I finally made it outside for a much-needed run. It was good for my soul. The world looks the same as it always has. Yet the world doesn’t feel the same. In the time of Coronavirus, the world feels unsettled and surreal. We are all completely overwhelmed with information, statistics, the unknown … and are being bombarded with fears, anxiety and what-ifs.
We’ve truly gone into the desert this Lent. The penance, prayer, and fasting we are now being called to do is not by choice. I mean, not for me. I don’t know if you chose to have a brand new virus replete with pandemonium for Lent. Most people give up chocolate!
This Lent, it feels like God is trying to get our attention. A forced time out, if you will. Not just from our comfortable routines and “safe” lives, but from our hectic lives. Our over-scheduled days. Our focus on material things and worldly status. It’s a time out from focusing on politics and fighting over social issues and turning to the things that matter most in this life: God and each other.
Like most everyone else, social distancing has forced my family to slow down. Instead of blowing through the house to get to the next activity, we have been grounded together in our home for an indeterminate amount of time. We were told two weeks. Now it’s four weeks. Every day, things seem to change.
Our life, like everyone’s, has come to a complete stop. My kids are busy learning from home and playing. I am busy with pin-balling between family members to make sure everyone is taken care of. I’m going from chore to chore, doing the important things first. My already limited downtime time is even more so than it ever has been before. I’m exhausted. I’m worn out. I hide the anxiety and worry under whatever face I need to show my kids so I don’t build up their fears. Like all of us, I’m doing the best I can with what limited resources I have.
We are all here. All the time. Together. There’s space, but not always enough. It’s challenging enough to live with the people in your home on a regular basis let alone being confined. I joke that this time is “extreme marriage counseling: quarantine edition.” If we can make it here, we can make it anywhere.
I love my family and so far I think we’re doing pretty good, but I don’t love that I have no control over anything that’s happening. The only thing I have control over is my perspective, and if I keep focusing on what I hate about all this, it’s going to be a rough road for myself and everyone around me. So, I’m trying to turn to God and ask him for help because I understand clearly now that I can’t do anything without him. Especially this.
I have made steps to try and keep my perspective in check by:
- Limiting time on social media and keeping my feed to uplifting things.
- Checking the news only once at the end of the day.
- Praying a devotional every morning
- Praying a Hail Mary every day.
- Getting outside once a day to sit, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.
- Going to bed early.
- Checking on friends via phone or text and talking about non-coronavirus things.
- Doing an examination of conscience each day and asking God to help me work on those shortcomings in this trying time. (I use the one for married people and parents, but you can find them all through that link)
- Having much longer conversations with my kids about things they want to talk about.
I think there is an appreciation lesson here for us all to learn, whether it’s for our health, our families, our teachers, or farmers, our grocers. For me, I have already learned to appreciate many things, specifically the value of freedom. Even in crisis, many of us still have it better than a lot of people. We have homes, clean water, and food. But, even the simple freedom of going to the store to get butter, and knowing butter will be there, has become valuable to me because I never appreciated it before. The freedom to drop by a friends house, or go to Mass, or swing by the church to have some much needed silence — I am more grateful than ever for those.
In the evenings, I make time to go outside. I’ve never done this before, but I’ve been going to watch the dark steal the sunset-splashed sky. It covers its vibrant oranges and reds with a blue hue until it’s completely disappeared behind the mountain shadows. The stars began to glitter like they always do and it’s a small, comfortable familiarity that I know I can expect each day.
It’s quiet at night. Despite the anxiety and unknown events of tomorrow, it’s peaceful.
I know this troubling situation won’t last forever because I have faith in God. He delivers all his people through the desert. He always has. Miracles happen through science, and every day people are working around the clock to find treatments and cures. That’s the wonderful thing about humanity in crisis: The people who never give up.
So, it won’t be very long before this quiet will be gone. Soon, the airplanes will be back overhead, and the cars will be going by at all hours. The stillness will be moving again. The world will go back to the way it was, and eventually we will, too. Life will resume being busy and we might even forget the way this was. We might forget that God is still bigger than any of this.
When life swings back to “normal,” I might forget the things I’m learning about myself right now. I’m learning to depend 100 percent on myself and my family. I’m learning the importance of genuine time spent with my kids. I’m learning to trust God — to trust that right now he is showing me what life is meant to be in its simplicity: focusing on him and my family. Learning to truly appreciate everything I have from a house, to food, to fresh air outside.
There won’t be the same opportunity for stillness like this again.
I hope that I don’t forget. I hope I can look back and know it was this Lent that I really wandered through the desert and that I not only learned to truly trust God, but to fully appreciate the small things I take for granted in life. Which is everything, including life itself.
“Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Originally published March 25, 2020.