A long winter: pandemic reflections
It is January 2nd, 2020, I open my journal along with the new devotional I purchased in hopes of getting inspired to figure out my focus for this year. I dream of all the things I want to do in 2020. Grow my business? Write more? Run a marathon? My girls will be in pre-school 3 mornings a week- oh all the TIME I will have!
And as I am writing and thinking of these things, I hear a voice: Make no plans, strengthen your faith.
I brush it off. But every time I came to my journal, every time I prayed for clarity on what I should do this year, every time I thought about a race to sign up for, a trip I wanted to plan, a big goal to accomplish, I would hear it again: Make no plans, strengthen your faith.
I had already heard the word cancer twice a few months prior, but it seemed like things were going to be okay, that they were going to end well. So I wanted badly to jump back on the positivity train. Yet, I could not shake the feeling that something else was coming, I didn’t know what, but I had a very strong sense that I was going to need to brace myself. I of course now know that not only was the world going to get turned upside down, but so was my family.
Also around this very time I caught the most intense cold and cough I have ever had in my life that lasted for over 3 weeks (gee golly I wonder what that was).
Fast forward to when the world officially shut down in March, I was terrified, sad, and I was confused as hell. There was “advice” circulating everywhere to throw on Disney plus, let your kids have as much screen time as they want, this won’t last forever, don’t worry about routines and expectations–do what you have to do to survive!
I have gone through enough therapy and self-development to know that advice like that is deadly to my mental health. Because sometimes the best thing you can do is surrender to the season that is and make the best of it. And I think there is a major difference between surviving and surrendering. We all have survival days and we all need grace on those days. But to intentionally throw away time or a full season of life is not a way to live, if even just for a few weeks. To surrender is to adapt, to let go of control, and let the season change you.
Of course like the rest of you, I assumed the “two week stay at home order” would maybe extend a few months at worst. But I remember telling my husband, “let’s pretend things will be this way for a year and adjust our lives accordingly.” I am not kidding, I really did say that, oh the awful irony.
We talked about what we would both need to stay sane, we talked about waiting things out a bit then adding people to our bubble, we talked about how we could change our daily lives to keep our vulnerable loved ones safe. We talked about what we would be willing to risk and what we would not. This obviously changed and evolved as the pandemic did, but we decided to embrace the chaos and live amongst it. Not to say this was easy, but it felt better to embrace what was happening instead of simply cross our fingers that it would be over in two weeks.
I read a book recently that helped me reflect so much on this past year. It was a book about winter, both seasonally and metaphorically. The author writes on this idea of ‘wintering’, not just preparing for the cold days and dark afternoons, but for hard seasons in our lives, our personal winters, if you will.
We all go through winters, but we tend to force spring, we tend to ignore and press on. When really the purpose of a winter is to slow down, to process, to adapt and feel the cold…so it can change you. There are actual biological changes that happen to us during cold seasons and I would argue this happens during hard seasons too. But most of us simply pretend winter isn’t there, we ignore it and reach for spring no matter how far it might be away. We push the toxic positivity, share the funny memes and avoid the feelings inside of us begging to be seen.
Just like the experience of wearing sandals in 30 degree weather, (because goshdarnit you want it to be spring!) I think one of the things that has made this pandemic so hard, is that is has been so difficult to accept. We have hoped for normalcy to return sooner than it can and instead of focusing on this hard season in front of us, we had our eyes on the future even though it was uncertain and so very far away. Seasons change. And if we are smart, we change with them. We adapt. We prepare. We embrace.
This year has changed me and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t ready for a new season to begin. But I know better than to put the patio furniture out in mid-march and put away the winter coat, metaphorically speaking. I will soak up these sunny days filled with hope when they come, but I will also surrender to whatever else this winter has in store for me, no matter how desperate for spring I am.