While distracted with self-congratulation over my general lack of fear in the face of this pandemic, I was shocked to discover that I am at my worst right now. Like a ninja it came out of nowhere and has left me knocked down seeing stars. I guess pride will blind you like that.
While the above verse is true, and praise God for it, being “pressed on every side by troubles” can cause the worst parts of me to start to ooze out. Earmarked each year by spring clicking over to summer, the worst parts of me tend to come out when structure changes, often when there is a lack of it, namely school ending. I thrive on structure, planning, and order and all is right when the world is in it with me.
The school year brings relief to my soul because we are all collectively on a similar schedule. When summer hits, many families don’t have one at all. They do fun things, they relax, spend the day outside, etc. This leaves me, working full time and doing business as usual with a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out) and feeling like a bad parent. Without the structure of school, my kids stay up later, sleep in longer, and have a different eating schedule; meaning when my husband and I are off work, ready to eat dinner, they are not having just eaten a late lunch at 3pm. Without structure, I tend to feel out of control which spirals me into trying to control others.
With the world currently turning upside down, and the kids being home before I am mentally prepared for it, I am struggling. Having already controlled what I can, my emergency supply of food and toilet paper, I have moved on to my family. Everything in me needs them to be on some kind of schedule and I cannot figure out why. I have been working from home for over a week now observing their shift to unstructured living and it is driving me insane. I don’t know what to do about it.
Without TV, my only window to the outside world is Google and social media. Seeing all the cool things parents are doing with their kids to make this time easier for them makes me feel like I am not doing a good enough job. I am seeing nature walks, creative homeschooling, art projects, cooking, and scavenger hunts. I am also seeing pastors and ministry leaders leaning into loving others in unique ways leaving me feeling like I need to do more to help in that endeavor.
Cut to me teleworking at home full time with work that is more challenging than it ever has been, requiring a mental sharpness that I don’t have right now. Every hour or so, I am out of my office, nagging a child to do their chores or school work. By the end of the day, I am exhausted and irritable. This last week I could hardly face making dinner with a good attitude. All I wanted to do was crawl into bed and binge watch New Girl but I didn’t. I made dinner or we ate leftovers together if I couldn’t face cooking and we even did Pastor Kyle’s bible study together a couple of times.
As an introvert, everything in me wants to default to hiding out. I want to do what is easy even while I want to control. I want to self-protect, which for me looks like isolating even more. It looks like disengaging even more and retreating into myself. I have prayed to God to help me choose life and people and I have done that about 50% of the time. While I have retreated in some ways, I made myself reach out in others, like praying for people, calling family, or reaching out to neighbors to see if they need anything. It’s hard though and it’s a battle.
This quote from Brene Brown speaks to how I have been behaving but also what I have seen in others around me and on social media:
This pandemic experience is a massive experiment in collective vulnerability. We can be our worst selves when we’re afraid, or our very best, bravest selves. In the context of fear and vulnerability, there is often very little in between because when we are uncertain and afraid our default is self-protection. We don’t have to be scary when we’re scared. Let’s choose awkward, brave, and kind. And let’s choose each other. ~Brene Brown
Turns out, it is not the fear that is trying to take me down right now, it’s uncertainty. As a person who thrives on planning and structure, I now know I have been struggling in getting my footing in the face of uncertainty for a while now. With our family business closed as of December 31, my husband not having a stable job, and now the pandemic, uncertainty is as close to me as a brother. I lost my footing at the end of last year and have not been able to get it back. I want and crave to see my path laid out in front of me. I want my husband to have a good paying and, most importantly, stable job. I want to see my senior girls go to prom and graduate high school. I want to see my talented son perform in Fiddler on the Roof this spring…but life has been interrupted. None of that is assured. The stable, structured path before us has disappeared.
I don’t know what to do with uncertainty. I guess I have a couple of choices, I can default to self-protection which for me is isolating even more, numbing out with Netflix, and controlling others or, I can choose to let all that go focusing everything in me on God instead, the One who knows what is coming next, the One who is certain.
It’s in the pressing that I have a decision to make, am I going to let the worst parts of me take over or turn to God for help? Make no mistake, it is a decision. I have done this well 50% of the time this week because I decided to ask Him for help and let Him guide me even when I didn’t feel like it. When we decide to turn to God and ask Him to help us, He does because He is powerful and has promised to help us. He gives us what we need in that moment or for that day. If we go back one verse to 2 Corinthians 4:7, it states,
We are human and in the pressing, our humanness tends to come out, generally our worst parts, but we have access to God’s all surpassing power. He can help us. Like 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 says, we will be hard pressed on every side but not crushed. We will be perplexed but won’t be driven to despair. We will get knocked down but not destroyed.
This gives me hope because while I am being pressed on every side by troubles, giving into the weight of it lately, it won’t crush me. I have been knocked down by it but will get back up because God will help me if I decide to let Him.