the beauty of perspective

I remember those days completely, clearly, soberly. I remember the depth of what I felt. I remember, also, some very specific moments… like Andy and Rebecca taking turns spending the night so Mark and I could finally get some sleep… Marte´ filling my thermos with mocha each morn… Cindy bringing butterflied shrimp rockefeller to the waiting room… my family, Doug and Jan, the Y’s and more, fervently lifting us up in prayer… Dr. Claudia, too, actually calling to talk to my incoherent, infant son, as he lay there motionless, hooked up to multiple meds, unable to breathe on his own most of that month of March. He was in critical care.

My situation was dire. It was absolutely unwanted and unexpected, and it was one of the most gut-wrenching, grueling experiences of my life.

Then there was the morning more began to congregate in the room next door. In and out, members of the medical team would go. The pace was swift. The mood was somber.

A fascinating thing about the ICU wing of the hospital… no matter what’s happening in one room, the staff still has to be painstakingly attentive to who’s in each of the other rooms. When the cardiac RN went from the adjacent room and then into ours, with the tracks of her tears still evident on her cheeks, I learned the heart transplant involving ten year old Tabitha next door was unsuccessful.

Friends, I have no desire today to write about my experience in my son’s initial year of life. It’s not that I mind sharing Josh’s story — we learn so incredibly much through the gut-wrenching and grueling; it’s just that today, there’s a more relevant insight to share. It’s the value and beauty of perspective.

Perspective means understanding how a piece of a puzzle fits with the whole — how one aspect, opinion, or experience relates to the entirety of all that’s going on. While my son’s plight was awful, for example, it was still not the plight of the precious adolescent next door.

With the current economic shutdown, we hear increased grumbling. We hear frustration. We hear weariness, sadness — exhaustion and anxiousness, too.

I get it. Our plights are hard.

Key events, experiences, long-planned moments and celebrations have been cancelled… weddings, funerals, vacations, etc.

Think of graduation. High school and college grads have been dreaming of that day since they waddled through the elementary doors. All the pomp and circumstance is simply gone.

How then is wise to react?

Allow me to quote Lydia Lee, a high school senior in northwest Iowa and future Iowa State Cyclone…

“I spent days wallowing in grief over the missed opportunities I worked so hard for. My sadness was warranted, but here’s the deal: Each one of us is at a crossroads, and we must choose the path to take. We can either continue down the road of self-pity, or we can rise up.”

That’s it. Our sadness (and grumbling and frustration and weariness, etc.) actually is warranted. It’s understandable given this unwanted and unexpected situation. 

But Lydia goes one step further, which is the more relevant insight to share today. Hear it from her — not from me…

“We all seem to carry on with our lives without a care in the world until we are completely stopped in our tracks. Here’s a valuable lesson: Nothing in life is promised. And once this whole coronavirus craze is over, let’s not forget it. Make the most of every second. Know that no tomorrow is never guaranteed.

As challenging as this has been, let’s maintain perspective. Thousands of people around the world are sick and dying. Many have lost their jobs or are mourning the loss of loved ones. Though it doesn’t minimize your struggle, remember that the world is struggling alongside us. None of us is in this alone.”

Let’s maintain perspective. Our individual struggles are not minimized. Be sensitive. Simply be aware of the bigger situation, the entirety of all that’s going on… including, I soberly suggest, of the precious person next door.

For the record, Josh is scheduled to graduate this May. Not sure what that’s going to look like now — the school is still shut down, the ceremony is postponed, and people probably won’t be able to get here.

But 18 years after he lay motionless on that hospital bed, there is much to celebrate.

That’s the beauty of perspective.

Respectfully…

AR

the current marathon

Drake sings it.

Dr. Phil likes to say it.

Many more repeat it still.

“It’s a marathon — not a sprint.”

I keep thinking about that comment. I keep thinking about it especially now. While still more feel it’s a vastly overused expression, my sense is that yes, our current societal state is a marathon indeed. Right now, the concept is not overused.

Listen to how infamous marathoners speak…

From Bill Rodgers, four time Boston Marathon winner:

“The advice I have for beginners is the same philosophy that I have for runners of all levels of experience and ability: consistency, a sane approach, moderation, and making your running an enjoyable, rather than dreaded, part of your life.”

And from Grete Waitz, a nine time New York City Marathon winner:

“For every finish-line tape a runner breaks — complete with the cheers of the crowd and the clicking of hundreds of cameras — there are the hours of hard and often lonely work that rarely gets talked about.”

I’ve listened to my friends…

Marathons are hard.

They go on… and on…

Sometimes they go on longer than we’d like them to. Many of us would like to stop by mile number 19… maybe even 2…

They are mentally exhausting.

Draining, in fact.

It takes training…

A combination of preparation and mental and physical training.

And it’s so challenging…

… often the physical vs. mental — and when one seems most acute, the other becomes more prominent…

Most times it’s more mentally challenging than physically.

I hear you. Friends, this is tough… and much of the above is said by friends that have run many, many marathons… even some 24 hour, 100 mile marathons… with all due respect — that’s crazy! 

But what about when we’re done?

When done, it can be euphoric…

So proud to persevere…  

To have accomplished the goal.

In fact…

“Sometimes you’re prouder of the harder races. Those are the ones I most remember — those that were a physical and mental battle. They make me tougher. The easy days, well, they’re a blur.”

Friends, these days are indeed a marathon. They are the harder races. But take note of the growth, strength and wisdom that results from the hard. This has the potential to be good. We don’t want it to be a blur!

Granted, there’s one more elusive challenge. When a runner runs, a runner plans. They have a training schedule and a noted time frame. They know the day and they know the end. They know specifically when the end will come. They begin with the end in mind.

So what will be said of us? We don’t know the end.

But how will we run?

What will be said of us when this is done?

Remember… this could be good. We could speak of such as a growth-filled, community-building, learning-what-we-most-have-in-common time.

Let us make it so.

Respectfully…

AR

wondering about the inevitable & the illusion

COVID-19 has gotten the world’s attention.

With our daily routines suspended, with both work and play at a standstill, the distractions have dissipated. We’ve stopped and slowed down long enough to wonder. 

I speak not of wondering when major league sports will resume. I speak neither of when there will be sufficient toilet paper on the shelves or when hugs and handshakes will again be socially acceptable.

We’ve stopped and slowed down long enough to wonder about what means more.

There’s a reason that Google searches for prayer have increased exponentially over the last 4 weeks. “Skyrocketing,” in fact, might be the more accurate term. As University of Copenhagen Associate Professor of Economics Jeanet Sinding Bentzen researched and reports, it’s happening across the globe. Says Bentzen, “The rise in prayer intensity supersedes what the world has seen for years.”

I suppose it doesn’t surprise me.

Spreading so swiftly with serious symptoms and an unprecedented, potentially high mortality rate, COVID-19 is scary. Why? Because it reveals what we already knew.

As perhaps best put by my wise friend…

“Death is inevitable and control is an illusion.”

As we hear increasingly more of those inflicted with the pandemic, we get a sobering glimpse of our own mortality. Our death will happen one day, and it’s out of our control. 

I suppose, therefore, it also doesn’t surprise me that the coronavirus shutdown overlaps with Easter this year. Not with Passover either. I mean, sometimes, often, precisely because of those daily routines and work and play, I don’t always take the time to think and reflect about what means more… about who God is and who we are in relationship to him…

I don’t always take the time to ask the bigger questions… who is God? … who is man/woman? … what is salvation?… what does history say?… what happens after this?… how can I be sure I’ve done enough to get into heaven?… what am I ignoring because it’s easier or more convenient?… what have I refused to wrestle with?…

I don’t always take the time to wonder about what means more.

Easter helps me with that. It helps me first of all in that it is incredibly, widely celebrated by billions across the globe. It is the celebration of Jesus Christ, living and breathing on this planet, teaching tons of wisdom — including that he was God’s son, who was then tortured and crucified, but then (a pretty big ‘then’ here) actually came back to life. Jesus beat death, the only person on the planet to ever do so. Death was not inevitable for him.

What helps me next is knowing how all the world’s major religions — even though they choose not to worship Jesus — respect him and verify his existence. For example…

  • Buddhism teaches that Jesus was a wise teacher and enlightened. 
  • Hinduism teaches that Jesus was a wise teacher and a holy man. 
  • Islam teaches that Jesus is to be revered, that he was born of Mary, that he was a prophet, and that he actually ascended into heaven in bodily form.
  • Judaism also teaches that Jesus is to be revered and that he was born to Mary, performed many miracles, and was crucified.

It fascinates me, too, in that even the religions which existed prior to Jesus walking on this planet have come to incorporate him in their teaching or recognition of Earthly life.

All that to say that it’s often easy to not ask the questions about what means more. Sometimes we’re distracted.

But with COVID-19’s impact on Easter 2020, and the glaring reality before each of us that death is inevitable, I can’t help…

 … but wonder.

Blessings, friends… wherever you are… whatever you believe… knowing there are wise next steps for each of us to take…

Respectfully… be safe…

AR

a story to tell

As the days turn into weeks and our new normal continues, I’ve found myself wrestling with perhaps one of the most profound, emerging truths. Don’t get me wrong. I’m believing the truth has always existed. But consistent with the prudent process of maturity, maybe previously I couldn’t have seen it. Maybe previously I wouldn’t have been humble, reflective, or something-enough to recognize what’s now so obviously real.

Hence, with all due respect to our INTJ’s or ISTP’s on the Myers-Briggs scale, DISC styles S and C, and our trendy Enneagram 4’s and 5’s, we need community.

Allow me to say that once more… 

We need community.

Let us resist defining what community looks like; let us not dictate to our aforementioned introverts that they be forced into uncomfortable manifestations of gregarious sociability. But the learning here is that the need for community is not personality-based. This shutdown is acutely unveiling that.

The concept of “community” comes from from the Old French comunité — meaning “community, commonness, everybody” — which comes from the Latin communitas — “community, society, fellowship” — from communis — “common, public, general, shared by all or many.”

Commonness… everybody… shared by all or many…

What has been made glaringly obvious by this shutdown?

What is shared by all or many.

In one way, I’m thankful for the realization. I mean, as a nation — as a planet, perhaps — we have spent so much, often passionate effort in finding our identity in some sort of society-severing pursuit, valiant as we have convinced ourselves the effort may be. 

Remember Robert Putnam’s fascinating work from 2001, Bowling Alone… “Once we bowled in leagues, usually after work — but no longer.” 

The Harvard professor addresses how we as a society have depleted so much of our social capital; we have “divorced” community. He continues with the precarious consequence that “people divorced from community, occupation, and association are first and foremost among the supporters of extremism.”

It’s as if we have forgotten what’s shared by all or many.

It’s as if we have forgotten — or at the very least diminished — community.

My sense is we have diminished community by only equally valuing those who share our experience, circumstance, conviction, or ideology. And the moment equal value is reserved only for such likemindedness, we have made community something less that what it is.

We all need nourishment. We all need freedom. We all need to navigate through life in a healthy sort of way. Heck, we even all need toilet paper.

But the point is that we need each other; we need community.

No doubt what has personally, humbly helped me most is attempting to discern the biggest thing we have in common. If we can do that, then hopefully we will not value anyone lesser.

Hence, holding this truth to be self-evident, every human ever on the planet — each of us — was created in the image of God.

Whether you’re a believer or a skeptic — with great respect for wherever you are — that’s the biggest common denominator I can think of: created in the image of God. And the more we look at others that way, the more we’re able to resist paring the common down to something lesser… the more we recognize what community really is.

So as we wind through these days, allow me one more question: when all this is over, when we’re at the end of COVID-19, what story will you tell?

If we say we learned we need community, such will be a very good story to tell.

Respectfully…

AR

seeking what’s better & good

Today was one of those days I actually scrapped our planned post in the eleventh hour. Make no mistake about it. And no apologies either. It’s not that the planned post wasn’t encouraging, insightful or good. It simply didn’t say enough for this poignant moment in time. I have a sincere desire to maximize the moment.

Our previous focus was targeted on what we need more of — and what we can do without right now. 

What do we need more of?

The good.

Quoting ABC 7 News in San Francisco, the Burlington Free Press, Buzzfeed, the LA Times and more, we pointed out the good.

[Speaking of good, let us still share this amazing development from www.feedingamerica.org: “We are deeply grateful for Jeff Bezos’ generous $100 million contribution to Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund. This donation, the largest single gift in our history, will enable us to provide more food to millions of our neighbors facing hardship during this crisis. Countless lives will be changed because of his generosity.” That is so good!]

But all that to say that my desire this day is to make a stronger, more concise point…

What we need right now is unity, community, and shared purpose.

What we don’t need is blame, partisanship, and social media rants.

Turn the news off perhaps. Is the news you watch encouraging unity, community, and shared purpose? Or is it encouraging increased blame and the pointing of fingers?

Dare I say: if the latter, that’s not helpful, wise, nor good.

Last week I heard a wise man say (who has never voted for the current President): “I don’t care who you voted for four years ago. I don’t care if you voted for Trump or can’t stand him. Right now, we should all be rooting for him to succeed.” We need each of us to be at our best right now.

Hence, this isn’t about Trump nor any other party or politician. This is about what’s best for all humankind.

Let me not diminish the valid concerns many of us have in all proverbial partisan aisles. Let me not validate nor invalidate the concerns reasonable, good thinking people have in regard to our leaders and those who desire to lead. Let me not even validate or invalidate disagreement.

But let us stand for something bigger and more.

Let us stand for solution. 

For compassion. 

And let us stand for the awareness that the COVID-19 impact and response is bigger than any human political agenda.

This is big, friends. 

Take some time to process what’s happening. Take some time to recognize this is all so out of our control; man is so incapable. Is it any wonder that Google searches for “prayer” have skyrocketed over the past two weeks?

My sense is people recognize there is something bigger and more; this isn’t all there is.

I pray we seek what’s bigger…

… what comes next?
… what comes after this?
… and how do we proceed more unified and together than before?

Let us start by proceeding with first best steps now.

Respectfully…

AR

an awesome podcast & comparative suffering

No doubt one of the best things we can fuel ourselves with at this crazy moment in time is a dose of realistic hope. Dr. Brené Brown is one person who consistently offers that for me. So much so, I took a few notes from one of her recent podcasts…

“We have collectively hit weary. This is especially true for the brave folks on the front lines of this pandemic and for the people who love and support them. And it’s also true for all of us… we are nearing kind of an exhaustion that we need to talk about.”

We have collectively hit weary. You can almost feel the sighs. Yes, let’s talk…

“The adrenaline surge of crisis is never as long as we need it to be, but it’s often long enough to get us through the immediate danger… you know… the flood, the hurricane, the landslide… the death of someone we love.”

Right. And the challenge with this time is the crisis-mode is lasting longer. We have lost our sense of normal. Or as you say, “sweet, wonderful, normal life.” So how then do we do this well?…

“We’re going to need to create a new normal and grieve the loss of normal at the same time. And I think that’s going to require focus, breath, and moving from fear and anxiety to proactively developing a strategy with solid information.”

So good… speak more to that solid information, please. We’ve been discussing here some of the current fueling of fear, wanting to be realistic and cautious, but not fear driven…

“Limit your news intake. Limit your screen time. Find one or two reliable sources that you trust that are around science and epidemiology… and even within a good science and epidemiological crew, there are calm spreaders and fear mongers. So find the right folks and lean in…”

[I’d like to believe the Intramuralist is always one of the calm spreaders… I’m leery of those Brené references later, who unfortunately, “pour gasoline on the anxiety fire”…]

You speak, no less, of our nation’s need to “settle the ball” a little bit — utilizing the soccer term in which a player intentionally, briefly pauses for the purpose of getting control of the ball… “Bring it down, get it between our feet, read the field, be more thoughtful about where we’re sending things next.” Hence, you encourage two strategies… first…

“Put together a family gap plan, and start naming where you are. When we can’t come up with 100, what’s the gap plan?”

Meaning, sometimes there’s only 20% left in my emotional and physical tank; I have little left to give in a day. And if there’s only two of us in our household, for example — and he’s at 35% — we’re barely treading water. That far under 100%, there’s a gap. So do a family check in. Name your number. What do each of us need to get our collective team back to 100%? Sleeping, moving the body, and eating well — each are vital. So to the second strategy, which totally fits…

“Strategy #2 is around comparative suffering. So fear and scarcity are driving a lot of our thinking and feeling right now. We all know what fear is; scarcity is a first cousin of fear — born of fear. It is the ‘I’m not enough,’ ‘we don’t have enough,’ ‘when is there going to be enough.’ You can see scarcity manifesting itself right now in the grocery store aisles… you can tell a culture is deeply in scarcity when the conversation at a cultural level revolves around ‘what should I be afraid of right now’ and ‘whose fault is it.’ And so, you can see a lot of scarcity leadership right now…

Unfortunately one of the things that’s immediately triggered when we go into fear and scarcity is comparison — comparison and ‘who’s got more,’ ‘who’s got it better,’ and ‘what are they doing.’ What’s crazy about comparison in fear and scarcity is that even our pain and hurt are not immune to being assessed and ranked.”

Wow. We all do it; it doesn’t sound helpful. We can’t deny how we feel, but no need to rank and diminish…

“The entire myth of comparative suffering is that empathy is finite. That empathy is like pizza. So when you practice empathy with someone like yourself, there’s less to go around.”

In other words we might have less to give the person who really needs empathy?…

“False. When we practice empathy with ourselves, we create more empathy. Love, y’all, is the last thing we need to ration in this world… empathy is the antidote to shame.”

So what do we need to be more empathetic?…

“What’s helpful is perspective. Complaining is ok. Letting ourselves feel these hard emotions is important and mandatory to be empathic people. [But] Piss and moan with a little perspective.”

So sounds like whether wrestling with the latest cancellation — my one son perhaps now in danger of never wearing that celebrated cap and gown — my relative who lost his job — or one of my BFF’s who’s weary walking out in the world being in the high risk category — having perspective is necessary and wise. 

I admit, friends; this is hard. We’re experiencing a collective weariness. But even with this new normal, I’m determined to persevere, no matter good days or bad — acknowledging both exist — and as my buddy, Brené, says, putting more empathy in the world. 

Respectfully…

AR

excellent during a crisis

After entering the professional world years ago (and earning my first “real” paycheck, if you know what I mean), I remember one of those early performance reviews. It was the first time someone on the other side of the desk looked me square in the eye and said, “You are excellent during a crisis.”

Now let me not flaunt some fictitious notion that my performance is always excellent. Let me also not suggest that I am continuously calm, cool, and collected 24/7, 365 days a year. I am not.

But as the COVID-19 crisis has caused an unprecedented profound, prolonged response, I have reflected back multiple times in regard to what it means to be “excellent during a crisis”… and how in these watershed societal moments, we have the somewhat veiled opportunity to bring out the best in one another.

To bring out the best in another means we aid and encourage another’s best qualities be made manifest.

No doubt in order to do such, we must omit any selfish ambition or vain conceit. We need to be humble — and thus see no one nor no other path or plight as better or worse than our own. We look down on no one. Period. We are in this together.

Perhaps it’s why on my recent, limited grocery jaunts, I’ve stopped to thank each re-stocker, often working feverishly in individual aisles. All I do is stop my six feet away and say, “Thank you for working.”

I must say, I’ve been amazed at those who’ve done the immediate double-take, clearly surprised, suggesting, “WHAT did you say??”

When I repeat my gratitude for them because they are working extra hard so that there’s food in my fridge — recognizing that they, too, need food in their fridge — the double-take morphs into an obvious, deliberate smile. They thank me. They are unquestionably, sincerely appreciative.

(I wonder why then, we do not share such gratitude on a daily basis… even in absence of this moment in time…)

So how can we bring out the best in another?

Right now.

Perhaps we start by thinking less of ourselves.

Let’s be clear that I suggest not we look down on self in any way. As iconic author C.S. Lewis was infamously known for saying, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

I’m guessing I’m not going out on too much of a limb here to suppose that each of us could grow in learning to think of ourselves less.

So we keep our eyes open. We recognize our own propensity for conceit, and stretch ourselves to see more than ourselves…

Who around you needs help?

Who nearby won’t reach out, but you know a simple act or gift (from six feet away) would be incredibly encouraging?

Who is lonely that would love a phone call?

Who is fearful that could use some support?

Who has lost their job that would appreciate a listening ear or word of hope?

And who, I ask, would be moved by our thanks?

Be persistent, friends. Be curious enough to pursue the people around you. The longer this continues and each of us learns to persevere — having good days and bad — let it be said that we were “excellent during a crisis.”

Respectfully…

AR

gratitude vs. entitlement

So I did a little bit of a word search this week…

What’s the opposite of gratitude?

A casual search suggests ingratitude, thoughtlessness, rudeness, disregard, refusal, and multiple more responses.

A more creative search suggests a lack of appreciation for something given or done to you or to someone else.

It is reasonable, therefore, to include that the opposite of gratitude is entitlement.

I admit. I have multiple feelings of subtle and not-so-subtle entitlement.

For example, yesterday afternoon, moments before I was to host an online virtual meeting, my internet slowed and the connection destabilized. I was more than a little irritated that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do — what I felt I needed to do. I admit… I feel my internet should always work quickly and efficiently (… regardless of whether or not the entire globe is online and shopping at Amazon at the moment).

To be entitled is to feel a right to…

… to feel deserving of.

I get it. We feel deserving of a lot of things.

But what if right now, at this unprecedented moment in history, those feelings of entitlement are actually obstacles?

What if that sense that we deserve something, gets in the way of walking through the current pandemic in a healthy way?

And what if any entitlement we feel, keeps us from being grateful — when maybe, just maybe, intentional expressions of gratitude might be our wisest and healthiest, intentional response?

No doubt in a “glass-is-half-full” approach, there are multiple areas in which each of us can currently grow…

In our practice of courage…

This is a challenging time. As the articulate Dr. Brené Brown shares, “Courage is a habit, a virtue: you get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn to courage by courage-ing.” Maybe we need to each practice courage-ing right now… I wonder what effect that would have on our anxiety and fears…

In the practice of self-discipline… 

With calls for social distancing and to “shelter in place,” this can be hard — especially for the extroverts, sanguine, and Enneagram 7’s and 3’s! But the change in routine, isolation, and staying put isn’t easy; we have to change things we otherwise might not. However, there is no doubt that self-discipline is a very wise thing… I wonder what would happen later if more of us would learn such now…

So what if we also then grew in our gratitude?

Instead of complaining about what we don’t have, what if we were grateful for what we do?

Instead of complaining about our circumstances, what if we grateful for something within them? What if we were intent about finding that which is good?

Back to Dr. Brown for a moment, as we quote her once more this day…

“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness — it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.”

So in these trying times — when the certain is uncertain — resisting the temptation to make certain, therefore, what we cannot — how might be wise to respond?

Dare I suggest… by intentionally choosing gratitude instead of entitlement.

It’s right in front of us…

… that is, if we’re paying attention.

Respectfully…

AR

cartwheels in the park

And there she was… the young gal, maybe 19, 20… doing cartwheel after cartwheel in the afternoon sunshine in the park. As I was out for my daily walk (which is a little bit longer now since my local gym is closed), it struck me…

What does it take to do cartwheels in the park?

Excuse me. Allow me to reframe the question…

At this crazy moment in our culture — unlike any most of us have ever faced — what does it take to get through the time in a cautious yet still carefree way? … in a way in which we are prudent in ample precaution, yet don’t fall prey to a paralyzing sense of worry and hysteria? … in this time of uncertainty — when there’s a temptation to make the uncertain certain — what does it take to still do the cartwheel in the park?

No doubt the desire to minimize the pandemic’s speed and spread will have crucial consequences. Our economy is currently crumbling; American production has been halted in multiple areas; and soon the job losses may be measured in millions. In addition to those who actually catch COVID-19, the longer this continues — prudent as the nationwide shutdown may be — the loss of income and employment will be devastating to many. Again, there is much uncertainty, of which it is impossible for us to make certain.

So what can we do?

(With all due respect to the sagacious Steven M. Covey) Allow me to semi-humbly share what we’ll refer to today as “The 7 Habits of Highly Hopeful People”…

1. Be educated but not obsessed.

Get the news. Watch the news. Maybe (even better) read the news. But beware of the bias (as it’s always there). Know when to turn the TV off.

2. Contemplate community.

Have you ever considered the authentic value of community? Groups of people, coming together, caring for one another… How can we help? What can we do for one another? What can we share?… Differences do not matter. Community will always mean more.

3. Keep the faith.

I remember years ago, when my youngest son had to be moved to critical care because he could not breathe on his own. As the doctor shared the depth of the then-current, potentially dire diagnosis, I listened, asked questions for clarity, and remained calm. When the physician exited the room, one nurse remained, dumbfounded and shaking her head… “I don’t get it. I don’t understand how you could stay so calm.”
I don’t remember being a person of many words that day. I simply responded, “There’s a reason I have the faith that I do. I’m not going to give up on that now.”

4. Say your prayers.

Over the years I’ve learned prayer is a bit of a two way street. That’s probably why the Intramuralist isn’t a fan of the “thoughts & prayers” memes in which the prayers part is crossed out. I get the frustration with inaction, but I’d never want to be in a position in which I denied the power of prayer. Granted, sometimes it’s easiest to deny what we don’t understand. I suspect that prompts me to pray a little more.

5. Omit the politics.

I know this is not popular with the passionate, but there is a time for partisan pursuits, and that is not now. It only fuels denigration and disrespect; it can also fuel both denial and fear, and it possibly even slows solution. A wiser approach would be coming together for a common purpose — rooting for each of our leaders to succeed.

6. Recognize the beauty of rest.

I remember hearing someone say years ago, “If Satan can’t make us bad, he’ll make us busy.” Sometimes we’re so busy, we miss the simple joys in life… the small touches, kind acts, quiet times, and time with family. I said it previously and I’ll say it again: the wisest people I know have learned the unforced rhythms of rest. They intentionally stop or slow down, recognizing the rejuvenating gift.

And 7. Utilize leisure well.

What are those things you love to do but typically don’t take the time to do? Maybe read a book. Play a game. Put together a puzzle or two. Write a letter. Take a bath. Binge watch “The Office.” Call that old high school friend. Be intentional. 

Me?

What else will I do?

Well, I have a confession to make.

Embarrassing as this is to at this life stage finally confess and publicly share, I have never — and I do mean never — been able to do a cartwheel. All growing up, I watched so many of my middle and high school friends — Amy, Andy, Kevin, Kristen, Jerry, Jill, Paula, Peggy, Steve and more — hop, leap, and seemingly jump circles all around me! But still… I could never do a cartwheel.

Maybe this week I’ll try.

Respectfully…

AR

a wise response (& 5 more questions)

As society slows, what can we learn? Is there something we can glean and grow from? … maybe even something that is — dare I say — potentially good?

Something amid this latest version of March madness, perhaps?

Allow me to first and foremost acknowledge that the scope of this virus is sobering; we need to take prudent and practical precautions. Let me also say that no wise one would wish it on anyone; such would negate any consideration as wise.

That said, what could result in what is potentially good?

Allow me a semi-humble stab… in question form, of course… only the following five…

Q#1: Can I better learn the rhythms of rest?

The wisest people I know have learned the unforced rhythms of rest. They intentionally pause, stop, or take a sabbath. They purposely slow down, believing it makes them better, sounder and more effective. Oprah, Roger Federer, Peter Scazzero… each speaks passionately about the need for intentional rest. With a slow down of society and encouraged self-quarantines, this may be a prudent new practice.

Q#2: Do I need to become a little more empathetic?

The impact of COVID-19 affects each of us differently. With the increased cancellations, each of us will be hurt somewhere. Me? I have two sons’ high school and college graduations that are now in jeopardy; suffice it to say, they — we — are/were very much looking forward to them. So as I recognize my own disappointment, I find it still wise to bear with each other’s burdens; consider another’s plight no better nor worse than our own. A tough but wise word would be to avoid any comparison. There is always someone who has it easier… and always someone who has it worse. 

Q#3: Is this an opportunity to grow more in my faith?

No doubt the most challenging times of my life have also been the places I’ve grown the most. And most of that growth has been in finding authentic hope — and learning to plant my trust in that. What is life without hope? The more I’ve learned that I am not in control, will never be in control, and am actually incapable of being in control, the more I’ve surrendered my want and will to the great big God of the universe. Life is not about me. No personal practice has been more helpful or hopeful. And no pursuit has provided more lasting peace. What, for each of us, no less, has sometimes stood in the way? That is a raw, honest, fantastic question.

Q#4: Where can we as a society prioritize most what we have in common?

Oh, my… we are such a divisive culture. We humans are so good at creating deep, polarizing, permanent divisive parameters! Do you recognize, in regard to COVID-19, that we all want the same thing? That we want no one more to succumb to this sickness? That’s Republicans, Democrats, white, black, brown, Asian, Hispanic, gay, straight, Christian, Jew, etc. etc. alike?? That is the biggest bottom line. Hence, to cheer about any individual identity or smaller unifier is lesser. Focus on the big. Focus on what we have in common. Focus on what means more.

And Q#5: Where can we become more creative?

This question comes to me from my articulate friend, Mary, who has done some fantastic work on this issue, professionally advising many across the globe. She is convinced that our current scenario will pave the way to more creativity and innovation. Will we be a part of those that embrace creativity? She suggests that first, we have to learn to embrace our constraints…

“… Do not become a victim to your constraints.

If you find yourself saying things like ‘now we can’t…’ or ‘poor us…’ you need to be careful, because you are on your way to becoming a victim to your constraints. 

When we let ourselves become victim to our constraints, we limit any chance of moving forward. The goal is not to be a victim, but rather to use those constraints to make us more creative in the way we solve our problems.”

She then encourages us to “ask inspiring questions”… How can we do this better? … differently? … more effectively? … efficiently? … or more?

Ask questions. 

Maybe like the five above.

Keep embracing this moment, friends. Maximize the learning, humbly aware that even in madness, there can be some sort of good.

Respectfully…

AR