How Things Are Different Right Now
In Illinois, we are about one month into a shelter-in-place order. The schools have also officially been closed for an entire month, and now the plan for remote-learning has extended for the remainder of the school year. Daily life looks very different right now. We have become more familiar with the terms that are defining this time in history, pandemic, shelter-in-place, social distance, essential employee, drive-thru testing center, remote-learning, to name a few. As we cope through shelter-in-place orders, many of us are struggling. The need to connect is more important now than ever.
Watching how these terms unravel in our daily life and limited interactions, we are all experiencing how everything changes during a pandemic. This temporary normal has become overwhelming for so many of us.
How It All Unfolded
When I first heard that the term “pandemic” was being used to describe an illness that was going to sweep through our country, I wondered what that could even mean. I had been living in a bubble that consisted of the rush through a daily routine. There were days when the only news I heard about was received was through the conversations with colleagues or if I scanned through an article shared on social media. I counted it a win if I was able to get between 7 - 8 hours of sleep, make it through a bedtime routine without a meltdown from my youngest, and meet the deadlines that needed to be met for work. I couldn’t imagine how my day to day life was about to change.
As I began to hear of cancelled events and places began to close, I processed through each change with wonder. I watched a domino effect of change, as each next step in closures impacted the next. I was a bit shocked with each new bit of information. The closing of schools was the final change that hit the closest to home.
It felt like I was watching a movie, except I was able to walk through some of the scenes as I ventured through the grocery store for my regular weekly shopping trip only to find empty shelves, crowded aisles, and an afternoon size crowd during my usual early morning trip (I try to avoid crowds). During an optional window of time to that I was able to stop in at the school where I work to gather any needed materials to work from home if the closure lasted more than two weeks, there were very few staff members present. The empty parking lot was overwhelming. What irony, that something empty can feel like it weighs so much.
As the extended school closures have led to remote-learning and each school has figured out what that looks like, finding a new and very flexible routine has helped me get by. Meetings for work have begun to occur through online platforms, causing me to realize how much I miss even the smallest daily interactions with others, how my job has contributed to what I have thought my sense of identity was, and one of the reasons why one common theme keeps coming to the surface in my conversations with others.
This is hard.
It is normal to feel a wave of emotions that range from stress, anxiety, restlessness, frustration, fear, depression, and even grief. Stress over new responsibilities at home, changes to employment status, financial responsibilities that may be hard to meet. Anxiety over the news updates, the uncertainty, the needs that we have to continue to meet. The restlessness of having to be cooped up within the walls of our homes. Frustration with having to learn new ways of doing things or figuring out how to deal with the overall change itself. Fear of the unknown, depression from having to manage an overwhelm of emotion and literally be physically disconnected from those who may have been your lifelines. Grief over the loss of connecting, the loss of loved ones to this illness, and even the loss of our sense of identity if our identity has been defined by the roles we fulfill at a work setting.
I cannot possibly begin to cover it all but one thing is certain. Your mental health needs are the concern of many at this time. This temporary normal has shaken our reality. The disconnection from what we know to be familiar, everyday, ways of living is becoming emotionally overwhelming. Mental health support is being recognized as an important role amidst the change. Even the CDC recognizes that this is a stressful time. Coping with all of these feelings is overwhelming. The added responsibility of having to keep it all together to take care of others in our home can make it that much more challenging.
Hope in the Midst of Chaos Makes Room for Connection
This can be a time of hope when we choose to surrender the overwhelm. When we acknowledge what is not within our control and release it. When we realize our limitations and accept them. When we reach out for help and receive it. When we realize that our identity should have been more rooted in our creator than in the gifts he has given us to pursue. When we make room for him to fill our emptiness. Hope can be found in our surrender of the things that we have held onto and allowed to define us. Surrender may feel hard but God is able to use this as an opportunity to prune away the things that have shifted us away from him. I am not a gifted gardener but I do know that pruning makes room for new growth.
If we pause long enough to notice, we will be able to recognize the moments of beauty, grace, laughter, and peace that can also define this season for us. It is only when we decide to take notice during a tough season that we are able to see the blessings that surround us.
We were made for relationship. Relationship is part of why I started this blog. You can read why in my first post, Let's Journey Together. Being socially distant does not mean that one needs to be isolated. The need for human connection is more prevalent now than ever. We can redefine what connection can look like. Whether it is through a virtual connection where you get to interact with someone face to face, or by picking up your phone and making an old fashioned phone call, the opportunity to connect remains. This pandemic is an opportunity to be intentional with our connection.
How you can connect with others during shelter-in-place orders:
- Reach out to friends and family members to check-in with them by calling, texting, or scheduling a virtual meeting through an online platform
- Be honest about what you are experiencing - many people admit to struggling with all of this
- If you are strong - help someone
- If you are weak or in need - ask someone for help (even if it is just to listen)
- Drive past the home of a loved one and wave at each other (many people are setting up birthday parades)
- Have a meal delivered to a friend who is an essential worker, a loved one who is sick, or a stressed out loved one
- Be intentional in connecting with those you are living with by having a daily meal together, scheduling a game night, or having a movie night
What matters right now is finding the hope filled calm at the end of this crashing wave. The flowers continue to bloom, the sun continues to rise, and the hope of a new day continues to be upon us. May we find a sense of calm, hope, peace, and encouragement through this whole season of change that is re-defining our sense of normal.
How have you connected with others during this time?