I’ve been thinking lately about touching base to share what I’m feeling about the transition from summer to the school year, as many of our members have children that will be returning to school in one form or another.
I have three kids returning, one to university, one to grade 12, and one to grade 8. While the oldest, David, will be learning virtually as determined by his university, Meg has opted to return to classes, and Liam has opted to attend virtually as he attends a high-risk school.
Everything about this seems surreal and so out of my hands. So much of the last six months have felt out of my hands. There’s nothing worse for a person who seeks control over her life than to feel like she has none.
This lack of control has given me an opportunity to grow the part of me that is impatient and demanding. The part of me that thinks I can fix everything for everybody in my family. It has become crystal clear to me that those notions were illusions. I know, duh! It does sound arrogant to think I could ever believe I did have this kind of control. Yet. To understand something intellectually, and to behave like you understand it, are two very different things. I can pay lip service to the idea that I know God is in charge. I strive to live that way. Often, though, I pass it up to God only to snatch whatever “it” is right back, believing if I don’t do something, nobody will.
This is the nature of my weakness, longstanding and well-ingrained. Now, having lived through six months of God overseeing our departure from normal, I sometimes wonder what He has in mind. I sometimes get mad at Him too, and say “Now what?”. But that’s just more of my petulance, and I have to talk myself down yet again, and remind myself that He knows what He’s doing. And that this is my opportunity to grow my faith, to strengthen my patience, and to look for the good in what appears to be bad.
So, some highlights from the good.
My work has been affected and I’ve had a huge reduction in work and pay. The upside is I’ve still received government assistance and have tried to look at my case as an extended vacation for which I’ve been paid. I am also grateful for the fact that the weather has been the best possible, with the quarantine having started after winter.
I have enjoyed our pool almost every day and have gone for walks as well, almost every day.
I’ve considered what relationships are important and which aren’t and have let go of some. The quarantine has brought about some perspective about what matters to me and what I don’t want anymore. I’ll admit there’s some sadness to that but sometimes loss is necessary. I am striving to be as true to myself as possible, and that may have been more possible because of this downtime.
Instead of looking at my kids’ school situation as an inconvenience, I will try to see it as an unexpected perk, in that they can learn in an alternative format that will save them time, money, and lunch prep. I recognize, of course, that there are downsides but I will not focus on them because they are out of my hands.
I see all of them striving to make some good out of this situation and am proud of them for that.
Doug has been fortunate in continuing to strive at work and for that, I am grateful, and I believe he is too. Sometimes we have an opportunity to be grateful for things that we otherwise might have taken for granted.
Even my dad, who like other parents of parishioners, is in a higher risk category, seems to have adapted well, and is in good spirits.
As I write this, I dread the oncoming winter, but try to brush that thinking aside gently when it comes. We only have today right now. Most days, I remind myself and take in the sun and warmth and nature and commit to do this every day until the weather really gets in the way. (February?)
I also remind myself that I’m storing up health and memories of these wonderful healthful outings and walks to sustain me when I’m down. I have started listing my gratitudes in a journal this week. Even though I was doing this verbally before, I am writing it down so that I can look back and remember that I actually was grateful and that even if it doesn’t feel like I have anything to be grateful for, that is not the truth. Sometimes our mind and mood can trick us when we’re weak.
Over a coffee some months ago, Reverend In Kee reminded me that when we’re down, depressed, overwhelmed, in despair, we need to be disciplined in our activity.
It seems counterintuitive that when we’re depressed, we can force ourselves to be disciplined. Often depression leads to what feels like an inability to do anything. That is why when we are strong, we must commit certain habits to ourselves. If we only do them when we feel like it, we will definitely fall. The key is to do them whether we feel like it or not and the action is what saves us. It actually gives us some measure of control.
I remember reading a story about a woman who received a visit from a police officer to advise her that her husband had died in an accident. She invited the officer in for a cup of tea, and the officer remarked that he was surprised that she had the wherewithal to do that in the face of such upsetting news. The woman responded that her mother taught her that in the face of adversity, we should just do the next thing that we would normally be doing.
While some of us might think this line of thinking is insane, I agree with this woman’s thinking. Of course, there is no judgment about falling apart in the circumstances above. But that no doubt came at times for her in the months following. In the moment of receiving the news, it may have given her just enough control over her circumstances to allow her to believe that she would be able to carry on, no matter what, if she only just took things one moment at a time. Because in terrible circumstances, sometimes it’s one day at a time, and sometimes the best we can do is one hour at a time. The key is to believe we can get through that hour.
I’m making a plan. The silver lining thinking, the walking, the nature, the gratitude journal, they’re part of my plan.
I hope and pray that we will be strengthened by each other’s strength and by each other’s stories of resilience and faith.
May we bless each other in showing each other how to rise when we fall, with God’s help.
– Mena Johnstone