Returning to Normal

While we were still in lockdown, I walked alone to the grocery store. I passed a park with a grassy area — uncharacteristically sloppy, unkempt, and overgrown, making the deserted streets look even more like a ghost town. Looking up, I saw Spanish flags with small, black bows in memory of the ones the virus has taken.

Last week as I was buying groceries, the entire store fell into a hushed stillness as we paused for 60 seconds to remember those no longer here.

A few days ago I spent time with a friend who told me she still feels a bit “messed up” from the seven weeks we spent in our apartments without leaving. No doubt many of us are, in various ways.

With more freedom to move around and gather, funerals are finally being held for the ones that were buried in a hurry. Tens of thousands of people are grieving right now, even as Spain’s street cafes and bars begin to pulse back to life.

While we return to shop and spend and do business and see friends, to return to “normal” after all of this would not be right or healthy. To move along as if nothing happened would be a mistake.

To skip the step of processing and mourning would be a mistake. Although of course we rightly delight in moving around and seeing loved ones and enjoying life, hurriedly returning to superficial happiness and comfort is not the priority here.

Landing in peace and joy after wading through grief, hard conversations, and a good bit of self-examination is more important right now.

I want myself and all of us to meaning out of all of this. This strange virus is not a random biological event. There is meaning and much to learn and we have to mine for it, sift it out, and be okay if that process involves sitting in some discomfort and awkwardness.

I hope we take a uncomfortable moment to think about life and death.

I hope we treat each other more kindly and tenderly than we used to.

I hope we cherish relationships and look into each other’s eyes.

I hope we stop to ask friends how they’re really doing right now, then listen to the answer.

I hope we learn how to be more human and less like our own gods.

I hope we remember for a long time to come that we can’t count on our perfectly-laid plans for the future.

I hope we reflect on how we want to change and ways that this has shaped us.

I hope we cry with those who are crying and rejoice with those who are rejoicing.

I hope we feel our spirit yearning for life and listen to the One who created it.

Heartache

My heart aches and heaves with the slow pulse of the city. I smell the bleach in the hallway — an olfactory reminder of what we are dealing with. I put my hand on my chest.

It seems I’m always telling my heart to buck up and toughen up — it’s too vulnerable, takes on too much, breaks too easily, cries too much, and bears too quickly the burdens of others.

This time seems no different as tears spring up from my heart that is not broken nor hopeless nor joyless, but simply heavy with emotion. It’s heavy inside my chest, holding hurts that aren’t even directly my own.

I start to scold my tender heart for how quickly it takes on pain and burdens. Then I stop. Maybe the weight is for my good and the good of those I know.

If I let the weight of it all take me to Jesus — on my behalf as well as on behalf of those I love — it’s good and it’s a burden I will gladly bear. There I am, bringing things and people and situations to Him that I wouldn’t have brought if my heart didn’t ache.

And there I find myself with a secure identity and an unshakable joy, held up by Him who never changes and never fails. I will not shy away from the pain around me, because as it sends me to prayer, I bring the ones I love (and the ones I don’t know) over and over again to our kind Father.

We all carry on day by day, unaware of how much our own daily being is sustained and upheld by prayers we don’t even know are being prayed; by God’s intervention whether or not we see it or acknowledge it. I pray my own share of secret prayers, trusting not in my strength to pray them but in the Lord who hears them and cares.

Esta bien no estar bien

Llorar en el aeropuerto. Me ha pasado varias veces y no lo recomiendo. Nadie quiere ser esa persona llorando por el terminal, pero si te pasa a ti, hay que aceptarlo.
Hace un par de años, estaba llorando en el aeropuerto justo antes de subir al avión – gotas grandes y no pararon. El chico escaneó mi tarjeta de embarque, me miró y me dijo, “Esta bien no estar bien.”

Empecé a llorar más porque en ese momento no estuve bien y no tenía la energía para ponerme una sonrisa y decir, “Estoy bien.” Respiré y cabeceé con una sonrisa de agradecimiento. No había necesidad de presentarme como una persona perfecta con la vida arreglada para subir al avión. Está bien llorar por el terminal. Está bien no estar bien.

Da algo de libertad cuando alguien te da permiso no estar bien. Un día una conocida me pidió disculpas por ser un Eeyore y no un Tigger ese día. Dijo que estaba desanimada por varios motivos. Le dije, “No me pidas disculpas. Está bien no estar bien.” Me miró y lo reiteró, como si nunca hubiera estado segura de la idea: “Si que esta bien no estar bien, verdad?”

Después me preguntó si la podía usar la frase en su próxima obra de arte. Quizás me haga famosa. O debería ser famoso ese chico que trabaja con la aerolínea, que no me conoció, pero no se encogió al ver mis lágrimas.

¿Por qué te abates, oh alma mía, y te turbas dentro de mí? Espera en Dios; porque aún he de alabarle, Salvación mía y Dios mío.” (Salmos 42:5) Dios puede con mis tristezas y quiere que esté con él, esté como esté. No tengo que arreglarme antes de acercarme a él. Pero tampoco me quedo así, compadeciéndome. Hablo con mi propia alma, dando importancia a lo difícil que estoy viviendo, pero también diciéndome que hay que esperar, hay que cantar, hay que alegrarme en Dios.

“Oye, Rebecca, escúchame, que te tengo que hablar. Te voy a recordar de algunas cosas, alma mía.” Allí está la diferencia. Se puede tener dolor, y reconocerlo, pero aun así tener una paz profundo que solo Dios me da y una alegría que no cambia con las circunstancias de la vida.

Estés donde estés hoy, pases lo que pases, acuérdate que está bien no estar bien. No hay que fingir. Déjate pasar por el duelo. Rodéate con la gente que te va a abrazar sin palabras y después, en el debido tiempo, va a ayudarte a sanar, a aprender del duelo, y a seguir adelante. Y después da a alguien en tu vida el permiso no estar bien contigo si realmente no está bien. Compartamos las alegría de la vida juntos y también las cargas y tristezas.

bravery to feel sad

No one really talks about the bravery and strength required to be sad. Probably because we feel ashamed of tears and we’ve been taught to carry on and hurry-away from all the “negative” emotions. 

A few months ago, tired of the same emotions surprising me in my heart, I purposed to process, write, and let myself cry if need be. I told a friend that I gave myself an evening to just feel the sad feelings that I knew were there and she said, “Feeling things sucks, and I am so glad that you always choose the hard and brave way.” 

Sometimes the best thing a friend can do is walk you through the appropriate emotions for what you’re dealing with – not to hit you right away with a rallying cry to get back up on your feet, but instead to validate where you are, cry with you in your pain, then later encourage you onward to health and joy regardless of mountains or valleys.

Resilience doesn’t necessarily mean immediately getting back on our feet. Resilience is not hardness. Resilience is a perfect combination of strength and tenderness. Resilience does mean standing up.. after we’ve walked wisely through the valley and summoned the strength and bravery to feel our hearts break. 

If we aren’t truly feeling grief, anger, heartbreak, joy, and gladness at their appropriate times, we aren’t truly identifying the bad in life as bad and the good in life as good. Call bad bad and good good. Be brave. Be sad when you need to.