It is no secret that our nation is hurting. A recent meme on social media indicates that perhaps we have experienced more in 2020 than we did in the last century (an exaggeration, but an interesting opinion if nothing else). We have been plagued by a virus that currently has no vaccine and no cure. We have been tormented by political divide. Racial unrest has led to a politicizing of human rights and further divides among family and friends. Our children have been out of school and our parents have been out of work. There are spiritual struggles, financial woes, and physical and mental health issues that cannot receive adequate treatment because in many cases that treatment now occurs virtually from a physician's home. There are a lot of opinions and seemingly little facts. There is a lot of overwhelmedness and a perceived lack of faith.
As several states begin to see a decline in hospitalizations due to the virus and slowly start to re-open, it would do us well to consider how we personally will re-enter society at a time such as this. Just as states have phased approaches to reintegration, perhaps we might consider the benefits of a similar process for ourselves on a personal level. Can we meet our souls where we are? Can we allow our bodies to guide us? Can we give permission to our brains to take this re-entry thing one step at a time?
What might this look like? Let's explore.
1. Create a phase-in process that works for you. At this point in the re-entry process, it is crucial to remember one of our favorite sayings at hope*writers (the writing group in which I take part). "Your pace is your pace." This is never more true than now. If you feel uncomfortable with the re-opening of restaurants, there is no one telling you that you have to eat out. If you aren't ready to host drinks with a friend, that's okay, too! Maybe you continue to have your groceries home-delivered and your roots look a little ragged just a little while longer. Ball caps permissible, friends! Give yourself permission to re-enter society at a pace that works for you.
At this point, it may be helpful to write down your phase-in plan. Give yourself permission to take ownership of your current comfort level given the information you have. I'm still out here flaunting a mask and I've only been an in actual grocery store twice since February. You do you, friend!
2. Determine what you will take with you as you re-enter society. Despite the obvious drawbacks of quarantine and stay-at-home orders, many people I know and love have done some deep, rich soul work during this time. Perhaps they have cultivated new sacred daily rhythms, including more time in scripture and less time attached to one's phone. Perhaps there are bi-weekly family dinners or a game night on Friday nights. Maybe you have learned the delicate art of saying, "NO!" Determine what is worth keeping from these long days of isolation, and create a plan for how you will maintain these rhythms when life resumes at normal speed.
3. Determine what you will leave behind. Just as we have cultivated new healthy habits during days of social distancing, we have probably also created a few monsters that disrupt our rhythms as well. I probably need to set a new limit on my binge-watching in the evenings (but All American is SO good!), and create a better sleep-wake cycle (aka stop drinking espressos whenever I want). I could use a re-entry to the gym (or just physical activity in general) and upping my water consumption wouldn't hurt either. I need to listen to my body and move it a little more!
There are also some things that quarantine forced me to leave behind that I will consider leaving in the past. The need to consume? I'm over it. I can save so much money by eating what's already available to me and strategically planning our meals for the week. I am leaving behind hasty eating and thoughtless consumption. And my busy calendar with overlapping to-dos? I'm over that, too. I will intentionally control my schedule moving forward. What will you strategically leave behind post-quarantine to create less exhausting rhythms moving forward?
4. Phone a friend. Gather your people. You should have a tight circle of friends and accountability partners who will willingly choose to go through re-entry with you as we relearn how to navigate life together. Come together to share your worries and hesitations about re-entry, and brainstorm strategic ways that you can re-enter society in a way that mitigates those fears. Two brains are better than one, and three hearts are better than two. Lean into your tribe. We all need those people who will support our neurotic, overwhelmed, bleeding hearts.
5. Practice. Like when we cultivate any new rhythm or habit in our lives, practice makes for productive forward progress. If you know what you are keeping and what you are leaving behind, start practicing those new habits now. What we reap we sow. What we cultivate we grow. We can come out of this better than we came into this with a little pre-planning, intentional reflection and strategic steps forward.
Linger a Little Longer:
1. What most scares you about the re-entry process? Why?
2. What strategic response can you put into place today that will mitigate the fear mentioned above?
3. What is the next right thing you can do today to feel more confident about re-entering our hurting world?