As we have been sheltering in place to keep ourselves, our loved ones and our communities safe, we may have found ourselves with a bit more time to think. I have found myself thinking a lot about what I would like do to make sure this time is not wasted; that it is somehow time well spent.
My intentions are all well and good, but I have also found, as a person of faith, that I have struggled with some of the big questions our current crisis raises: How is it that vulnerable elderly are left to die alone? What are we to think when fragile newborns are threatened even before they are born? What justice is there in hardworking families finding themselves struggling to put food on the table? Why must the at-risk ailing sacrifice time with family in their fight against contracting the virus? It appears the “givens” of life are not such sure things anymore.
In response, I am doing what I can to keep my faith strong, and I am vowing to devote time to find some peace among the chaos.
Years ago, Oprah Winfrey was on a promotional tour for a movie she appeared in. Gene Siskel, an American film critic and journalist for the Chicago Tribune was coming to the end of his time with her when he asked, “Tell me, what do you know for sure?” Oprah was taken aback and responded, “Uhm, about the movie?” Siskel said, “No. You know what I mean–about you, your life, anything, everything.” Oprah, normally never at a loss for words, told Gene she would have to get back to him on that.
In response, she wrote her book What I Know for Sure. In it, she says it took her years to answer Siskel’s question for herself. Personally, I believe it is a lifelong question.
She wrote about a number of truths that she felt stood the test of time. As I recently revisited this book, I thought about how well some of these truths blend into this season of our lives, when we seem to know nothing for sure.
CONNECTION – “The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and in turn, another life, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.” Frederick Buechner
Gradually, or maybe it felt sudden to you, our connection to people and places has been replaced with sheltering in our homes. Instead of hugs and handshakes we now must nod or elbow bump. We cannot meet for coffee; we now meet in Zoom squares. We cannot look people in the eye, we search for emotions hidden behind masks. However, we are making it work. I know for sure that connections are key and that we all just need someone to show us that we are valued, understood and loved.
POSSIBILITY – “When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: you haven’t.” Thomas Edison
At certain times in this hunkering down, things may have felt too difficult. It may seem impossible to stay home indefinitely, only going out for essentials. Impossible to work from home all week long, make a dinner out of what is left in the pantry, or worship from home. Impossible to be satisfied with walks in the neighborhood or virtual time with family and friends. And yet, here we are. I know for sure that we are making what we once thought was impossible into the possible.
GRATITUDE – “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” Anonymous
We cannot help but feel bombarded by the news, headlines and stories meant to keep us informed about COVID-19. However, the hidden gift that lives inside the updates is gratitude. Maybe you are grateful that you are not a healthcare or essential worker. Maybe you are grateful that you still have your job, can pay your bills, and buy food. Maybe you are grateful that you have family and friends that are checking in on you. Maybe you are grateful that neither you nor someone you love has contracted the virus or died from it. I know for sure that gratitude is a mighty force that can give us perspective and help us carry on.
POWER – “When you know better, you do better.” Maya Angelou
So much of this pandemic has reduced our feeling of power and made us feel defenseless. It can be helpful to accept that some aspects of this constantly evolving situation cannot be changed. However, you can be empowered by the things you can control. Follow the rules of staying at home. Set up and stick to a schedule for the day. Encourage others virtually. Make sure to spend some time outside every day. I know for sure that God’s restoration of power lies within us.
RESILIENCE – “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” Helen Keller
Most of us have, by now, been quarantined for well over a month. It is getting tiresome on many levels. The pondering of all the things you could accomplish if you only had more time at home may have long since passed. However, the reality is that this new normal we are adjusting to may continue for a while longer. How do you restore resilience? Find a purpose, find a mentor, practice mindfulness, get more sleep, stay physically active, embrace optimism, remember the power of humor and–even if you feel weak–try to project strength. I know for sure that resilience is a critical skill that can be boosted and used to reduce and manage stress.
JOY – “We have not been promised a life free from sorrow, but one in which joy will have the last word.” Henri Nowen
Many things that previously brought us joy have been put on hold. Joy was found in time with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Or maybe, instead, you loved to go out to restaurants, shopping or the theater. In these times, we are obliged to find joy in simpler things; nature, reading a book, the art of conversation, or a long-forgotten hobby. I know for sure that now, more than ever, we need to find joy and share it with others, while still believing that our former enjoyments will return.
I would add a truth of my own: faith. Right now, we must look to our faith to guide us. No matter our religious beliefs or how we pray, we come together in hope for the future. Ultimately, I am not convinced that I know anything for sure. But in this hazy time, it seems as if these simple truths are shining through for all of us to appreciate.
I hold you in my prayers. Remember, we are all in this together.
Julie Ruchniewicz, BSN, RN
HMA Executive Director