A couple weeks ago I wrote about the importance of relationships regarding the two significant outbreaks that Nashville had faced in the recent weeks. Today with our country and world seemingly at a standstill with social distancing and quarantining, worry and anxiety are spreading much like the virus itself.
I’m noticing that many are having an increase of anxiety due to a lack of boundaries around their news consumption. Existentially, anxiety is about limitations and powerlessness. We cannot control what has happened, or what will happen. When we flood our being with information that we cannot do anything about, we either become apathetic or anxious. Neither of these lead to good things for us or for those we love and care about.
Before the quarantine, what most of us used to have was a set schedule and boundaries around work life and home life. With that gone, we have become unmoored from what governed our lives. We’ve lost the comforts that we relied on to keep us safe. This week, David Brooks wrote an Op-Ed piece in The NY Times about the virus’ impact on our society and that it’s a test for all of us. How will we respond?
As humans, we don’t exist (to our knowledge) outside of linear time. We’re bound to the gravity that holds us all stable on the ground. The same is true with time. We don’t know how long this will last. We don’t know what life will look like once it does pass (if it indeed does pass). We don’t exist in an alternate timeline, and thus we are left to face the truths that are in the present before us. What this virus is doing to us as individuals, and as a society, is revelatory about us, not about the virus.
Are you becoming apathetic, anxious, or something else? Be curious, what does your response say about you and what you might need to address about your limitedness?
On my walk to the restroom the other day I was preoccupied with an email I’d just received. During my walk I was mulling over my response, or if I needed to respond at all. I was completely unaware of my surroundings, walking towards the restroom on auto-pilot.
I turned the corner in the hallway and I didn’t notice the woman coming towards me. She was now directly in my path. She’d just come out of the women’s restroom and had a book in one hand and a coffee in her other hand. We were going to collide if I didn’t move out of the way. In my head, I saw the coffee exploding onto the walls, our clothing, and the floor. This was not going to be good.
I had two choices. One, to run into her (as gracefully as possible) and attempt to grab a hold of her so that neither of us fall. My other choice is to use the wall next to her to avoid the coffee collision. And that’s what I do. I quickly reach my arm past her face over her head and push myself off the wall to avoid running into her. It was an awkward move on my part, but the only one that I could do in order to keep the coffee in her cup. She passed under my outstretched arm, and I rebound off the wall.
She scoffed at my clumsiness, making some sharp remark about my maneuver, and then disappeared around the corner to continue her day. I’m grateful for the near miss. I’m also reminded about the limitations we humans have, and how little grace I give others in their limitations. People have way more going on in their life than I can ever know.
This woman didn’t know me. She didn’t know that I have a lower leg disability that makes it entirely impossible for me to shift my walking direction as quickly as one who is able bodied. Her snap judgement of my ability was without curiosity or kindness. And that’s ok. Perhaps she herself was having an unusually difficult day.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a fierce battle.” ~Plato
This particular passage from Henri Nouen has been very helpful for me lately. We often mistake the limitations of others as a judgement of our own value. In doing so, we miss an opportunity to sacrificially love and care for these people in our life.
“You keep listening to those who seem to reject you. But they never speak about you. They speak about their own limitations. They confess their poverty in the face of your needs and desires. They simply ask for your compassion. They do not say that you are bad, ugly, or despicable. They say only that you are asking for something they cannot give and that they need to get some distance from you to survive emotionally. The sadness is that you perceive their necessary withdrawal as a rejection of you instead of as a call to return home and discover there your true belovedness.”