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“I plead with you—never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.”

― Saint Pope John Paul II, Pope John Paul II: In My Own Words

 

The rapid spread of the Coronavirus is a pertinent reminder to all of us just how quickly life can change in a blink of an eye. Collectively, we have been affected in a myriad of significant ways as our lives, plans, and security seem to be in a downward spiral and we are required to adapt at lightning-flash speed to the newly formed policies and procedures. I’m praying that the fluctuations enacted in your personal lives, places of employment, educational settings, and where you call home will soon lessen in their level of overwhelm; that you can find peace in the peril; and, especially, that your families, children, loved ones, neighbors, and friends are all protected, remain healthy, provided for, and stay safe. This is a tough time, but not impossible to get through.

Yesterday, my family and I watched mass from the comfort of our office/sitting room. At the last minute, our parish priests put it together so that our congregation and beyond could still participate in 9:00 AM mass when it wasn’t possible to be physically present. This was such a blessing, and I know so many other parishes are enacting similarly televised masses and services. In his comforting homily, our pastor reiterated: “prudence, not panic.” In full-disclosure, my anxiety has risen with the crest of this virus, and my tears have abundantly flowed with the crash of each new wave of change and regulation. However, my pastor’s calming mantra is aiding in my ability to keep steady.

It all feels scary and epic, doesn’t it? With the threat of illness always there, looming like a dark shadow hanging over us like a cloud of doom, it’s difficult to remain in the present, in good spirits, able to count our blessings above the burdens, as we anxiously await the worst that could come. I think it’s perfectly alright to be afraid and share those feelings, as I’m doing here.

What’s helping me? Being intentional about instituting longer walks in the fresh air, touching base with close friends and family, and trying to not plan too far in advance are a few suggestions that are helping me to reign in my feelings of fear and overwhelm. I know that when the threat of things out of my control allows panic to set within me, the fear of the unknown unnerves me to the point that I feel I’m unraveling at the seams, and the inevitable changes continue to roll in like a thunder, I can and should acknowledge how unsettling it is and allow myself to feel the fears and cry the tears. Then, I can and will turn to my faith, my journal, and my resources (husband, therapist, close confidants) to help calm my nerves and keep me grounded in what I can control: my choices, my responses, my thoughts, and my actions.

Part of the necessary changes that have me conflicted and unsure of myself? Honestly, the unknown timeline, the stretch of possible scarcity, the chance that one of my closed loved ones will be afflicted with the virus, having my children home with me full-time for the foreseeable future, my husband now working from home, and the upheaval coupled with the multitude of challenges to my routine and schedule of priorities. I know that each and every one of you can relate in your own unique and personal way. No matter how much I will relish the time together, rewriting priorities and accepting the inevitable in a time of crisis isn’t easy. Time is of the essence, so I’m breathing through my reluctance, allowing room for the changes, hoping for positive change, and praying for the blessings to unfold.

So, what is helping me embrace all that’s happening? Having a tangible plan in place, making daily lists, setting a loose schedule, being open to new ideas, a stack of books to read for me and the kids, devising and sticking to a meal plan, and realizing that this time at home will most definitely define all of us this year. On the positive side, it will unknowingly sprout newfound ways to grow closer together, slow us down to a pace of calm and restoration, and allow our hearts and minds to be open to unexpected opportunities for enjoyment and making memories to cherish.

Inspired by the shared Facebook post of one of my friends, I helped my kids write a couple of lists to help them during this time of transition and great change: “Things to do when I am bored” and “Everyday work”. Each of them came up with what they thought they needed to do and what they’d most like to do to help pass the long days ahead. Some of their ideas included:

(When bored)

  • Practice their respective sport skills (soccer, lacrosse, flag football)
  • Play with kinetic sand or play-doh
  • Play a card game or board game
  • Roller skating in the garage
  • Jump on the indoor trampoline
  • Paint
  • Lacing cards
  • Build LEGO
  • Puzzles
  • Paper crafts, drawing, coloring
  • Listen to music
  • Write a story
  • Lift weights
  • Read in my bed
  • Ride my bike or scooter
  • Play with dolls or stuffed animals
  • Play in the backyard
  • Write letters
  • Make a bracelet
  • Crafts
  • Paint nails
  • Chalk on the walk
  • Write stories
  • Read

(Everyday Work)

  • Make bed
  • Fill water bottle and keep hydrated
  • Take a walk
  • Homework
  • Practice dance recital routines
  • Exercise and stretch
  • Read
  • Sport skills
  • Chores
  • Boy Scout rank advancement and merit badge requirements
  • Keep bedroom clean
  • Math facts, Word Ladders
  • Trumpet practice
  • Speech therapy practice
  • Have fun!

When possible, I am adding to these lists:

  • reading aloud or listening to classic and humorous tales together as a family
  • catching up on family movies we usually save for summer break
  • keeping music on in the background to lighten the mood and lessen the feelings of loneliness
  • joining together to tackle some spring cleaning projects
  • FaceTime with family and friends
  • sending out drawings/postcards/letters
  • a camp-out in the backyard when the weather warms up a bit

We’ll also put out the hammock soon, plant some seeds, go on some local hikes, watch video posts by authors and illustrators (Mo Willems, Jason Tharp, etc…), check out the Cincinnati Zoo’s Home Safari, and more.

For myself? I’m prioritizing: sleep, daily walks, reading, healthy meals, exercise, cleaning and organizing, adding more breaks throughout the day, checking the news only once per day (not at night), keeping therapy appointments, and taking a weekly detox bath.

Yet, what happens when the kids are feeling tired and bored and nothing on their lists satiates their deep feelings of weariness? What to do when they begin to really miss their friends, family, and teachers? What if they burn out on having enough family time? What if their resolve breaks and their own fears overwhelm their young minds and hearts? What can I do when I’m craving nothing more than a big chunk of alone time or am in need of friend time for myself? What will happen if supplies and patience run low?

Certainly, it will happen folks. All of it—the messy, the hard, the big emotions, the monotony, and the frustration. Uncertainty and fear will ebb and flow. Therefore, we must plan for these unmistakable fragile moments, too. No doubt, with a little foresight, empathy, and compassion, it will be alright. We have it within us to reset, reassure, relax, and restore our loved ones in their pain, confusion, doubt, worries, and stress. We can share in it all, give one another grace and space, and move forward in faith over fear.

Together, we can acknowledge that this entire overhaul of our lives is difficult, but we can be there for each other in a multitude of creative and meaningful ways. We can increase outreach to one other, share our abundance, connect over social media, check-in with loved ones, give helpful suggestions, spread love and stories of goodwill, and do not hesitate to ask for advice and help for ourselves and loved ones. Phone a friend, you know?

We will—all of us— get through this strange and indeterminate time, and arise stronger, closer, wiser, and hopefully, more compassionate toward one another than ever before for having gone through such a time as this. Hold yourself and your loved ones close. And remember: Be wise. Be prudent. Be watchful. Be kind. Be safe. Be flexible. Be open. Be forgiving. Be at peace.

 

I’ve found that there is always some beauty left — in nature, sunshine, freedom, in yourself; these can all help you. – Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl