I sat down earlier today and tried to write a post.  It has been especially difficult for me to post here the past few weeks.  But then it struck me, many of you are probably feeling similar to how I am.  Stressed?  Overwhelmed?

And now I’m telling you to improve the world – more stress!  No, no.  That’s not what I mean at all.  I’m suggesting that you pull in and pull back.  Yes, like Lori said, we all need to have empathy right now.  But you also need to take care of yourself and that self care needs to include your inner world.

I have to say that I have been doing an especially bad job of this.  Even now, I’ve had deadlines.  My work hasn’t slowed.  So now I’ve just got more to deal with.  I thought I was doing a pretty good job but let’s just say that I had a wee little melt down yesterday.  I’ve been checking hings off my to-do list and getting things done but . . .

Yoga?  Cancelled.

Church?  Cancelled.

These are the primary ways I center myself and two weeks without have left a mark.  Don’t be like Sue.  Take care of this before you too have a tantrum.

Take time to center.  Spend time in quiet.  Take time to breathe.  We each do this in different ways.  You might read your Bible.  Or listen to music.  Me?  I sit and knit.  Or I do yoga although relaxation pose is sometimes less meditation oriented and more nap oriented.  Yeah. I admit it.

But I took well over an hour yesterday just to knit.  And then I spent another hour knitting and listening to an audio book.  And I read my Bible. I’m on Numbers.

And today?  Today I’m coping better but I also realize that I need to pull in and pull back every day.  And I’m betting that many of you need this as well.  It’s okay.  We understand.  Just breathe.

–SueBE

 

I have a friend who often talks about her resolution to be “a bigger I,” meaning becoming more inclusive, more caring, more open to other people. Granted, it can be difficult right now to feel that anything about your life is expanding, other than an uneasy, trapped feeling. But think about it: Empathy for those on the front lines — that’s enlarging your “I.” Maintaining social distancing, even when it means you’ll miss out on the last rolls of toilet paper in the store — that’s also enlarging your “I.” Everything you do now in the interest of others, in the interest of stemming the tide of this disease, is growing yourself beyond your former boundaries. And that is a good thing.

Though I cannot take up torches
or spears against my enemy,
though I can do no more than Milton,
(stand, wait), though my reaching out
must be touchless, limbless, still,
I stretch the seams of my soul.
Misery lurks and like a sponge
I sip it and, cell by cell, expand.
No one hears, no one sees,
yet empathy moves the mountain,
breaks capital I’s into a rubble of “us.”
Small though we be,
we will hold off the tide.

close up photo of water lily flowerIn these days of social distancing and self-quarantine, it’s a good time to shore each other up — virtually, of course — and offer the human nutrients of encouragement and inspiration. We can’t see each other in person, but we can still check in. So, how are you?

For those of you who are sick at home with the Coronavirus (COVID-19), our prayers are with you. For the rest of us, hearing about states shutting down and shoppers fighting over toilet paper, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed right now. 

I could tell you not to get stressed, but that doesn’t even seem reasonable. What I will offer is this suggestion: Gather all the facts you can from reputable sources. Do all your due diligence, then take your mind off everything virulent and volatile. That includes viruses, of course, but also people who are trying to amp you up, make you anxious, or otherwise just get on your nerves.

This is a good time to protect all that is precious to you, and remember: The order to shelter in place extends to your soul. Do all the things you can to stay sheltered in a place of peace. Take your mind off the catastrophe as a whole and focus on one thing at a time.

Remind yourself that you’re doing everything you can at this moment. You’re safe at home. Everything is okay where you are. Let it be okay. Don’t go back and check the stats every ten minutes. How many cases are there in my town today? What’s the latest terrifying news? 

Step away from the stress. Sit down and decompress. All will be well and life will go on. We’ll get through this together, and before you know it, the “new normal” will just be “normal” again. 

You’ve seen the memes, the stories on the news. People are having a difficult time with social distancing. I ran into a church friend at the grocery store last night, and it was all I could do to refrain from hugging her. Right now, being together is not good for us. But how can we cope with being alone? It will take a journey to the center of ourselves to find the answers.

Though you fill a room with silence,
you are not alone.
Though you thrash in a sea of panic,
you are not lost.
Instead, remember:
everything you do is sacred;
every movement a dance.
Let your touch be only healing.
Draw energy from the sun.
Turn with purpose toward
what is essential and cull
with tenderness what is not.
Do not lose yourself.
Let the holy within you rise
to greet silence as a friend
and enter into prayer
that moves and lives
and has being in you
for as long as it lasts.
Gethsemane surrounds us.
But Easter is coming.

Not everyone is an introvert.  I get that.  Social distancing is really hard for my husband – who may be quiet but is really an extrovert.  Me?  I’ve been training for this my whole life.  I’ve got a shelf full of books to read, a knitting project, a crochet project and a deadline.

But it is still tough because so much is unknown.  There are so many things out of our control.  Every day, it becomes easier and easier to fall into anxiety.  But here are three things you can do today.

Breathe.  Take a moment and do a breathing meditation.  As you inhale, imagine God’s light flowing into your body.  As you exhale, this light pushes into your extremeties.  As you inhale and exhale, you are filled and recharged with his light.

Disconnect.  We want to know what is going on so we go online.  Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation online.  And a lot of panic.  Disconnect for several hours a day.  Read.  Do a puzzle.  Learn a new skill.  My friend told her son that and he is learning to pick locks.  She was super worried about this but the rest of the boy mom’s assured her – that’s a stage.  We don’t get it but it’s a stage.  And it can come in handy when someone accidentally slams a locked bathroom door.  Don’t ask.

Connect.  Wait a minute.  Didn’t I just tell you to disconnect?  I did.  But if you are like me you spend a lot of time online.  Actually call someone.  Do you have a friend who lives alone?  An older neighbor?  There’s someone in your life who needs to hear from you.  Reach out and connect.  Share some of that light you gathered up.

We can’t fix everything but we can spend some time every day in his light and sharing it with others.

–SueBE

Sorry for the absence.  Deep into meeting a work deadline while trying to skirt pandemic-monium.  No, I’m not making light.  Well, not entirely.  My coping mechanisms include laughter. And that’s not a bad thing for getting through things right now.

This image popped up this morning and reminded me of Lori’s prayer.

Me? I’m ready to quarentine.  Afraid?  Not so much but I’m a busy introvert who is trying to meet a work deadline.  I work from home.  If I had to stay home?  I could get a lot done.  And I’ve got a shelf full of library books and three blankets that I’m knitting or crocheting – different techniques for different projects.

But I have no troubles understanding why people are so afraid.  We don’t handle the unknown especially well.  We are a society who wants absolute and complete control which we call freedom.

That’s always struck me as a touch ironic.  Freedom to me is a cottonwood fluff on the breeze.  It is a flowing stream.  It is quiet and ease and rest.  Funny enough, these are also the places that I go to spend time with God.

And really isn’t that what we should be doing in times like these?  Spending time with God?

The future is unknown and unknowable.  It is out of our control.  But that was the situation three months ago.

Like the say in Hitchhiker’s Guide – Don’t panic.

Instead, have courage.  God is with us always.

Have faith.  God is with us always.

Have hope.  God is with us.

Always.

–SueBE

 

Blind with panic, we cannot see
God working, fingers flying,
amassing miracles, accruing saints,
laying hands on the dying, the mourning.
Deliver us, Lord, from this plague,
and in return, we vow
to treasure blessed boredom,
the hole of silence round as a mouth
in mid-yawn,
to bless each ordinary day,
to remember how it felt to need,
keenly, and let no other feel it
though selfish safety finds us;
to see we snub the least of these
at our own quite pointed peril.

dog rescue in middle of lake

Credit: Matt Babbitt / Mlive.com

We’ve all had moments in which we felt as if we were adrift in the middle of nowhere, like this dog found floating on an ice patch on a freezing lake one night. Luckily, just when it seemed all was lost, help arrived and the dog was rescued.

It seems as if the ideal life would be one with no challenges, but what we learn on the hard road instills resilience and resourcefulness. All of the things you’ve gone through have built up your own adversity-acumen, and now you know how to lend a hand to someone else when they need it.

Don’t give yourself a hard time for going through hard times. It’s not a sign that God has left you behind, or that you don’t deserve abundance and accolades. It means you’re storing up skills for the next river you’ve got to cross. And once you get to the other side, you’ll find that, now, you’ve become a guide. 

And as you lay down to rest at night you’ll realize that, even though you’d been on a hard road, it was still a good day. It’s not the easy life that fulfills us as human beings, but a purposeful, positive life in which you do your best, and find that your best gets better every day.

Even when you end up in a difficult situation like that poor pup, stranded on an icy lake, just remember: you’re stockpiling survival skills from the inside. And since Providence is perpetual, you’re never really alone.

Maybe it’s not news to you, but it was to me: Human beings, scientifically speaking, are not designed to be truly happy. It has to do with evolution and the large frontal lobes in our brains — well, I’ll leave the explanation to the experts. Suffice to say, if you keep trying to be happy and can’t quite get there, it’s understandable. We’re not meant to. But why?

I think of happiness as a “whole-cloth” experience — it’s not something that one part of your life or experiences can achieve. Having money won’t do it. A good relationship won’t do it, if you are lacking in other areas. Happiness is holistic. And we really can’t get that totality here on earth; not if we have even a drop of human kindness running through us. And without that kindness, without empathy and fellow-feeling and mercy, personal happiness just doesn’t mean much. Does it?

We pluck at pieces:
this job, that pair of shoes.
It is empty in the face of want,
a bit of bread when a feast is needed.
If you can wrap yourself in happiness
and turn blind eyes to need,
you will find your coat is made of ashes
and will not keep you warm.
We rise together, a family of yeast
or we sink like a fish with a belly full of stones.

Forgiveness is one of the main tenets of most religions, but for me, it’s a work-in-progress. Sometimes I’m able to forgive those who trespass against me instantly, and, at other times, only incrementally.

I realized the other day that I’m also guilty of “forgiveness head-fake;” that is to say, I start out full of compassion, intending to let go of an infraction, but then I get to mulling. Once I start really thinking about it, I start to smolder. Mulling and smoldering might be a good recipe for cider and fondue by the fire, but it’s not so good for the soul.

That Mull and Smolder Syndrome came into effect recently when I realized my mailbox had been run over, yet again. It really had me riled up, because the perpetrator was the grocery delivery driver. He’d brought my food into the house and never mentioned that he’d just demolished my mailbox.  I even gave him a tip and a granola bar! 

This irked me so much that I couldn’t let go of my anger, even after the grocery company paid to repair my mailbox. Then I came across the viral video about a young man who ran over a mailbox in icy conditions and apologized sincerely to the homeowner, even coming back a few days later with cookies. That’s how it should be done! I could forgive that young man in a heartbeat. If I could forgive him, I can find it in my heart to forgive the truck driver.

Sometimes, it’s important to forgive — even when the offender hasn’t apologized — to protect your own mental health. When you’ve done all you can do, let go, let God and leave the past behind you.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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