(By Elaine Stawinski)
The best way I can characterize the past few months is that there have been some high highs and some low lows. Many have said that in a crisis situation, strengths and weaknesses are both magnified – this has been my experience as my empathy and compassion for others have been enlarged, yet my feeling of inadequacy, of not being good enough, seems to rear its ugly head more prominently.
Before COVID-19, I felt the hustle and bustle of life - moving through a series of moments from a work and home perspective. At times it felt a bit robotic because there were tasks and activities to do in a set order: wake up, prepare to go to work, pack lunch, drop off son, catch the train for work, work, catch the train home, pick up son, make dinner, eat dinner, fun time with son, bath time, read to son, lie with son, wake up in the middle of night and try to go back to sleep and REPEAT! I should say that my husband is a big help with our child and home activities so I do not shoulder all the responsibility by any means.
With COVID-19, this routine was thrown out the window and we now have the added uncertainty of not knowing what was going to happen in the days ahead. Here are a few thoughts that I’ve been reflecting on:
• While we are all in the same storm, we are not all in the same boat. What I’ve learned is that we can make no assumptions about how somebody else is experiencing and processing all of this. This is such an individual experience and while I may want to jump into solution mode and fix things, I can be most helpful by listening, encouraging and showing kindness.
• We aren’t working from home during a pandemic. We are staying same at home during the pandemic and trying to get some work done. This phrase resonated with me because of how plainly it depicts my current circumstances. I am fortunate to have a role where I can work from home and it is hard to get work done with a spirited and energized four-year-old vying and demanding for your attention! I simply cannot expect others and myself to be operating at the same productivity and energy levels. Just for the record, this doesn’t apply to only parents with young kids. Each situation is unique and comes with its own challenges and burdens from taking care of elderly parents to individuals living alone, etc.
• What you see is what you get! What I’ve appreciated about working from home is that there is stronger connection amongst my colleagues and team. I get a view into their home life, I may see children and pets in and out of meetings and what I often see is very raw. That perfect image that we may have expected from ourselves or seen in others is now replaced with a real human being! There is something authentic and vulnerable about this and it opens the conversations amongst colleagues in a very unique and positive way.
When I find myself feeling low – whether it is exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed, or boredom, I try to shift my focus from myself to God. I’m mindful of my choice of words inside my head and what I verbalize externally. I’m very much a work in progress and by no means have mastered any of this! Here are a few ways I’m trying to make this shift along with some of my favorite verses:
• From “I’m exhausted” to “I’m energized for the things that matter most to me.”
“The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).
• From “I’m overwhelmed” to “I have choices I can make even if that means saying no or not now.”
“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help” (Psalm 121:1).
• From “I’m bored” to “I can take responsibility for how I can pass my time.”
“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11).
I would be remiss to not share some of the high highs…it has been a blessing having the opportunity to have breakfast, lunch and dinner and pass the days with my husband and son, go for walks in the day, etc. Of course, life isn’t always rosy by any means – we do get on each other’s nerves and do need some breaks from one another!
I still do lie with my four-year-old son and enjoy staring at him while he is sleeping so innocently beside me. One time, I did just that and turned onto my back only to feel a violent thump of my son’s foot kicking me in the stomach – OUCH!
Me: "You just kicked me in the stomach!"
T: "I had a bad dream. The zebras were chasing us. I was on the cheetah and we couldn't go fast enough.” He turned away and rolled to the other side and drifted back to sleep.
Speaking of new routines, every day my son asks me why I have to work so much. Today he whimsically suggested, “Maybe you will surprise me tomorrow with a day off of work!” He has also astutely inquired, “Why is the workweek 5 days and the weekend only 2 days? This is not fair!” He has stormed his way into a closed room where I was working and on a call with my colleagues where he cheekily exclaimed, “Why are you always stuck in this room all day on calls?” and winningly grinned at my colleagues on video. On a more serious note, my son has been asking a lot of questions about heaven, salvation, everything from “How do I believe?” to whether there are beds in heaven. Please do remember him in your prayers and that he would come to know the Lord.
To close, it really is OK to not be OK sometimes – there isn’t a need to beat ourselves up when this happens and the lonely battles in the valley only reveal our dependency on Him. Be kind to yourself and to others. I would humbly and sincerely encourage you to all keep looking up and seek for ways to uplift those around you – with the Lord’s help, you've got this!