Dear Loved Ones,
How are you all doing? So far, I’m coping with the ever changing situation well, and I’ve had a couple of realizations around things that are hard.
Living alone I’ve been missing physical touch. There are no hugs from friends when I see them, no handshakes at online church, no even bumping in to another’s energy field with the distance we are to keep. And this has surprised me, as I don’t really consider myself that touchy feely!
The second is a strange thing. I keep being reminded of a time when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old. It was Christmas Day and I had the mumps, so I was quarantined to my bedroom. “You are dangerous to the men,” they said. “You have to stay in your room.” All day long I kept hearing voices and laughter and fun and presents being opened downstairs while I was in my bedroom. And I felt even more ostracized than normal, more alienated and invisible. I could hear the group of people having fun. And I was alone. I think this has been brought back to mind when I see families walking down the street together, see Facebook posts of families figuring it out as a team. Even though this ‘happy family’ was never my experience of home life, it still causes a pang of sadness. I also know that being asked to stay at home as a family has its own set of issues…. The longing for some alone time, to get away from squabbles and teaching kids the lessons provided. But I find it interesting that these are bringing up feelings for me as an strong introvert!
I share these things not for pity or sympathy, but as I think this time is hard for each of us in our own way. And I have found that sitting with the feelings, allowing the memories/triggers to show themselves can help me set them free. The recognizing of old stories means they don’t need to be repeated over and over.
For example, recognizing the feeling of the loss of touch invites me to notice all the ways I am touched: by nature, by things I am reading, by times of prayer. It’s a different kind of touch, but still a touch of the Divine. I’ve also been actively resting in the presence of God, imagining the warmth of God enveloping me, feeling where it touches me the deepest and where I can feel it the easiest, and trying to experience it in the places that are harder.
And with my previous story of being quarantined, I look around my home now and am thankful. If I find myself getting stuck in this, or any other story, I do a distancing (Ironically!!) practice. I name 5 things that are different. For example, I was sick, not I am healthy. I was a kid, now I am an adult. I was not safe at home then, now I am safe. I had no choice then, now I am free to move around my home. I had no one to reach out to, now I have many friends. Each difference brings me back to the reality of what is in the here and now. Each one grounds me a little deeper and makes me grateful for the reality I live in.
What has been hard for you in these days? What has become a joy? How are you re-grounding/finding God/seeking connections?
And please do remember that there are many spiritual directors and therapists who have been working with video conferencing and distance sessions long before this all began. Reach out to one of us for help if you get overwhelmed! (If you are local, I would even do a walking session 6 feet apart in a place of beauty… just let me know!!).
Dear Loved Ones,
How are you all doing in this time of uncertainty, restrictions, concern, slowing down or being extra stretched? It has been an interesting couple of weeks so far. I know many of you are now in shelter at home situations, and others are just being asked to socially distance yourself from others, and yet there are some who are working harder than ever to keep us fed, healthy, and clean, people whose jobs mean they have to be out in the world. I thank you!
The whole Corona Virus 19 situation is new for many of us…. Even those who have lived through medical scares before (scarlet fever for example), have told me this is a whole new level of learning, and for many it the first such event to have happened in their lives. Is it any wonder that people are looking tired and anxious?
When I have begun to feel worried about what is going on, I have found it really helpful to switch off electronic devices! They tend to suck me in, even when I am not seeing the latest update about what is happening. Then I have been getting creative with what to do next. Read a book, go for a walk (yes, Gibbs and I have been out in nature more than ever!), sit with some paints and a canvas, pray, sing, cook some good food, call a friend (though this one can be hard for my introvert self!). All these things help ground me, re-center me, stop the mindless what ifs and how wills. And today I reached out to the local co-op to see how I can help them… they have lost half their workers; college students that have been sent home. So I offered to be a delivery volunteer for folk who can’t or should not get out, with the germfree protocol being to leave things on doorsteps!
For me, I have found the most important thing is to not dwell on the possibilities, but rather to dwell in God. No matter what happens I know God is present, however long this takes God will be walking side by side with us. My style of dwelling may seem different from yours…. It includes the list above. But I encourage each of you to find what helps you dwell in that presence of the Divine. If you are not sure, feel how you are when you are doing different things. How is it when you read, when you walk, when you do yoga, when you watch the news, when you do laundry, when you call a friend, when you look at your bank statement, when you teach your kids, when you play a game? Choose to do more of the things that give you a sense of peace, of stillness, of slowing your brain and out of control thought spirals down. These are some of the ways you can dwell with God.
And I don’t mean that God doesn’t dwell in the other places….. but maybe that you don’t dwell with God in them! God is in it all, but where are we!
As we go through this time, let us remember we are going through it together. Even when we are socially isolating, we are doing this for us all. And when the isolation turns to creation, to connections in different ways, to sharing resources and love and hope with one another, I believe it will make us better able to live on this planet in unity in the long term.
I flew home from California on Monday, and arrived to my house around 9:30pm. Gibbs was waiting eagerly and almost spinning in circles with his tail wagging shenanigans! KukKuk quickly appeared and we snuggled on the couch, greeting one another with warm kisses and purrs. Before long Gibbs decided he needed to go out, and usually his night time walk when it’s cold consists of crossing the road, peeing on the snow bank by the parking lot, standing in the middle of the road until I turn around, and running back to the house. So we stepped outside, me with no coat on presuming it would be a short walk, and crossed the road. He ran into the parking lot, looked at me, waited for me to catch up, and took off running again. He led me to the main road, across the crossing and into the college campus. We were really going for a walk! And the cute thing was that he would run ahead, turn around with a big smile on his face, wag his tail, run almost back to me, turn around again and set off running once more. His excitement at seeing me home turned into a running, dancing, joy-filled walk! We did this dance for over a mile before we reached home and fell into bed, exhausted by the day!
His behavior reminded me of a time some 20 years ago when my niece (M) was probably 4 or so. I had not seen her or her sister (E) in a while as I was in the US and they were in England. But I was visiting for a week and set a time to go see them. Their mom needed to run an errand, so set me the task of walking the E to go get her sister from school. We were picking her up early so we could spend time together. It had been about 9 months since I had seen them, and I did not know if she would remember me. E and I set off to the school hand in hand. We walked into the classroom and M jumped out of her chair and ran to get her things. She didn’t really acknowledge me, hug me or say hello. Then we left and began our walk back to their house. The whole way M was laughing and giggling, skipping ahead, turning around, running back, laughing some more. She was so happy to see me, and wanted to ensure I was still there, following her!
It made me sad to think about, as I tried to remember the last time I had greeted someone with such inhibition. When had I last shown this much excitement and love and unbridled joy? The dance and laugh and turning around to make sure the person was still there, unrestrained delight that comes out of every pore? Is it really only dogs and children who are this free?
Somehow self-consciousness sets in; maybe we are ridiculed for such a display of affection, maybe we look around us and see other people’s joy dampened down. Maybe, in telling us to control our emotions perceived as negative, we learn that expression of any emotion in too big a way is bad, childish, unnecessary. Whatever happens, something inside us tells us it is wrong. And how sad is that?!
Next time you feel an emotion that is full of joy, I invite you to show it in some way! Maybe with a little jump, or a giggle allowed to escape, or a turning around in delight. See how it feels inside to set it free! And remind yourself that all emotions are ok, none is wrong. Express your grief, your happiness, your pain, your love, and yes, even your anger. Express them in ways that allow them to be. Express them in ways that maybe you only see if you are shy. Express them, certainly, in ways that cause no harm. But it’s time for us to allow our emotions and feelings the space they need, for this is a space where healing and hope begin to enter.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.