to look back five months to see how we were feeling then, and to remind myself that we’re still here, still struggling, still in need of others checking in on us.
Now that it’s become more obvious that we are actually doing this — social distancing at a minimum and possibly even sheltering in place or quantining…
Now that you’ve purchased groceries and supplies with a different mindset than you’ve likely ever had before…
Now that your daily life has been transformed and you’re working from home, working under extremely stressful circumstances, or not working at all…
Now that you’ve been physically separated indefinitely from loved ones — the aged, those who live far away, or those who you don’t dare risk exposing to something you might be carrying around…
Now that schools are closed and you’re feverishly preparing lessons to deliver virtually or you’re exhaustedly managing all your responsibilities while also navigating your children’s schooling or you’re finishing your own coursework from home…
Now that restaurants and bars can only provide take out…
And — gasp — now that hair salons have been ordered to close…
How are you doing?
Are you experiencing unexpected emotions? Are you afraid you’ll get sick or, worse, that someone you love — someone who is at risk — might get sick? Are you worried about finances — is your job insecure or has it already been eliminated? Are you disappointed that your plans — graduations, vacations, weddings — will likely be postponed or cancelled? Are you angry that this is happening right now and to this extreme?
I’m right there with you. I’ve been riding an emotional roller coaster and trying to find my we can do this attitude — and sometimes I can, but I’ve also found myself more defensive and snarly and volatile.
My husband asked me the other day if I was washing my hands after touching the laundry and my thickly sarcastic response almost left a mark, “No, dear, I’m actually not washing my hands seventy-five times a day.”
This is a lot, guys. In a matter of just a couple of weeks we have moved from business as usual to a starkly different reality. We’re all dealing with a lot — relocation, disappointment, financial stress, and possibly illness — and most of it is out of our control. It makes sense that we might be having some feelings about it all.
And what are we to do with all of these feelings?
If I’ve learned anything in the last several years, it’s that we do well to feel them — feel them all. Then talk about them, write about them, paint them, create them, notice them — feel them.
It’s not shameful to have feelings — it’s human.
Last week, I watched A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and one of the most significant scenes for me was when Mr. Rogers visited the bedside of his friend’s dying father. The family was gathered, aware of the reality, but nobody was able to speak it. Mr. Rogers, in his characteristic style, remarked that often people don’t like to talk about death — they consider it unmentionable. He then said, “Death is human. Anything that is human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable is manageable.”
If you are having all kinds of emotions right now, that is human. And I am willing to bet that you know some other humans who are also having all kinds of emotions. We are not alone in our feelings right now. In fact, my pastor said this morning (his sermon is here) that “all of us are feeling isolated together”. Now is a very rare moment — a moment of world wide shared experience. A moment where many are reaching out and actually sharing the experience.
And during this time, we can mention the mentionable — we can speak about our fears, our worries, our disappointments, and our anger. These are all human responses, and they are mentionable.
When we are willing to mention them to one another, we might be surprised to find that they are manageable.
In the moments after I realized how harshly I had responded to my husband’s reasonable question yesterday, I quickly backpedaled, sputtering a few more comments in an attempt to recover, and finally saying, “We’re all doing our best right now.”
We are all doing our best to manage the manageable.
And we are bearing witness to one another — watching one another do our best. We see teachers practically moving mountains to deliver content in ways that they’ve never done before; we see our friends and celebrities popping up on social media reading stories, playing music, and posting encouragement; we see health care workers going in to work, putting themselves at risk to provide care; we see our spiritual leaders delivering God’s word through live streams, Instagram stories, and YouTube videos; we see grocery store staff scrambling to keep shelves stocked, offer delivery services, and provide sheltered hours for those at risk; we see one another stepping up and doing our literal very best.
So guys, when we have some feelings and they spill out onto one another — in rude comments, in unfiltered facial expressions, in clippy tones — let’s do our best to check in with one another. Instead of reacting, let’s pause, let’s ask one another how we’re doing, and let’s provide some space to share our feelings.
Over the past few days, I’ve found myself on the phone more than usual — talking with my parents, my children, and my friends. I’ve even joined several video chat platforms to participate in our small group Bible study, to watch our granddaughters jump into a pile of pillows, and tonight to catch up with a group of friends. I need the connection right now, probably because I’m having so many feelings.
I need to know that my people are ok. I want to hear how they are feeling. I want to tell them how I’m feeling.
This is time is unprecedented. It’s unsettling. We need each other, so let’s keep asking one another how we’re doing.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.I Thessalonians 5:11