Contagious Thoughts

The credit for the title of this blog post goes to my son, Pete. (He also offered, "Things Worth Bringing Up," but we're saving that for a flu pandemic 😊.) 

Here we are, in a boat with everyone else in the world, which we never planned to board. It's good that we're on it because it's a lifeboat, but we still have much to learn about life on board during a global pandemic!

It's been a week of processing the unexpected, and adjusting to a new reality. We have genuine concerns and feel suddenly and utterly vulnerable. Little of this is in our control.

But I woke up today thinking about what I can control.

My friend, Janey, recently shared a quote in a story she wrote, and it gripped me so much that I scribbled it down on a scrap of paper:
How you do anything is how you do everything.
Richard Rohr

It's a startling sentence to contemplate when I think of how I have been doing anything and everything this week.

We have come to a sudden full stop. I feel for those working from home while caring for children who also need attention. Those days are behind me, but I think of and pray for the challenges faced by younger friends at this time. For some of us, there is time, and we've heard tips recently about filling it. But here's my confession, I have wasted a lot of time this week, losing whole hours as thoughts distracted me from whatever task was at hand, compulsively clicking on my phone, checking texts, sending emails, or  "sharing" on Facebook the moment a thought entered my head.

 Facebook can be a great means of connecting and sharing, but often those thoughts don't pierce the surface. Maybe this is the time to plumb some depths before thought droplets are shared and evaporate as quickly as they land. So today, instead of immediately picking up my phone in response to every trigger, I kept a notebook nearby and used it instead, to jot down ideas as they popped into my head. I also used it as a place for my thoughts to expand and deepen, to grow flesh, muscle and wings--perhaps even be edited before I share them.😄 Having an option other than automatically reaching for my phone, made my soul feel more peaceful.

As well I came up with a few ideas and strategies to help wrestle some order into this surreal new way of life. Feel free to sort through, even laugh at some of them, I won't be offended, but try anything that seems helpful:
  1. Eat intentionally. Make it an event in itself to think about what to eat, to give thanks for, and then, just eat--not eat and do something else, like watching the news at the same time. Find a place in the house with a view, if you can, and enjoy it while eating, or eat companionably with someone else. At least try to do this for some meals!
  2. Use a notebook to keep lists of things you can add to as ideas come to mind: questions you want to look up; tasks to do; movies to watch; people who come to mind to connect with etc. Just the act of writing the thoughts down will quieten your mind. And when you have a break, you can choose something from your list deliberately, evaluating what is most important to fill those minutes, rather than following random impulses willy-nilly like an over-caffeinated bunny.
  3. Connecting with people is so important right now. I plan to make a chart on Google Sheets, with names of people I want to check in with in the first column, and dates along the top row--not so that I can "schedule" connecting, but so that I don't inadvertently forget how long it's been since I've connected with someone I care about. I've moved in my head from talking myself out of connecting because I didn't want to bother people, to assuming they'd love to hear from me. The truth is probably somewhere in between, but the mental game moves me to do it, nothing is lost, and much can be gained! 
  4. I'm washing that coffee cup I keep refilling, between cups. I know a friend who might roll her eyes and laugh, if she reads this, as she cringed at my embarrassingly grungy coffee cup in the office for years. Well, she was right. Make each cup special. I remember my Dutch Oma on visits with us, washing the saucers that our plant pots stood on. It was a small nicety that added to the civilization of the home, even if it was hardly noticeable at all. 
  5. Think of those things you never had time for doing or learning and make another list! Decluttering, for example--one box, drawer, shelf, closet at a time, then celebrate and intentionally enjoy the order in that one space.  
  6. Open the window and listen to the birds singing. Notice how beautiful they sound. Read Matthew 6:25-34 and let its truth seep into your soul. Dare to trust.
  7. If you don't already have one, start a gratitude journal. It's amazing how intentionally noting small pleasures and gifts elevates the heart.
  8. Remember those charged with the care of others and pray for them. Prayer really makes a difference. I remember a specific moment in my life when I was on my way home from work at a time of extreme stress. I was stopped at a traffic light when suddenly I was filled with so much peace. It was around 5.30, and I realized that in England it was 10.30. The last thing my mother always did before bed was read her Bible and pray for us. I even wrote a not very good poem about the moment titled, "Someone must have lifted me in prayer."
  9. Finally (for today,) be gentle with yourself and the others around you in the lifeboat. This situation is extremely difficult and if we snap under pressure it's no wonder. We're all probably doing very well under the circumstances. Wear a kind facial expression and smile at your housemates young and old. We will get through this.


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