Welcome to 2020!
The world — and specifically America — have paused in a way that no one in our lifetime ever thought possible.
Remember that movie The Perfect Storm? (I hate that movie. A group of guys died on a fishing boat because they sailed into a “perfect storm.” But no one really knows what happened to them because they all died. A conjecture narrative that presents itself a biography? Not cool, man.)
Anyway, 2020 is the perfect stop. And there’s no end in sight.
We’re stuck. Stuck in place. Glued indoors. Sewn into the couch. Stapled to the hardwood floor.
People have lost jobs and income. People are debating and fighting over how to live, how to stay safe, how to handle all this. Some don’t even believe there is an “all this,” but that’s a topic for another forum. Schools are wrestling with whether to reopen in-person classes or go entirely online.
So what do we do? How do we handle this solitude, this lack of social interaction, this crippling anxiety, depression, loneliness?
Everyone seems to be finding their own way of coping. Those that are able, do their jobs from home. Some exercise. Some go hiking or exploring out in the solitude of nature. Some catch up on all that reading they’d promised themselves to do some day. Some Netflix-and-chill, binging entire seasons of TV shows they’ve always wanted to see. Some take advantage of supply-and-demand by making homemade goods. Some isolate and wallow in despair. Some non-essential workers are returning to work anyway, government guidelines be damned. Some ignore the whole thing altogether and go on with their lives as if nothing’s changed.
My son plays video games and watches movies. My daughter reads and watches other people play their video games. (It’s a thing. Her mother and I don’t get it.) My wife finds normalcy in watching the Disney movie Tangled almost every day; she calls it therapy. (She asked me to point out the irony that the kingdom in Tangled is named Corona. Pure coincidence.) She’s not alone. I’ve done the same with various favorites of mine. I’m currently obsessed with Hamilton, thanks to Disney+.
The point is, we all have to find ways of coping in this new way of life, while we wait on a vaccine or cure for COVID-19. Estimates say it could be at least a year away, if not longer. How do we deal with a nearly-unbearable lifestyle while waiting for what feels like something that may never come?
I’m not a big reader of theology; I don’t have the patience for it. But one theologian I enjoy is Philip Yancey. He has a beautiful way of summing up both the human experience and the Christian experience in a single breath. I love this quote from him:
“I have learned that faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”
I wish I could write like Yancey, sharing rare, deep, authentic insights. The truth is, I’m finding my own way just like you, and — and I don’t relish saying this — fighting mental health illness.
It’s been a heck of a year. Since last December, I’ve had two back surgeries, a severe staff infection, nerve damage to my leg, an infected picc line, an allergic reaction to the nuclear-powered adhesives that hospitals use, two bouts of C.diff, a recurrence of Colitis, blurred vision, six hospital stays, three ambulance rides, countless scans and tests and blood work, endless medication side effects, and the worst and scariest Depression and Anxiety I’ve ever known.
At the time of this writing, I’m scheduled to have a third back surgery sometime in the next month or two.
So it feels as if everything about my life — every single aspect, every plan and desire, every book I want to write, every project my mind won’t stop dreaming up — has been on hold for 8 months straight. There have been moments of respite here and there. Family and friends have been unerringly supportive, especially my beautiful, longsuffering Karen, who has time and again ignored her own woes to see to mine.
We’re all asking ourselves: Will this season end?
I’m tired of waiting. Aren’t you?
I’m too drained to offer any meaningful encouragement, so here are a few verses I found in The Message about waiting.
Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. (Romans 12:11-12)
That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. (Romans 8:24-25)
We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy. (Colossians 1:11)
So… we’ll keep waiting. And we’ll keep trying so hard to hold on to what we believe.
Waiting, waiting, waiting.
I’m sick of waiting. We all are. Some of us are barely holding it together. And that’s only going to get harder as the pandemic continues to spread and the death toll rises.
Will things ever go back to the way they were? Will we find a new normal when this is all over?
Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Or just wait. And wait. And wait.