Friday, March 27, 2020

Our Great COVID-19 Adventure

Stream of consciousness post with rights reserved to edit post-streaming . . .


Life is just weird right now.

No school or date nights or random trips to Target or play dates or ball games or lessons.

Scary news stories and crazy news stories and factual news stories and fictional news stories.

But . . .

It's still the same in most ways.

Meals to prepare. Laundry to wash. Work to do. Bills to pay. Kids to hound. Research to complete.

I think that's what makes "social distancing" "sheltering at home" "quarantine" so hard to process. We don't know what's really expected of us except trying to continue our regular lives, which isn't really possible.

Full disclosure here:
I've been up and down with this whole thing. Some days I've been pretty positive. Other days I dissolve into tears multiple times. Tears of fear. Tears of frustration. Tears of anger. Tears of inadequacy. Tears of when and how is this all going to end.

It's been rough, and yet strangely easy.

Maybe easy isn't the right word--simple.

COVID-19 forced me to simplify my life down to the most important.

The hardest part of the last (almost) two weeks of quarantine has been my inner struggle, not with mortality or contagion or even political leadership. I keep berating myself, questioning whether I'm doing this whole quarantine thing "right." Am I demanding enough of my kids academically? Are they having too much screen time? Should I be doing more with them individually and collectively? Was church good for them? Why can't I find time to (or make myself) work on my thesis, which now seems so peripheral and unimportant? Why am I eating all. the. things. and ignoring the habits that make me happy and sane?

I came to a "shut-the-front-door" realization today. Ready for it?

There is no right or wrong way to do this.

I was listening to Dieter F. Uchtdorf's "Your Great Adventure" this morning as I walked Cleo, and although I've listened to this talk a few times in the past months, hearing it for the first time with my newly honed COVID-19 ears brought fresh perspective to me.

"If you hesitate in this adventure because you doubt your ability, remember that [life] is not about doing things perfectly; it's about doing things intentionally. It is your choices that show what you truly are, far more than your abilities.
"Even when you fail, you can choose not to give up, but rather discover your courage, press forward, and rise up. That is the great test of the journey.
"God knows that you are not perfect, that you will fail at times. God loves you no less when you struggle than when you triumph.
"Like a loving parent, He merely wants you to keep intentionally trying."


That was it--the grounding I've been trying to find for the last few weeks.

I've been looking at this all wrong.

It's not about what my kids and family accomplish during this time. It's about what we learn. 

Adventures are full of intrigue and fear and wrong turns and villains and heroes. Some heroes willingly choose the adventurous path, but like Bilbo Baggins, we have been recruited into this COVID-19 adventure with little warning and no mental preparation.

Remember, adventure tales are published in hindsight--after the hero successfully throws the ring into Mordor or rescues all the sailors from the ice-trapped Endurance or dies in a concentration camp, leaving behind journal entries for the world to see how normal life can be in abnormal circumstances. It is the unusualness of the circumstances that makes something an adventure, not how grand the gestures or battles may appear.

I needed to hear this talk today.

I asked myself these questions:

Have I been intentional with how we spend our time as our family in these circumstances?

  • Answer: Mostly. Sometimes it's a school video or a bike ride or securing the foundation of our chicken coop, but I've made intentional decisions most of the time. And I can't feel guilty that my research and personal habits have taken a temporary back seat to guiding my family through this adventure.

Have I failed?
  • Answer: Yes. Lots. I've yelled and I've been lazy and I've fallen short so. many. times. And I've beaten myself up for it. 
But the final question I keep asking myself is this: "When I look back on this time, what will I wish I would have done?" (Myquillyn Smith) and this follow-up question: Have I done THAT thing?
  • Answer: I don't know. I don't think I have done it enough, but I'm vowing from today forward to do that one thing.

What is that one thing?

I've found inexplicable joy in the small moments, when I allow myself to see them. There has been a palpable peace here. Less fighting (oh, there still is some, don't get me wrong here). More camaraderie. Satisfaction in projects done together as our family. Small moments that are truly joyful because we are forced to choose each other over and over each day. To be truly honest, I don't hate quarantine, and I don't think my kids do, either, most of the time. I see it as a special, (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime gift to slow down and just enjoy the little things for an extended period of time.

That's my one thing: Find the joy in the small moments. Record those moments--and have my kids record them as well. Be intentional with these small moments, whether it's an educational moment, a courage moment, a failure moment, a frustrating moment, a scary moment, a spiritual moment, a silly moment, a fun moment, or a serious, life-altering moment. Stop stressing the big stuff that won't matter 20 years from now when we all reflect on what life under COVID-19 quarantine was like. Teach them to be good human beings that care for one another and the world, and see joy in this crazy adventure.

We are living history right now. Experience it. Live it. Find joy in it.

What's your one thing? Are you going to do it?

Who's with me?

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