I’ve been measuring anxiety on a 1-10 Scale. From Peace to Panic. I’ve boomeranged between high and mid-low numbers which as an Enneagram 9 is probably predictable. I would rarely hit 1 or 10 anyway- I leave the polar numbers for my 8 husband.
Today however I am coming in closer to a 5, which actually, dare I say, feels pretty normal. And that is something to celebrate! One perk is that it has also changed my Quarantine Nickname:
Yesterday I was combustible, but today- and perhaps today only- I am Peaceful Pop Tart. Damn good to meet ya.
On the one hand, I have discovered Pop Tarts are perfect quarantine food- long shelf life, delicious, rule-breaky, come in large boxes, and they’re nostalgic.
Uncharted territory makes me nostalgic to be sure. (Did anyone else eat nostalgic food when pregnant? Malt-o-Meal was lyfe.) FYI, Pop Tarts aren’t even that sweet. They’re just really good. Additionally, and more important than Pop Tarts, I feel like to grasp or even touch Peace for a minute is a gift. I welcome you Peace! I’d like to take a trip to Peace.
Actually, residing in it sounds even better.
A little peace reminds me that our priorities carry so much power. They always have but it’s getting more clear to me. Our priorities actually serve to establish a path before us. It reminds me of a timely lesson I’ve been in the process of learning about something else, yet applies to where we are now.
Two weeks ago –or was it 3, I have no clue because what.is.time?- I had a dream about a funeral. It was a Monday. And the dream was that I attended a funeral as a guest, but the funeral was hosted by the “deceased”- only they hadn’t died yet. Following? The person hosted their own funeral, welcomed people in a receiving line as they walked into the sanctuary. “Welcome to my funeral, lovely to see you.” I don’t need to explain to you that it was a bit odd.
It was one of those dreams that you sit with for a minute and wonder what it means. That Thursday evening I went to a party and found myself in conversation with a delightful person who while telling me numerous interesting stories also mentioned that she was from Greece.
“Where in Greece?”
“It’s a tiny island that you’ll never have heard of. BUT! It is in The Bible!” A claim to fame!
“Oh really, where? Why is it in there?”
“I actually have no idea, but I do know it’s in there.”
“Okay, I’ll look it up, how do you spell it?”
“Do. It’s C-H-I-O-S.”
“I will look it up tomorrow.”
New person entering conversation: ” ‘nother margarita Miss?”
Wake up on Friday morning, which to me feels like a book-end: Monday dream, now Friday this. When time feels wrapped in a bow like that I pay extra attention. Search for C-H-I-O-S. And I find it in ACTS 20. So I read through ACTS 20 and what is Paul doing?
Giving his own eulogy!
So Monday someone’s hosting their own funeral and Friday Paul is giving his own eulogy. What’s happening? He knows he’s going to die, that he won’t see these people again, the Ephesians, people he loved. He brings them together to hear his final sermon. Although thematically the dream and this passage were tied, they were very different. One felt like controlling things to the bitter end. It was the struggle with something you really can’t control no matter how hard you try- death. But yet, you’re still trying. The other felt like there wasn’t any grip or control but just more and more giving until the end and beyond.
What struck me is that Paul knew he faced imminent death- even though he’s the one on the right side. He could have spent all of his time traveling around telling people every angle of the injustice- how the other side is wrong and here’s why. And that could have become his story. He could have been so fearful that he ran. He could have avoided his destiny and changed history forever. He could have been so fearful that he transferred it into one of the things we all battle with from fear in trauma- control, anxiety, etc.
But his priority was not to travel around articulating how right he was. To engage or attack in anger and defense. His priority was to spend his time well with people, in peace, enjoying their company and telling them about Grace and Love and the Inheritance that awaits them, awaits us, all.
His priority established a path. His path was full of stops along the way including to Chios, hundreds of years ago so that now, in 2020, at a party, over a margarita, talking to someone I’d never met, I would grasp something simple and essential with greater understanding. Something I thought I already knew. That’s a legacy!
It was a lightbulb moment for me. Technically a campfire moment for a marshmallow.
A gentle nudge toward conviction. It revealed to me that when something goes wrong it can be tempting to build a case. Think about it in terms of relationships, and building a case to defend your position. For me, I can analyze why something is going a certain way. Then, I can come up with a list of reasons why certain behavior has happened and then centralize them all around this theme to explain why they’re bringing me strife. This can be from your casual marital bickering to bigger relationship obstacles. It’s a protective measure and one I think if used properly can have its benefits. But we are remiss to dismiss that it can really work against us too.
ACTS 20 is challenging me with the idea of upholding a position of being right. It reveals the risk in resting upon thinking that because your case is strong you may actually believe that makes the case closed. I’m right, they’re wrong. Case closed. But it’s not. And if you’ve been in a situation like that then you understand. When something has “concluded” but lingers around. Sometimes it lingers in bitterness or resentment or anger or frustration or annoyance, or angst, so, in conclusion it has not concluded at all. Because you can’t control it. Making it hard to get beyond. That’s where priorities come back into play.
To get somewhere new, I’m thinking we have to remind ourselves to fill our tanks with fruitful priorities. And then Grace can bring a true conclusion.
For example, rather than spending time listing off [exhausting] reasons why I’m right- I have to ask myself instead- What does Kindness look like in this situation? Stressful things need a frame. (Boundaries too.) And this is me admitting that even though I’m generally an easy-going, “nice person” with a positive attitude and great friends, who I genuinely love and care for, I can still forget what it means to be kind. It’s just not always easy to be kind in conflict. Even with love and kindness in my heart. And I can just assume, surely I am always kind? When I know that can’t be true. At large, sure. But in the details- not always. What am I perfect? That’s gonna be a No. Capital N. But, when I can remember the power of priority, my story generates much more life than it would if I just prioritized being right. It generates a new way.
So, Enter COVID. (But honestly, please EXIT NOW COVID.)
In our current situation I’ve realized I have been locked and loaded with the priority of being safe. Keeping my family safe. And of course! But where does true safety come from? Does it come from endless grocery runs? Mulling over our inventory and flipping out that my husband can always find things from the longterm-quarantine stock pile and just eat them completely carefree as to the fact that without that frozen trail mix we will surely not survive this!!!!!!!
Obviously, speaking of trail mix, this has turned me into a nut. My control alarm feels like it chimes all throughout the day. All the while I’m saying “It’s okay, it’s okay…” I’m producing more grocery lists, delving deeper into doomsday and self protection, and as a result having more pandemic panic. Red Alert!
But, when I remember that tool from before- to frame a stressful situation- “What does Kindness look like in this situation?” I can apply it to this too. Frame it with a fruit, if you will, and ask- “What does Peace look like in this situation?” And also, what does Kindness look like here? When you’re freaking out about trail mix it’s hard to remember our priority should be the fruits not the nuts. And specifically not being a nut.
Sometimes all it takes is a simple direct question for answers to flow. I feel like the “How To Talk to Kids So They’ll Listen” applies to our own adult brains. As in “How To Ask Your Brain A Question So It Will Stop Spinning.” Channel the powers of list-making in that vein. Think on those things. Re-direct your thoughts. So it’s like the example from before- building my case kept me busy but kept me from focusing on ways I could be kind just because it’s hard to be kind sometimes. It’s the same way that building up my pantry, thinking about it all the time, while seeking loads of information kept me from prioritizing peace.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to be safe, aware and prepared, and to have plenty of Pop Tarts- but that’s not where this concludes. It leaves too much lingering. The work in this situation has only just begun as far as what this virus will teach us. But understanding that it will teach us helps. My eyes are more open to see a new path. Even though things can be scary.
I am finding peace in:
Remembering that it’s okay not to have the answers or know exactly what to do. To let (read:force) ourselves to venture into that unknown without feeling threatened. As Brene Brown says- it’s valuable to be vulnerable and awkward in these times.
Prayer. Not the kind of prayer like the memes talk about “Oh but have they tried sending thoughts and prayers yet?” But the kind of prayer that results in a scavenger hunt about Chios that lands me in Acts 20 and shows me what Kindness is. When I’m 34. And know what kindness is. Right? That kind of prayer can surely lead the way to peace too.
Family. And really enjoying being at home for more time than we have ever spent doing that together. Obviously highs and lows in the peace sector with toddlers but I’d sound a bit shall we say… unkind… if not for listing Family plain and simple.
Opportunity, Creativity, Change. Those things make me nervous too, but the dawn of a new day can be exciting. Wondering what will be built anew as some things break down. What is being torn down here vs. What is being built here?
Community. Social media, group texting, and the desire to get back to being with our community when we can. To value it and cherish it. To appreciate all the humor- all these memes are pretty effing hilarious– and knowledge and encouragement that is being shared- beyond the fearful information exchange especially. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and fondness certainly brings peace. Appreciating your people will definitely bring peace.
The list goes on and on and that’s the good news! Cue Mary Tyler- We’re gonna make it after-all!