Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Community in the Time of Covid-19 (Part II)

I was working at my kitchen table recently when a spring storm blew in with an impressive display of rain and wind. For all its bravado, the storm was short lived, and in its wake came stillness—the proverbial calm after the storm. I looked out my patio doors, and the almost eerie serenity brought to mind the above Bible verse. 

I often call on this verse to calm me—to still me—during life’s metaphorical storms. But on that morning of social distancing, an irony occurred to me: What happens when stillness creates the storm?   

How do we respond when we’re cut off—stilled—from our day-to-day routines and activities? From our physical interactions with friends and co-workers? When these disconnects occur, maybe the challenge becomes one of coping successfully with the stillness forced upon us.

Below are some lessons I’ve learned or suggestions I’ve gleaned from others during this time of enforced stillness:
  • Embrace it. Don’t rush to fill the downtime with alternate activities. After a week with the grandsons, I can fully appreciate the havoc closing schools has wreaked upon households with school-aged children. Of all the advice I’ve read concerning coping with this disruption, I think the wisest has been to chill. No, you don’t want your kiddos’ brains turning to rice pudding, but neither should you feel pressured to provide a never-ending supply of fun, stimulating, mind-enhancing activities. Maybe this is a good time to let kids be
    kids—to let them play outside, come up with creative ways to entertain themselves (without killing each other), learn to be alone for a while. Trust me, there’ll be plenty of time and opportunities for them to catch up academically when school resumes. 
    This advice goes for adults as well. No sooner had we gone into social distancing mode than I received numerous notices about online meetings. I’m grateful for the technology that has allowed us to remain connected and have taken advantage of it in many instances. But when I began stressing about arranging times and figuring ways to “attend” these meetings, I came to a decision: Don’t. I decided to use this time to refresh, read, write, learn, catch up on things I’ve been putting off. When the Covid-19 threat has been contained, the world will still go on and no one will care if I missed a ZOOM meeting.
  • Girl, in addition to your hands, wash your face…your hair….
    Change your clothes. Yes, I laugh at those memes about changing from day pajamas into night pajamas, and I’m not opposed to an occasional day off from grooming routines.But the operative word here is ocassional. There’s a limit to how often dishevelment should occur and how long it should last. Personally, when I’m reasonably groomed, I feel better and I don’t feel trapped in my house (even if I am). I’m not talking about movie-star make-up or fashion magazine attire. Just be clean and presentable enough to maintain your self-respect and the respect of others when you go out in public (like to the mailbox or the trash cart). 
  • Keep in contact with friends and family. Social media is fine for casual/virtual friends, but that doesn’t replace personal phone calls and messaging to those who are closest to us.
  • And speaking of social media, don’t overdo it. I happen to think it’s a great social outlet for times like this, but keep the time spent with that community in moderation.
  • Keep moving. This might appear contradictory to embracing
    stillness, but I’m a big believer in balance, so make time for exercise. There are online exercise classes for almost any age
    or any stage of health. Check out my yoga instructor Kara's Youtube classes at Champagne and Yoga. Go for a walk. Now is a wonderful time to practice mindful walking--the perfect opportunity to move your feet and still your mind at the same time.  
  • Last and most importantly, in the turmoil of the enforced stillness, carve out time to establish genuine, inner stillness. And during that time don’t forget to reflect on the second part of the Psalm—“… know that I am God.” The ultimate goal of being still is to be in community with God and to know—yes, know—He exists and He is in control. 
If you have suggestions for coping with the present "stillness," I'd love to hear them. Please share in the comments below or on Facebook.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Community in the Time of Covid-19 (Part I)

Back in January when I chose community as my focus word for 2020, little did I suspect what significance it would have two months later. As I wrote that post and considered the nature of community, one of the questions that came to me was does it require physical proximity. 

Like many of you, in the last couple of weeks I’ve found myself physically cut off from  communities I hold dear. Church services have gone online and activities cancelled; my gym has temporarily closed; gatherings with writing groups have been cancelled as well as doctor, dentist, and *gasp* beauty appointments. A trip to visit family has been postponed. But one community I haven’t been separated from is that of social media. 
I began forming my personal social media community in 2009 when I joined Facebook. I ventured into the unfamiliar world of social media with much trepidation, having no inkling that eleven years later (that long?!) my Facebook connection would prove invaluable. 

Over those years, my attitude toward Facebook has been mercurial—sometimes being immensely grateful for the friendships both virtual and real I’ve made there; other times—like during election years—becoming irritated to the point of withdrawing from it entirely. (Which beat the alternative of throwing my phone across the room.) But what I’ve come to realize about Facebook and other forms of social media is that, like many things, it is a tool. It can be used for building or destroying, depending on the intention of the person wielding it. Through careful gathering, culling, and scrolling, I’ve managed to create and maintain an encouraging community over the years. 

Although it will never replace my need for physical connection, I’ve enjoyed my social media community and never more than in the past few days. It has kept me informed, inspired, and entertained. (What can be more entertaining than a few thousand toilet paper or home-schooling memes?) It has also helped me maintain  connection with those communities I can’t be in physical contact with, such as my faith and writing communities.
From the ridiculous ...

to the sublime, FB memes can
entertain and/or encourage.
For beautiful and inspiring memes and
 messages, check out my friend Annette's
Facebook page, Squigglyword.

If you’re part of a social media community, I encourage you to use it in a positive and responsible way during this time ... well, all the time for that matter. If you’re not on Facebook or some other platform, now might be a good time to experiment. It might not be a good fit for you, but for many people, it provides much needed connection. And when close encounters aren't available, it provides community.