This Pandemic is Freaking Me Out
How is it February already? Not just February, but 2021? For me, it feels like the earth stopped turning in late February/early March 2020, and the aggressive way that my calendar INSISTS on moving forward regardless of the complete halt in a lot of our lives is… freaking me out, man. You think I’d be used to pandemic anxiety by now, right? Ha.
If you read my last post, you know I am still processing plenty of pandemic questions. One of those problems? Overwhelm. In fact, I was so overwhelmed by the sheer number of challenges we’ve faced in the past year that I had to narrow it down to a handful that I think are pretty universal. I call them THE BIG THREE.
These are huge topics unto themselves, and we only have so much energy for blog-reading. We’ve already covered #1, so today we’ll dive into #2!
The Neverending Wait
In my last post, I talked about the crazy difficulty of balancing the crappy reality of our current circumstances with the humbling belief that God’s sovereign. I encouraged us all to take action instead of sitting around angsting about all the bad going on, or kicking up our feet and waiting for God to swoop in and fix it. But now the question is… when to act?
“The Neverending Wait” is the name I’ve given to all the, well, waiting… that happens during a pandemic. And that’s a loooooot of waiting. I’m based in Chicago, and we’ve been hovering in between full-on SIP orders and pretty intense mask/capacity/travel restrictions since early March 2020. At first we all hoped, “This is just for two weeks, and then it’ll blow over.”
I don’t know about you, but that first two weeks felt like spring break to me! No work? No social events? Everything is canceled? Awesome! I took a lot of naps, and I learned to make bread like everyone else on Instagram. It was nice, for a while… But it was kinda sad that my beautiful, brand new 2020 planner was suddenly useless. Everything I’d planned for the next few months had a thick, black line drawn through it, which really irks me because I like to keep my planner pretty. And then, instead of drawing lines through canceled plans, I was turning the pages of my planner and finding… nothing. Blank pages.
When Am I?
That’s when I started to question the very construct of time itself. Did anyone else eat breakfast for dinner more than a couple of times? Forget what day of the week it was? Or wreck their sleep schedule staying up way too late playing video games because… nowhere to be tomorrow anyway? Our calendars and watches literally stopped mattering… Then suddenly it was June! And I first started noticing this new phrase that’s become part of our daily vocabulary.
Raise your hand if you hear someone say something about “the before times” at LEAST twice a day.
*everyone raises a hand*
When it finally sank in that the pandemic wasn’t as temporary as I’d been led to believe… And some pieces of the old “normal” may never come back. I got depressed! I felt like all the hard work and progress I’d made in my career had been taken from me, and I didn’t see the point of putting anymore energy into the things I used to care about. There was almost a grieving process for the life I lost. I’m a 3 on the Enneagram, friends… achieving goals is what satisfies me, and I can get behind a little rest now and then, but to completely lose my momentum? I was floored, frozen. A lot of us were. How much hard work have we put into our lives, our relationships, our careers, over the past several years, only to feel like it was all wiped clean by a glitch in the time/space continuum?
More Anger and Despair
This second phase of waiting involved a lot more anger and despair for me than the first. I couldn’t see the end. I recollected the before times with intense jealousy for my former self, all the great places she used to go on a daily basis, the outfits she got to wear, the people she got to see, the sights, the sounds… I was desperate to figure out a way to reconnect with her. To rustle up the disciple to somehow forge ahead without any of the resources I had in those before times. I felt a huge pressure to not let this silly pandemic slow me down, in complete denial of all the very real challenges we face after periods of extreme isolation. It turns out that I was not, in fact, immune to the depression, the overwhelm, the lack of motivation, and numerous other symptoms most of us have battled in the face of COVID-19.
And then I settled in. “This is it,” I thought, “the new normal.” Why stress about all the work I would have been doing if nothing had gone wrong in 2020 when… I could just kick back and wait for the darn virus to disappear. Take a break. Wait for the “after times.” This was my third phase. The one that feels like a natural state for procrastinators. Sure, we’re making ambitious plans, but there’s nothing we can do about them right now, right? We just have to wait until the world opens back up, right?
It’s a LOT more comfortable for me to chill out in this phase, because then I can at least pretend that my future holds some productivity, some life, but really… I was just denying reality again, longing for the “after times.”
What about the NOW Times?
Waiting usually goes hand-in-hand with longing. People aren’t usually willing to wait for very long unless there’s the promise of something they really want on the other side. So all this pandemic waiting? It’s just longing. Maybe you’re longing for the “before times,” or maybe you’re longing for the “after times.” Either way, you’re not living.
My two cents? When you’re feeling trapped inside a time/space continuum of neverending waiting… stop waiting. And I don’t mean run outside without a mask and declare that you’re “done” with the pandemic! Be safe. Be smart. Do your part. But don’t give up all your God-given agency because the world looks a little different than you were expecting. If you’re tired of sitting on the couch, stand up! If you’re tired of scrolling through Instagram, delete it from your phone! If you’re tired of making the same food every week, make a new recipe! If you’re thinking, “Actually, I kind of don’t want this pandemic to end, because I never want to go back to my office,” start applying for remote jobs NOW instead of resigning yourself to a future you know won’t be fun. Waiting doesn’t have to be synonymous with stagnation.
Build a Life You Love NOW
Your life may look a little smaller than it used to, but there’s no reason you can’t be building a life you love NOW, even if you know you’ll want more later. God gave us these minds and hearts that are capable of longing for a reason… He wants to see us do amazing things! But there’s no checklist for what qualifies as “amazing.” We get His love and radical acceptance whether we’re using our divine gifts to climb the corporate ladder, make memes, save lives, compose a symphony, learn the latest TikTok dance, or grow a new sourdough starter from scratch. Just because you can’t live the way you thought you would, doesn’t mean you have to wait and wait and wait and wait and wait to live, love, feel joy, and be satisfied. You can feel those things now.
Thanks for letting me be vulnerable with you! I hope connecting with my experiences is helpful in processing your own. It’s totally normal to be experiencing impatience, anxiety, anger, and depression at a time like this, but there is hope. Here is a resource that will help you gain greater understanding about God’s love for you and His ability to care for you… and as always HopeCoaches are available 7 days a week if you need to chat.
Stay safe, and come back soon for more on THE BIG THREE.
– Cara Beth
“The Insane Paradox” encompasses everything that went wrong in the past year and Cara Beth’s struggle to reconcile that with the Christian belief commonly expressed as “Don’t worry! God is still on His Throne!” she still struggled.
About the Author…
Cara Beth Heath is a freelance writer and editor based in Chicago, Illinois. She loves words and all the different ways they can come together to illuminate the world for us. All she wants to do is use her God-given word skills to bring light into dark places, and when she’s not doing that, she’s probably wrapped up in a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate watching a movie or playing Dungeons & Dragons… God loves nerds too!
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio