I was washing dishes the other day, reflecting on conversations I had had that day, assessing what I was feeling and thinking, and thinking ahead about supper. Then a thought came into my mind that made me stop, consider, and immediately write it down.
It’s hard to NOT focus just on myself and my needs when the only person I’m interacting with daily is myself.
Whoa, this thought felt like it had something more to it if I’d take the time to really think more deeply on it. I had to put it aside for the most part then because I needed to make supper, but I’d like to take that journey now.
When it all Started…
It all started with Coronavirus. We heard about other countries being quarantined, and new countries being infected daily. Then we got the first stay-at-home order. I think it was for something like 2 weeks. Okay, well anyone can do two weeks, right? Then it got extended for another month. Now, from my own experience I was all right with that because we hadn’t lost our jobs and I very happy for a break from the go-go-go that comes in Spring! My husband and I even said to each other, “We could do this another month!” It’s been such a good chance to recover, stop and slow down. And of course, we say this fully knowing that there are many reasons this wouldn’t be good, but I’m just going to stick with speaking from our experience (otherwise this post would be VERY long).
Well, it happened. We got the news at the end of April that our state would be implementing another month of stay-at-home orders AND we’d need to begin wearing face masks whenever we went out in public.
By this point I felt a little less excited by this process, but let’s look at the good things! I don’t have to do the morning rush of getting the kids out to school and all the emotional stress that sometimes brings. I don’t have to parent alone as frequently and we eat almost all meals together! These are great things for our family! But, the ache of missing my loved ones was creeping in more and more. I missed hugging my Mom. I missed having my kids being able to freely visit their grandparents and friends. I missed going to the store without an underlying feeling of anxiousness. And then there were the things I didn’t even know I was missing.
Hindsight is 20/20 and I can see now, some of the loneliness and dissatisfaction that was creeping in. Even though I didn’t miss getting my youngest out the door to be babysat, I missed the interaction I regularly had with those babysitters during drop off and pick up. Even though I didn’t miss the fast and sometimes hectic Sunday mornings of getting ready for church, I missed the easy ‘Hi there, Hello’ and quick hand wave that came with seeing so many people each week who I knew, not to mention the hugs of some of my favorite people! As we creeped into Spring and this extended time of isolation, I missed the freedom to plan my day – going to the library to get new books, planning BBQs with friends and family, and choosing ANY restaurant to eat at without needing to think too much about it.
So, when the next month of the stay-at-home order started I began to get irritated. I was short tempered with my family, I felt empty and therefore unmotivated to do anything, and I couldn’t put my finger on how to make it better. That’s when my husband said to me, “Sweetie, I can’t help but notice, but I think you’re feeling a bit restless. Why don’t you go out and get a coffee and call up your sister and see if she’ll go with you. You can go for a walk together.”
I texted my sister and she was able to join me too! It was GREAT! We got our coffee and I talked, and cried about life, about how I was feeling and all that. Then we drove to one place that we both missed so much – the church parking lot! We are both keenly missing our church family. We sat and talked and talked and TALKED for so long. I shared my problems, she shared her problems and we were able to encourage each other just by listening to one another – in person.
(Now, before I go any further I want to make a disclaimer and request. Please do not send me comments shaming me for breaking social distancing rules this one time. I have not made a habit of doing this and we are being thoughtful in following social distancing and hand washing directives as a family. Thank you.)
When I came home that afternoon, I was smiling, my mind felt more focused, and I wasn’t restless anymore. I had the energy and motivation to get moving with the tasks in my life and interact more kindly with my family. (Again, I am not publicly suggesting that we all go and break social distancing. This is not a political post, a shaming post, or a taking-a-stance post. I’m just sharing about one point in my life during all this craziness.)
That’s the night when I had the thought mentioned earlier, “It’s hard to NOT focus just on myself and my needs when the only person I’m interacting with daily is myself.” You see, I didn’t realize that I started to over self-focus until I had spent time with my sister and listened to her struggles. When I was stuck at home, not interacting face-to-face with people, my thoughts focused on myself and my family. What do I/we need? What are our problems? What can I do to make these needs and bad feelings go aways? Am I the only one feeling this way? And of course, if I’m feeling this way, then everyone else must be too.
It was good to get some confirmation that I wasn’t the only one feeling some of the ways I was feeling, but even better than that was hearing about the struggles and needs of another person and family. It helped to broaden my current perspective because not only was I hearing about her needs and problems, but I was also SEEING her face and HEARING her emotion close-up. This totally helped me get outside of myself. In getting outside of myself and my problems, my heart opened to the needs of others in a new and different way and my ever-so-important self-needs started to seem not so intense. Others’ needs weren’t ‘out there’ anymore, but were right in front of me!
I feel like this idea applies to all of life, not just this COVID-time. There are plenty of times when I find myself getting down and in those times, I might even choose isolation instead of reaching out to people. Yes, sometimes I need time alone to refocus and recharge, but a lot of times I need time with people, with the human race. Sometimes I need time alone first, but I have to remember the second part which is to reengage. It’s so important to be reminded that my needs aren’t the only reality in the world today. When it’s my personal reality it can be hard to imagine a different reality. But when I take the time to listen to other people and their personal realities, my own heart can be changed. It is shifted from a place of self-focus to a place of others-focus. That shift gives me the balance I need to live out JOY (Jesus, Others, Myself).