I’ve been thinking about writing this column for quite a while now. But I’ve kept putting it off. In fact I actively looked for reasons not to write it. But it keeps coming up in many of my conversations and I see it all over the place, nearly everywhere I look in fact. So, for better or worse, I decided it was time to talk about the proverbial elephant in the room.
I say ‘elephant in the room’ because I’m far from the only one who’s seen this. But most of us don’t seem to want to either admit to it or deal with it. So what am I talking about? Just this: The impact from our national shutdown, isolation from others, national unrest and the shifting “facts” we hear from day to day are taking a huge toll on almost all of us.
And its well past time we admitted it and began dealing with it.
In one recent conversation, a friend of mine told me that the people he works with seem to have much shorter fuses than they used to. They’ve been kind of grumpy and tense and just generally below par. This leads to them acting in ways that, a few short months ago, he was sure they wouldn’t have.
I told him I’d seen a lot of that. Not only in other people, but in myself as well. I said that being cut off from real, in-person, socializing, not being able to hug or touch our loved ones and friends, is beginning to warp people in bad ways.
I don’t think any of us are thinking as clearly as we should be. Many of us, especially those of us who live alone, rarely if ever get to hug or touch another human being. We’ve been told for years how important human touch is and now we are finding out just how right all that information was!
This warping applies to our emotional states. Some people I know are more aggressive (if you don’t believe me, just review your Facebook or Twitter feed, if you have one). Others are quieter and depressed at their inability to do what we’ve always taken for granted. Like go shopping, or hop on a plane, or visit friends.
If you still aren’t sure I’m right about all this, try this little exercise in depression: try doing some long term planning. Good luck with that! (I confess that’s one of several things that really bugs me.)
Our world has changed in so many ways so quickly that we can’t really keep up. On top of that we have no trustworthy assurances about when things will get back to normal, if they’ll ever get there at all! This uncertainty hangs over all our heads like (another old cliché alert!) the Sword of Damocles. And, like that fabled sword, we don’t have any idea when it will fall, how it will fall or where it will fall.
To many of us it seems to be falling right now.
So what do we do about this on a personal level? How can I respond to this and, hopefully, find some much-needed relief from all this pent up stress and pressure? Here are a few ideas to use as a starting point:
1) Admit that this really is bugging you. You are being affected and this is a real issue for you. (Starting a 12 step program for those dealing with 2020 Syndrome might not be a bad idea.) You can’t deal with any kind of problem or issue if you refuse to admit that it’s there.
2) Give grace to everyone around you, including yourself. So we aren’t at our best right now. Instead of blaming or shaming or lashing out, why not take a different approach? Why not offer some grace, some forgiveness, some understanding to others and yourself? We all need it, so we should all be giving it to others.
3) Make a life for yourself. How you’ll do this depends on your opinions on a variety of issues like masks and vaccines and a whole list of topics I’m not going to discuss here. My point is: use your creativity and find a way to do meaningful, important activities and strengthen relationships in spite of all the road blocks strewn across our path.
4) Take the long, historical, view. For many Americans this will mean you’ll actually need to read some good history books. Remember, we aren’t the first people to face a pandemic, and we certainly won’t be the last. Our ancestors faced far worse plagues with far less to fight them with, and they survived. If we can learn to look at life from a longer and wider perspective it’ll do us, and everyone around us good.
I realize it’s easier to write these things than to do them. I also know they are just a start. But everything has to start somewhere, so why not start now to deal with all of this and see where that road takes us?
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Louie Marsh is pastor of Christ’s Church on the River on the Parker Strip. Visit his website HERE.