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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.

You know the guy (or gal). The one that takes up space in your head, whose very voice you cannot stand to hear. The one that makes you grit your teeth, scream in frustration, want to resort to acts of violence. THAT guy (or gal). Mental health workers tell us not to let someone like that take up real estate in our heads or hearts because it’s not good for us. Why empower them that way? But it’s more than that.

I believe we will all be called onto the carpet at the end of our lives here on earth, and we will have to answer for our sins, lacks and weaknesses. THAT person will have to do this, too. Let God judge him (or her). But don’t add to your own liabilities by harboring ill will toward someone. Don’t let THAT person add to your deficits.

Forgive them — even if you have to do it multiple times daily — and love them. (You don’t have to like or respect them. Those things are earned.) After all, you can only change yourself. Make yourself the best you.

Lord, you know them:
They try the patience of saints.
They take what is good and render it sullied.
They walk on hearts in their big black boots.
They laugh at those on the margins because they live smack dab
in the center of the page, where nothing can assail them.
Safe. Satisfied.

Lord, I am old enough to know
there is little justice on this earth.
Let me not become a part of the problem.
Take my soul and bleach it clean.
Take my heart and reshape it like clay.
Take my voice and redirect it from pain to prayer.
Let me love the least lovable, so as to be
the least like them that I can be.

Sophia Grace LeBlanc is recognized for her heroism by Premier Stephen McNeil at a Medal of Bravery Award ceremony. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Congratulations! You’ve won an award. For your efforts, you’ll receive:

  • A pat on the back
  • A piece of paper, and,
  • An uncomfortably close, cringe-worthy photo op with an elected official you’ve never met before!

Did I mention that the “you” in question is six years old? Sophia Grace LeBlanc, who bravely climbed from the wreckage of her family’s crashed car to get help for her injured mother and siblings, received an award for heroism. When she learned that the “award” was just a piece of paper, she spoke her mind.

“I thought because I was so brave, I thought I would get something a little better,” said Sophia.

She had done a wonderful, brave thing, and probably would have liked to receive some toys, or to be taken out for pizza with her friends. A piece of paper? A hug from some random (presumably unintentionally) handsy man? No thanks!

When do we unlearn honesty? Should kids be taught to be quiet, be polite, and tolerate the strange man huddling in for a cuddle? Is it rude to say, “Thanks, but no thanks”?

Setting boundaries is humane. That way, the person who is offending you won’t have to apologize later, and will be educated since they didn’t know they were crossing a line.

Saying what you mean is compassionate. That way, everyone knows where you stand and eventually, the people around you will re-calibrate and reciprocate.

Saying it right at the moment of impact, when someone commits an infraction, is an act of kindness in every direction. That way, you won’t have to bear the weight of that grudge you would have been holding, and your relationships will become more meaningful.

After hearing about the nationwide Romaine lettuce recall due to e. coli contamination, I called the grocery store and asked if the produce I’d bought had been affected.

“No, ma’am, we were told that the Romaine we sold wasn’t part of the recall,” the man said. “That’s a relief,” I said, and hung up.

It was lunchtime, so I decided to have a nice salad. I put the lettuce on the counter. 

Before I sat down to eat, just out of curiosity, I took a look at the CDC’s website to see where the tainted lettuce originated and found out that it was Salinas, California

Where have I seen that name before, I wondered? Oh yeah, it’s listed here on the bag of Romaine on the counter: “Growing Region: Salinas Valley.”

Uh-oh!

I looked back at the CDC’s website again, and found this dire warning: “If the label says ‘grown in Salinas’ (whether alone or with the name of another location), don’t eat it. Throw it away.”

Well then! 

I tossed the lettuce into the trash bin from across the room, gave myself three points for the fade-away jumper (and yelled “nothin’ but net!”), and opened a can of soup instead.

Fact-finding doesn’t end at what you’ve been told by someone with a vested interest, whether it be the grocer, a politician, or the clergy. The second part of the process of finding the truth is to look into it for yourself. 

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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