Thoughts: Afterward

bomb on white information paper on yellow background

I don’t have to tell you what a crazy time we are living in right now. The past two weeks have turned our world upside down, and we are only now connecting the dots and coming to an understanding of what the coronavirus and its effects will do to our health, economy, and culture.

This was unimaginable a few weeks ago, and we are not in a place where we know when it will level out. We don’t even know the full effects. How many will get sick? How many businesses, particularly small businesses, will fail? We are afraid of theatres, of the local restaurants, even churches. We look at our neighbors with suspicion. We’ve lost trust in our governments. All in two weeks.

Truth takes time. That was the theme of my sermon last Sunday, and I stand by it. We got so much conflicted and misinformation the first few weeks of all this as we figured it all out. That makes us more suspicious of what we hear, even after we get our arms around it all and grow to know what is what. Everyone has a theory of how this will play out, but none of us know.

And that not knowing created the fear.

I don’t pretend to know. I have no real wisdom to offer. I just know this: This too shall pass. (OK, I don’t even know this. I stole it from the bible.). And I know this: We will be changed by it.

I am already looking forward to the time beyond this. I don’t know what it will look like, but I know that in every crisis in my life, or in our nation’s life, we come out changed. We carry a new set of assumptions in our lives. We are stronger… or weaker. We grow smarter, or more afraid. We are colored by it.

I look back and see chunks of my life in terms of what the awful times have taught me. What did living with an alcoholic father tell me? What did a failed marriage and divorce teach me? What did a time of unemployment tell me? What almost dying twice in my life do to make my life different? What effect did my recent battle with cancer or my ongoing battle with depression have on how I see the world, how I react, how I see myself and the world?

Because it will change us.

One of the things I learned when I went through my divorce and clawed out my darkest period of depression, is that I have more control over those changes than we like to admit. Attitude affects everything. There are dark lessons and light-filled lessons we can learn, and we have to choose which ones to carry out of the crisis with us.

What I have learned is that the dark lessons never bring good to us. We may think we are self protecting with the dark lessons, but what we are really doing is isolating ourselves. And isolation is the great enemy in life.

But the light-filled lessons? They are the ones that lift us. The ones that lift those around us. They make us stronger. Wiser. More compassionate. Kinder.

Here’s what I know so far about the changes I personally will come of this mess with.

  • Family and loved ones will matter more. We always give lip service to this, but this crisis had had me far more concerned about and grateful for my wife, my children, my sisters and my closest friends. It’s not just that we know they are precious, we feel it in a new way.
  • I will read the news less. I am a total newshound in the best of times. But this crisis has me wanting to go to the news every hour. That’s poisonous. A time or two a day is plenty. Avoiding the news doesn’t make us less informed, but it sure cuts back on the anxiety. And for me, peace is precious.
  • I am grateful I have things that can occupy my mind. When I write or paint, I lose myself in those things. I already knew that, but when we are slowly being quarantined by laws and rules, having things that can take us away have value, and I am appreciating that value even more.
  • Fear is the mind-killer (I stole that line from Frank Herbert’s Dune novels). Again, we know it, but we don’t think enough about it. Developing routines and new ways of thinking to push back crippling fear will become part of my routine.

Those are just the things I know I will take from this. I know there will be others. But it was helpful to think about rebuilding and adapting in a conscious manner rather in a reactionary manner. It helps me have a sense of control in a time where it is easy to believe we have no control. It helps me stay rational in an irrational time.

Hunker down. We know enough now to know what we need to do, and that it will not be forever. We will survive. And we have the power to decide how we will survive.

Never forget that.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

 

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