Lather, Rinse, Repeat
The events of the last few years are paint flung at an empty canvas.. The colors bleed together with no definition or formation, simply a blur, and emotions accompanying them are layered and complicated. Being able to talk about them has been my remedy. For all the ones who may still feel stuck, there is a way out of pandemic—The one that lingers in your mind— the one that is holding you hostage.
When I was twenty-seven, with a toddler and infant, I began to clean things a certain way, then put the toys away in a certain order. Compulsive, perhaps; for me, it was my coping mechanism—a way that I fixed the outside of my world when I couldn’t fix the inside —when the anxiety I was fighting as a mom of two little ones felt out of control, this was a way that I fought back. It was a way of getting off of the floor in order to be a mom.
Sometimes we have to keep walking around in our body even when it feels dead. Let the light filter in, little by little. Drink down small doses in good faith, living in the surreal moments until they feel real again. If you have ever felt a little off, like you are detached from yourself or half-assing it.. You aren’t alone. This is a legitimate feeling that I have felt too. You can’t just snap your fingers and feel magically delicious again. Coming to terms with being stuck is one thing, then getting to the other side of that is slow and meticulous. Healing is an intentional choice to keep going rather than letting the floor swallow you. It’s like making the bed day after day. Eventually, it comes naturally. But first, I choose to stop playing dead and get on with living.
Part of healing through months of trauma is something that happens only within me, a deliberate choice I make to grind the rusty gears that have become bound up and move on. On the other hand, part of that healing happens by showing up within a family. Family carries the load we can’t bear alone. The hurt heals as the whole of us, together, learn to lean on each other. This requires a degree of proximity, so we have to stop making excuses that keep us from our faith communities or our friend circles, those who are the missing piece of our whole.
I have lost track of how many funerals there have been, but in two years, they have taught me more than any post, article, or news feed that I have digested. Most recently at a funeral that was not in my church building, I saw a row of folks from our congregation sitting behind the family. A few couples along with a few singles, unrelated to each other at all– but right there behind the family. It was a picture of the church being the Church outside of the church– the most beautiful thing that I have seen in a long time. Maybe there are more answers at funerals than at election polls or scrolling our smartphones. Maybe the world keeps telling us there is no hope, everything is getting worse, but maybe the answer is actually right in our lap the whole time.
I have learned more in rooms full of people
having one hard thing in common:
figuring how we walk out of that room
to pull each other closer
and rework our strategy
grieving one more empty chair at the table.
Tish Harrison Warren refers to this in her book “Liturgy of the Ordinary” as call and response.
“We work out our faith with these other broken men and women around us in pews. It’s lackluster. It can be boring or taxing. It’s often messy. It’s sometimes painful. But these Christians around me become each other’s call and response… We tell each other over and over, back and forth, the truth of who we are and who God is.”
I need you and you need me and we both need each other, no matter how disoriented we may feel, how much we disagree at times, or whether we live up to each other’s expectations. We are a beautiful mess that God calls his bride. We encounter the fullness of his love for us as we relate to one another, therefore no man can be his own sanctity. We belong to each other. We are wildly tangled together. No matter how much we try to distance ourselves from anything that doesn’t line up with our own agenda or viewpoint, running from each other only perpetuates our struggle and drives us deeper into despair, widening rifts until all that remains before us is a wasteland.
Our wholeness and healing first require recognition. We won’t heal until we confess our brokenness, but confession eventually requires reaching beyond our own space into that of another. Letting our lives bleed together helps to fill the holes inside of us.
Right in the thick of Pandemic, I distinctly remember a walk with a friend of mine. She has a knack for recentering me and is often the older sibling that I never had. At my wit's end, trying to find solutions to a thousand problems that weren’t mine, I was taking the weight of the world on my shoulders when she reminded me in her abiding-wisdom-way that there is a tiny world right in front of me that needs me. While I can’t fix all the problems, I can care for the people right in front of me. Sadly it wasn’t until a year later that I truly listened to her advice. In order to change, I had to arrive at this realization on my own, but I couldn’t have done it without my friend by my side. We need to pull each other up out of the muck and sometimes that means we need to ask for a hand.
Perhaps you have been holding your breath waiting for things to be a certain way before you will make a move. Dear ones, the house is on fire and you just need to get out before it burns to the ground. This may be a morbid way of thinking about it, but I need to speak directly. If you have a faith community that you are hanging onto by a thread because you don’t know how to be part of large gatherings, start small and begin by calling someone on the phone regularly. Try visiting one or two others with appropriate distance or meet in a neutral place that is not overcrowded. Go for walks outside in the fresh air. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Forward motion. Make the bed, wash your hair, fold the laundry, call someone, set your alarm. The routines we once had came to a screeching halt and they never resumed. Create a new one. Find your people again. Turn the music on. Read the Psalms and write a response to each one. Pray the same prayer each night. Find your rhythm and stay there for a while.
Emotions are not tidy little things, We can’t wrap them up in packages and ship them off somewhere. They keep spilling all over the place until we finally decide to confront them. I hope you can find the way out of your own head, the reels that keep repeating, and then let your feet wander back to community again, back to your place at the table that has been there waiting for you all along.