This country was built on the steam and ambition of entrepreneurs and extroverts, go-getters and ladder-climbers. Yet, here we are, being told to sit still. I think the vast majority of Americans can handle just about anything better than stillness.
“Thankfully” we have our toys to occupy and distract us. In case you missed it, I put “thankfully” in quotations. Because that’s not such a great thing and I’m here to encourage anyone willing to read this that the call to stillness and solitude may be EXACTLY what we need, as a nation (I can hear the introverts cheering!).
When my eldest was getting ready to fly this coop, it was brutal. I really like my kids. I have been a stay-at-home mama since the age of 19. That means my entire adult life has been spent on motherhood. It’s my favorite job, ever (though staying at home with little people is hard sometimes. I am feeling compassion for all of you who are suddenly in the throes, because school and work shut down, and you never thought you signed up for round-the-clock kid chaos).
Back to the story…. When Forest was a senior (okay, let’s be honest, these feelings of impending death began when he was a Sophmore), I was so tempted to recluse. To hide away from my son, because then I could hide away from the pain of losing him forever (that’s what it felt like, okay. Don’t judge!). Instead, I knew I needed to press into the pain, loss and depth of emotion. Like turning my face toward the biting wind. When I turn into the wind, I discover that, instead of pain, it actually feels like a million tiny kisses from heaven. So did turning towards the pain of losing my son. Instead of loss, I felt gain. I lost sleep to gain precious, irreplaceable conversations. I lost self-protection and gained intimate friendship. When he did finally stretch out those broad, competent wings, we had a deeper, richer friendship to buffer the loss and shoulder the relationship. I discovered that I didn’t actually lose a son, I gained a brother!
Maybe you’re already following my peculiar thought-trails, but just in case, let me make my point clear. You will be tempted to spend this precious time doing everything you can to avoid the discomfort of stillness. Don’t do it! Don’t turn to facebook, the news, overeating, withdrawing from your kids because they’re rambunctious and you haven’t figured out how to harness that energy yet. Instead, press into the discomfort.
Never been a stay-at-home parent before? Awesome! Now’s your chance to learn what you’ve been missing out on. Learn with your kids. Bond with your kids. Capitalize on teachable moments. Play board games. Have dance parties. Notice their toothy grins and awkward, goofy bodies that are growing faster than they can adjust. And when it’s hard, keep going. You’re industrious and persistent. I believe in you.
Never sat still before? Hallelujah! Now’s your chance! Sit on your porch and feel the breeze. Walk in the woods and notice the bark on the trees, or the way the trunks turn into branches and the branches reach their gnarly limbs up into heaven like it’s all worship and beauty. Don’t turn to distractions. Stillness is soul-transforming.
If you have a spouse, date each other at home. Find out what’s been going on since you last made eye contact. Marriages fall apart when communication lacks. My pessimistic observation of our society involves a lot of two-income households and sports-driven families, where the parents are enslaved to separate clocks and fast food restaurants that keep them fueled on the way to separate ball games, separate jobs, separate friends, and separate lives. This may not be your story, and if not, I am thankful, but there are a lot of families who function like this and now is the chance for a reset, before you slip off that cliff called “Isolation” or spin around that death-curve called “Divorce”. You are being afforded an opportunity to relearn the creases around your spouses’ eyes when he smiles, or to hear what her deepest passions and dreams really are. Fall in-love all over again. This is a monumental gift you are being given… the gift of time and presence! Don’t waste it! I am begging you. Our country desperately needs the family to be whole. If the family is whole, the community is whole. If the community is whole, the nation is whole.
And finally, now’s our chance to be neighbors. There are plenty of folks in our society who are simply going to suffer from this in ways we are not accustomed to noticing. Poor families are going to have an even harder time feeding their kids without the help of the public school system. The elderly folks, who struggle to get in and out of the grocery store, may not have the ability to stock their pantries during this time. Folks who already struggle with loneliness are going to be even more lonely. Guys, I’m begging you to just pay attention and think “How can I love my neighbor right now?” and “What neighbors need checked on?” I have to keep reminding myself the same thing.
This may be the greatest gift our country could experience? A reset, if you will. A friend sent me a text telling me she thought this could be a “reset” and I hope she is right. Friends, we need it. But we will only receive the gift if we turn our faces towards the biting wind with thankfulness and an open hand.