We’ve Made it This Far…
Let’s Keep Moving Forward
Anne Lamott once said, “Death is not the enemy, snakes are.” In other words, death is inevitable, but snakes are avoidable. So, do what you can to avoid danger, and don’t spend so much time living in fear of your own death. We are a species who spend our lives doing everything we can not to die, but in all honesty, the mortality rate among humans is still at 100%.
Of course, the coronavirus pandemic has only added fuel to this fire of fear. We now have an added layer of anxiety every time we go out our doors. Should I visit the relatives a state over? Should I go to that family wedding? Should my children or grandchildren go back to school this Fall? What all felt benign 6 months ago, have now become decisions that feel like a matter of life and death. We are just not used to living in this constant state of fight-or-flight, and it is taking its toll on all of us. It’s understandable if you are finding yourself lying awake at night with anxious thoughts you can’t tune out. It makes sense if you are feeling defeated and finding it difficult to have the energy you normally do for life.
We don’t have much power to change our current situation. We do what we can to help protect ourselves and others: wear a mask, socially distance, and wash our hands. But the feeling of being powerless gives way to fear, and we are learning to live with this fear. So, give yourself a pat on the back because you’ve made it this far already! Although, we may not be through it, we do have reasons to celebrate today; namely, that we made it through yesterday.
As we continue to move forward, I want to offer two practices that have been serving me well over the past week. The first is the practice of naming specific emotions. Our primary emotions include feeling happy, sad, mad, and scared, but each of these primary emotions have secondary emotions. For instance, I may say that I feel scared, but then I reflect more deeply and find that I’m really feeling anxious and then I wonder why I’m feeling anxious and find that I’m actually feeling overwhelmed. The more specific we can be in the naming of our emotions, the more quickly we can accept those emotions and ask how they are serving us. If I’ve named that I’m feeling overwhelmed, I can ask myself, “What is causing that feeling? Is there anything within my power to change that cause? What is a healthy coping strategy to live with that feeling?” Our response to feelings should never be self-hate or loathing, but curiosity. Being curious about our feelings will help us navigate these difficult days.
Another practice that has been allowing me to be gracious to myself lately is something I call Divine listening. In those moments of fear, anxiety, or sadness, I take a moment to ask, “Is God speaking to me through these feelings or this situation?” Like when the Old Testament character Jacob spent a night wrestling with God, am I wrestling with God when I’m feeling overwhelmed? Is there something the Spirit is saying to me in the midst of this pain? I believe that in many cases there is. However, in order to listen and hear God’s voice, I need to slow down and sit with all the feelings. I can’t run away from them. I can’t numb myself to them. I need to embrace them, no matter how difficult that might be. For when I do listen, I find that I begin to hear God in a new light.
These practices are helping me continue to move forward. What practices are helping you? What is helping you to live each day in the moment and not let the fears or worries of tomorrow control your today? You’ve made it this far, but what helped you at the beginning of the pandemic might not be helping as much now. So, take a few moments, breathe deeply, and be creative. Find a couple new practices that will help you live in this new normal.
Peace be upon you,
Chaplain Travis Jamieson