A year ago we were celebrating Christmas in a foreign country. We were all well and didn’t think twice about air travel. I would have laughed at the thought of wearing a mask in public. I knew who my president was. I had reliable income from work. Protesting? What protesting? California and Colorado weren’t on fire. How on earth could things unravel so quickly (and at SO many seams!)?
In February, news of the novel virus was just appearing. My life long friends and I had a previously planned trip to New York City. They debated wearing masks on the plane. I told them I wouldn’t sit with them if they wore them. We visited Chinatown and went to many popular tourist sites. We went to plays on Broadway. Everything was bustling and busy and no one talked of Covid. We never discussed the election or politics at all for that matter. We went OUT. TO. EAT (deep sigh). That trip was absolutely amazing. It became even more amazing in the coming months.
My daughter came home early from her Fulbright Scholarship due to being sent home by the government. She ended up living with us many months before relocating cross country. She took a job in a city that was literally on fire (for months). Working remotely, she was at least safe physically but not from poor air quality. I couldn’t believe she actually got a job during lockdown- fortunate for sure.
Speaking of lockdown, I had never heard of one before unless it involved a school. Nor did I believe any entity would enforce something that bizarre. But, yes, they and we did. For a llllllllooooooonnnnnngggggg time. I couldn’t believe how much cleaning and organizing I did. Who would have dreamed our stores would run out of TOILET PAPER and PAPER TOWELS? I could have understood wine and beer but paper products became like gold. You got a full pack? You just won the lottery.
The hurricane season was beyond comprehension. There were more named storms than ever before. I never knew Greek alphabet could be used as names of storms. Iota, really?
A presidential election for the ages occurred just in time to top off the weirdest year ever. We haven’t fully decided who won and it’s been 5 weeks. Bizarrest of bizarre. The world has never before felt so small and I have been considering if this was the end? This year certainly has felt like AN end if not THE end. An end of life as we knew it.
My sister was headed to the local drug store and asked her adolescent what she needed. Her daughter flatly lamented, “Pick me up a case of disappointment and a box of despair.” How many identify with that feeling right now, I wonder? 2020 has been a year of reckoning, discomfort and loss for many. I’m trying to sort out my response and understanding of it all. It’s natural to want to understand but I’m realizing maybe that’s not the point?
I was at work today when a customer called crying. She had a destroyed yard and a totaled vehicle- all related to Hurricane Sally. She also was at the doctor’s office and had just been diagnosed with Strep. She said, “ I just can’t catch a break.” I felt terrible for her as I have had those exact feelings before myself. My circumstances may have been different but I knew too well the panic she felt. That understanding aided me in calming her. I could tell she got a modicum of relief from my validation alone.
I was chatting with my senior friend also today and she said, “One doesn’t know what the next day will bring.” She was referring to the health state of someone in their 80’s and 90’s. We had a mutual friend who moved to assisted living and were saying how she seemed fine recently. That made me realize also the same with everything now- ONE DOESN’T KNOW WHAT TOMORROW MAY BRING.
My husband and I were driving tonight and he said, “No one is guaranteed tomorrow. We need to be making healthy decisions for other reasons than just Covid. Sure we could die of it but we are more likely to die of a car crash or heart attack.” That brings me back to the minutiae of our daily decisions. Am I operating out of fear? Am I recognizing this moment I am here as a gift and maximizing it? Am I being a good coworker, parent, spouse, daughter, friend?
I admit I am not at all afraid of dying. Am I chasing it? No, definitely not- I feel owed the chance to meet my grandchildren. I plan to spoil, love and cherish each second I’m blessed with them. (I was an uptight, perfectionist mother and I WILL balance that with my plans to be super chill grandma.) I want to celebrate life and the years I have left. Why live terrified? Doesn’t make sense to me. And thinking I know the answers to everything also seems limiting. What I want to convey is that all that is forcing us out of our comfort zones in 2020 might be beneficial? 2020 could be “The Great Invitation” to get out of our ruts and make changes for the better.
Is there someone you need to reach out to? Are you happy at work or just getting through each day? Are you taking care of yourself? Do you need to improve your health/attitude/relationships? Is there a relationship you need to end? Are you living within your means? Now is the time to make meaningful changes. I don’t believe we will get back to “normal.” Normal is a setting on a dryer. We choose our values by how we live. Hopefully our living will reflect we’ve accepted the invitation to do better.
“Instead store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moths and rust do not destroy and robbers cannot break in and steal.” Matthew 6:20
One year ago, if someone told me the circumstances we would have in our country right now, I’d have thought they were insane. No way could that much possibly happen at one time! It would be incredulous to have protests all over, natural disasters of epic proportions, a global pandemic, a BIG recession, and ferociously feuding politicians during an election year! No way! Impossible! Nope. Possible. Actual.
I was in the eye of Hurricane Sally recently and got really, really scared. So much so that I went and slept in our old, cast iron bathtub. The damning winds, snapping trees, and rain pummeling us for hours had me in fervent prayer at 4am. I’d been through several hurricanes before and assumed same old, same old. Oh, how I was wrong! When we saw daylight, we saw new topography and landscape in our yard. Things had changed permanently. Yes, a few bad incidents happened like a boat and car got totaled but not one of 60 trees fell on or torpedoed through my home. Miraculous, truly miraculous.
I cannot complain one second that another hurricane is headed to the Gulf Coast or about lack of electricity, internet, AC, etc. of recent weeks. I cannot, will not, and SHOULD NOT because some people actually live in these conditions all the time. In America, we have had such prosperity for so long it seems an entitlement. This frightens me more than the actual hurricane did.
What has occurred to me is that I was not ready for 2020. I cannot imagine most people were ready for such intense, life altering circumstances all at once. I believe every single person breathing has been affected in one way or another. I will admit, it got to me last week when things had been so rough for so long that I indulged myself by throwing a mega, pity party. I cried, got angry, exploded at co-workers and felt absolutely horrible afterwards. That party stunk and I don’t believe I’ll ever host one again.
To indulge ourselves in emotional anger only fans the flame. Once burning, it’s destruction is swift and fast. It leaves charred remains and a blackness like none other. I quickly recognized I was getting no where and genuinely disliked myself. I sent her bye-bye and won’t invite that bitty over ever again.
Then, I started thinking what I could have done differently to avoid such idiocy in the first place? I consider myself a practicing Christian and believe I TRY to live by faith and God’s promises. Yet, what happened that flipped my switch off and turned me into the rage queen????
I have asked myself and God these questions. I think He has provided the answer. I allowed myself to get worn down by not prioritizing what I should have and instead spent precious time on frivolous pursuits. This robbed me of important energy. Second, I indulged myself in numbing activities that did nothing but make matters even worse. Third, I wasn’t seeking guidance through disciplined prayer and Bible reading. I also wasn’t exercising (picking up limbs wasn’t enough??). I know myself and what works to keep me healthy and on track. I was not practicing those things.
So, I went back to basics and made myself do what felt unnatural and inconvenient. Why? Because this I know- it has worked before and if I truly, really, honestly believe in Jesus and all He has done for me, I darn better live like it!! I’m not preaching at anyone but myself. This was my experience and I recognize we are all free to believe (or not), worship (or not), and live like we want because we are in the “Land of the Free.” I also believe God is big enough to understand our disbelief and human weaknesses. He just sits back waiting to be invited to whatever we have going on- the good, the bad and the ugly. All we have to do today is ask for help from Him. That’s it- pretty basic and clear.
Next, I got thinking about America compared to the early nation of Israel. Back in Moses and Joshua’s time, they were a stubborn bunch and it cost them dearly. Only the offspring were allowed to inherit the Promised Land. Then, that bunch got wild and indifferent and forgot too. It kept going until the fall of Judah- the last remnant. Our blessed country is not yet 300 years old and we are in a mess. I still believe we can work this out, however, and come together to improve things. I still have HOPE for a better tomorrow.
This gets me back to my last point. If we prepare properly for storms, negative circumstances, crises, and sickness by planning ahead and being ready, it won’t be as painful to weather whatever comes. (Here comes my self-preaching again.) I absolutely HAVE to practice spiritual discipline by filling up my spiritual warehouse EVERY SINGLE DAY, regardless what’s going on. It’s essential, less the rage queen comes back for a visit and she’s a terrible houseguest.