Manifestations of the Pandemic
Sunday, May 3, 2020
So, apparently there’s a pandemic going on. It’s a scary time. From what I can tell from a safe distance, everyone is handling it differently. I have friends who are living their best lives, friends who are struggling but adapting, friends who are suicidal, and everything in between. Every single one of those responses are equally valid. This experience is bringing out past traumas that maybe we thought we were past, it is honing in on our deepest fears and insecurities, it is perpetuating the illusion of separation that divides and depresses us.
If you’re not interested in exploring silver linings, this post isn’t for you – and that is ok. Sometimes things are just awful and no amount of silver linings or positivity can make it better, and you want to punch anyone who suggests anything different squarely in the jaw. That is also an incredibly valid response. (Except maybe don’t punch anybody because there’s definitely no way to maintain social distancing during that, and also because it’s mean.)
That said, this is something that is helping me get through this weird phase of life, though I don’t expect it will work for everyone. I’ve been trying to focus on gratitude where I can. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes I’m just depressed and mad and uninterested in exploring the deeper philosophical implications of an objectively shitty situation.
I was so pissed off a few months ago when my therapist suggested I start a gratitude journal. I’ve been in therapy for nine years. This seemed like such a basic and boring practice, and I was mad that she even suggested it. Between the office that looked like the beach section of a Bed, Bath, and Beyond, the fake crystal gemstones from Pier One, and the fact that she never actually listened to a word I said, it turned out that therapist and I just weren’t a good fit. (I still miss my no-bullshit therapist from Knoxville who once told me, “Really? You’re going to kill yourself over a shitty Thursday? Come on.”)
However, begrudgingly, I admit that developing a gratitude practice has helped.
Negativity bias is “our tendency not only to register negative stimuli more readily but also to dwell on these events. Also known as positive-negative asymmetry, this negativity bias means that we feel the sting of a rebuke more powerfully than we feel the joy of praise.”
This is why we often have trouble focusing on ten things that went right when one thing went wrong. This is why I know exactly where the two errors are in my two-semester research project about religion and the patriarchy are and the facts that I got a perfect score and high praise from my instructor are an afterthought. It is so easy to dwell on what isn’t working, and it makes sense – if we know what isn’t working, we can try to fix it, and most of us are constantly striving to do better. But things don’t have to be perfect to be enough. This is a lesson I’m still learning.
Developing a practice of gratitude and acknowledging what is going right helps us counteract negativity bias and experience life in a more balanced way. It helps us focus our intentions on our highest good and raise our vibration to match those intentions. And it really does help.
So a few weeks ago, I started keeping a list of things that the pandemic has made possible. Let me be clear that none of them are worth it. None of them are more important or valuable than the lives that have been lost and impacted. And none of them needed a global emergency to come about – they were all already possible.
One of the greatest intentions I am setting for myself right now is to live life more gently and less dramatically, to embrace what comes naturally and navigate things that create chaos or tension gracefully. There is nothing gentle or graceful about how this pandemic has impacted the world. The best any of us can do is do our part to keep each other safe and make the most of what we can.
These are just a few of the things that have been manifested for me during this time.
- Time to pauseI have been begging the Universe for a break since my rapid awakening journey began in late 2018. Recently, a reiki practitioner referred to me as a “master manifester” – I told her that’s a really kind way to say, “I let the Universe fuck my shit up.” I mentioned earlier that I’m focusing my intentions on gentleness and grace right now. That’s because when I set my sights on something, I make it happen – often in ways that are somewhat reckless and energetically draining. This moment to pause is offering me opportunities that were not possible to reconcile with my obligations in fully-functioning society. I’m getting valuable quality time with my child. I am being supported in approaching my work manageably. I have precious time to rest, focus on healing and introspection, and be intentional with my thoughts and actions. It is a gift, even though the circumstances surrounding it are scary and overwhelming.
- Online church
The week before schools and churches around the country shifted to online programming, I had an unexpected Sunday morning off because Henry was sick. While they were napping on the couch, I watched the service from my home church via FaceTime with one of my friends there, which had become a sort of infrequent tradition of ours since I moved 500 miles away last summer. While the Church of the Larger Fellowship has long offered regular online worship, there is just no substitute for worship with my beloved home community. Now, eight weeks later, I get to participate in virtual worship and coffee hour weekly, which is nourishing for my spirit in ways that are always essential, and now more than ever.
This one is one of those things that is so oddly specific that I have no choice but to stop believing in coincidences. Recently, I learned that an abusive family member destroyed $1200 in savings bonds purchased for me by my late great-grandmother. I wanted to be furious, and I was for a moment. And then I decided that if $1200 was the price I had to pay for them to leave me alone, it was worth it. Instead of succumbing to a justifiable rage, I decided that if I was meant to have that money, it would find its way to me. And it did. I received a $1200 gift from my great-grandmother in the form of a stimulus payment from the government. Of course, there’s no way she ever thought that I would receive it that way, but her intention was for me to have a monetary gift from her, and the Universe responded to her intention – more than a decade after she passed.
- Time in Knoxville
I was determined to be in Knoxville for my best friend’s birthday in late March this year. However, between work and Henry’s school, the best I thought I could manage was coming in the week before – which was the week that things began getting very serious and remote work and school started to become our new normal. We ended up staying for nearly eight weeks, which meant that I got to be in my hometown for my birthday too, which I wanted but hadn’t even named because I didn’t think it would be possible. I also got time to connect with my Knoxville community in creative socially-distanced ways, like dropping off treats in mailboxes and sewing masks for some friends who are essential workers. It was about three weeks between the time I committed to moving to Tallahassee last summer and the day we left. The move has been challenging and empowering in countless ways, and I’m so glad we came – and I’m also thankful for a little extended time to appreciate my beautiful hometown, her quirky and wonderful inhabitants, and take in breathtaking mountain views at every turn (even just during a Target run.)
There are a dozen other little things as well. My seminary orientation has been moved online, which takes the huge burden of travelling and arranging childcare off me, at least for one semester. Running errands with my child has become so much easier with expanded curbside pickup options. I have an ongoing legitimate reason to shower loved ones with little “thinking of you” gifts and surprises. I got the chance to try out a haircut that I’ve been wanting but was too afraid to commit to.
The truth is, Spirit will always provide for us – we just have to trust it, even when it seems impossible. The manifestations of our needs rarely, if ever, look exactly the way we think they will or should. Even so, we can always trust that we are exactly where we are supposed to be, and the good things are coming. Often, the good things have already arrived. We just have to be willing to see them, and to be thankful for them no matter what form they take. It’s not always easy. I’m certainly not perfect in my own practice of radical gratitude, but it brings me so much peace to try and focus on what is good when I can.
I’m learning to trust the journey and that whatever happens is a part of the Divine plan. The specifics aren’t always too important – our journeys are magical and blessed no matter what form they take.
Posts linked in this entry:
Christianity-Informed Patriarchy in the United States as a System of Oppression
A Message to the Children & Youth of UUCT Regarding COVID-19 Closures
Making Dinner During the Pandemic