Whatever normal is, it is not this!
Today was somewhat like yesterday, and but this month is certainly not starting out like last month did! After over six weeks of working mostly from home as a telecommuter, I am finally starting to get the knack of connecting with support staff and colleagues who are not down the hall from me. We have rediscovered the original purpose for telephones – conversation. But, it does not seem quite right to call this the new normal. Something in me just refuses to accept the idea of living in this state of isolation and social distancing forever! Perhaps it is more aptly described as longing for normal. Whatever normal is, it is not this!
The only office mates around our water cooler are my husband, often seated at his desk facing me from the other side of our home office, and a couple of twelve pound furry friends. Annie, our adopted rescue dog, has house privileges, unlike her dearest friend “Porch Cat” who adopted the three of us, perhaps because we came with a large back porch, an attractive patch of grass, and a few tempting flower beds. The cat unfortunately never learned house manners and is forever banished to the yard. He would likely wreck havoc on our leather couches and rugs. The four of us are quite a rag-tag workforce!
Normally, at this time of year I would begin conversations with co-workers at my office about their upcoming annual performance reviews, discuss their new goals for the upcoming year, and spend some time listening to their new ideas and suggestions. But, right now, no one wants to be that close to anyone else. It is hard to have a meaningful heart to heart conversation across a six-foot divide.
Perhaps instead, Annie and Porch Cat would like to have their canine and feline performance evaluated for determining their merit pay increases. Would they be more playful and fulfilled if they received an extra half-ounce of dog or cat chow daily in recognition of their essential contributions to the team?
But, I would have to guard against any demonstration of favoritism, remembering to give equal chow for equal work!
Whatever normal was, will it ever be like that again?
It has almost been a month since my negative COVID-19 test, the results received after recovering from a rough bout of mid-February bronchitis, and just in time for approval to go ahead with my March Benlysta infusion. I cannot remember spending this many days in my home, except after the birth of each of my children. There is much uncertainty, and I hear a common thread in the voices of my employees: fear of an unknown future.
Some events are like a plumb line or reference point running through the experience of everyone in a culture. For us in the U.S. who remember the early 1960s, we think back to answer the question, “Where were you when you heard that JFK (President, John F. Kennedy) was shot?” Although I was only five, I remember standing in my mother’s living room as she and other mothers from the neighborhood watched television and cried together. The other event is 911. My children and I stood dumbfounded that morning as we watched the news coverage of an airplane, and then a second fly into the New York twin towers. That moment we saw the towers collapse evoked emotions I will never forget, and hope to never experience again.
Yet, this will be all of that and perhaps much more. We will remember those we know who were infected with the novel coronavirus, and perhaps those who lost their lives to it. We will remember words forever that had not place in our vocabulary just eight short weeks ago, “social distancing.” We will remember how a booming economy shuddered and quaked as the world was swiftly overtaken by a pandemic unlike anything in our collective memories. This is the stuff novels and movies are written about, but not anything we ever thought would become a real experience in our own daily lives. There will be normal again, we can be sure of that, but it will not be the same normal as before. As a people, we are never the same after this type of shared profound experience.
Whatever this not-normal is, can it be good somehow?
So, what are we to do in the meantime? We have some choices, and how we navigate them will perhaps shape how this experience changes us. Some things we cannot control, and yet there are some things that we have a great deal of say about. We cannot choose all the experiences and trials that come into our lives, but we can make choices about our response to them. We may all sense our mortality in new ways, and perhaps a new humility from facing our lack of control of this disease.
Some of us are doubly at risk – immune compromised by lupus or other auto-immune diseases and also as risk because of respiratory conditions like asthma. For us, there is a greater threat from this life-threatening and insidious pathogen. But, should we live ever in fear of it? Maintain a very healthy respect for what it can do to me? Yes! Spend every day dwelling on fear? No way! But, taking every precaution to prevent becoming its victim demonstrates wisdom.
What to do then, with the temptation to fear? Dwell on the great love of God for you, and choose to trust Him. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” I Jn. 4:9 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. 1 Jn 4:18a
This trial we face, however difficult and overwhelming it may be, may have some positive effects in relationships with others and with God. When we realize we are not in control of events in our lives, we have the opportunity to remember that God is still in control. This is a humbling, vulnerable place, but God is there in the midst of every trial, protecting and leading the way through it.
In my life there have been three times that the moment of possible death blocked my path. In each of those moments, the soberness of mortality and the awareness of God’s presence consumed me. My heart’s cry echoed the words of Job, ” though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Each time, God delivered me, but I had no control of the outcome. That was up to God! My choice now is to trust in God, regardless the threat of COVID-19. I will strive to let this mindset of faith and trust be the substance of my normal life.