The last few weeks our world around us has been changing not just daily, but hourly. Just a few weeks ago we were living our normal lives: kids were in school, weekly sports practices, coffee with friends, church on the weekends, shopped at Target to buy toilet paper and stuff we didn’t need (because you can’t walk out without spending less than $100, right?) and browsed Costco for samples.
Then it began… every time we turned on the news or opened our social feed, one of these was being taken away. First it was the toilet paper and then the groceries began disappearing. Hot on its heels was schools closing and all of us getting a resume update with ‘Homeschool Educator’ being added to the list. Sports games and practices were canceled, no more samples at Costco, and restaurants closed their dining rooms. We were told not to gather with more than 500 people so large churches moved to online services…but very quickly the number dropped to 250 then down to 50, and now down to 10. For several states, the instruction to “shelter in place” was given and this caused all non-essential businesses to close, including parks and beaches. Businesses began lay-offs; cutting back where they could to keep afloat. Let’s be honest with each other, THIS HAS BEEN A LOT OF CHANGE.
All of us feel the stress, but for those of us who struggle with CHANGE, this can be a trigger for anxiety. I have discovered in the last few years that this is true for me – I don’t like change, which is why I’ve worked at the same job for 22 years. I guess I always knew I didn’t like change, but it came to a head after I gave birth to my children (I’m sure post-partum hormones contributed as well) . Although I was thrilled to take care of my newborn, the “loss of normalcy” in life overwhelmed me at times. I felt the same anxious feelings well up within me as my husband and I walked home alone on the first day of school, after dropping my youngest daughter at kindergarten. Again, the “loss of normalcy” hit me as I processed this change of life. My doctor reminded me that change is an anxiety trigger for me, and she also told me that many women struggle with the same feelings and it can be even more intense when you drop your child off at college. Eight years and counting for that day to come in my house!
If you are struggling with all the change and loss of normalcy right now, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. It has been a lot to process, very quickly, and with no warning. Many of us are feeling all the emotions, and these are normal responses to an extremely abnormal situation.
So once we acknowledge that we are struggling, where do we go from here? Here are a few practical things that I have learned and practiced:
- Feel your feelings – It doesn’t help to stuff down all these feelings, so be sure to allow yourself time to process them. Go for a walk and let the grief and tears of what was lost come. Tell a friend and your spouse that you are struggling. Be honest with what you really feel.
- Don’t stay in the grief of what we have lost – Grief is ok for a season. In biblical times, it was acceptable for people to cover themselves in sack-cloth and ashes, but only for so many days and then they were to rise and return to the “new normal”. Give yourself some time (a day or two) and then rise up with strength to face a new day, a new world and a new normal.
- Hold everything loosely/lower your expectations – Things may continue to change for a while. School break may end up being extended through the end of the school year, summer activities may look very different, and it may be a while before we can gather with our friends and church family again. My pastor says that the difference between expectations and reality is DISAPPOINTMENT. We often can’t change our reality, but we can change our expectations. This doesn’t mean lowering our expectations to zero and becoming a “Debbie-downer”. We often do this to protect ourselves from disappointment, but instead we need to HOLD THINGS LOOSELY.
“Hold loosely to the things of this life, so that if God requires them of you, it will be easy to let them go.” – Corrie Ten Boom
Corrie lived under the rule of Hitler and lost everything during her time in concentration camps. We would be wise to listen to the wisdom God gave her; wisdom she gained from her experience with suffering. Let’s not grip onto our “normalcy” with iron knuckles so that it has to be pried from our hands. Let us hold it all loosely.
There are certain to be more changes on the horizon that we CAN’T control , but there are things we CAN control. We get to choose our thoughts and where we focus our mind. We can choose our outlook on this situation and choose to savor our time with our kids. We can choose to do good for others and encourage those who are struggling. We can choose an attitude of gratitude and remember all that we DO have. All of these things lift our spirits, and cause us to rise rather than fall during this time.
Let’s remember another quote from Corrie Ten Boom as we face the unknown:
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
Thankfully, he’s already in the future and is walking us through whatever changes we face ahead. Let him be our guide.