Standing on the beach a few days ago, I watched the waves roll in, crashing over my feet and legs. I shut my eyes and listened to the steady sound of the water; not quite a roar but strong, persistent, and calming. i also noticed that with each wave, the sand beneath my feet would shift, moving me off balance just enough to force an adjustment in my stance. I had to recalibrate to steady myself.
Peace and steadiness would be mine for a moment then it would shift again with the next wave.
The world is shifting sand right now and we are struggling to rebalance. Our firm footing has moved beneath us and we’re left feeling uneasy; off balance. The uncertainty is painful. We don’t like it.
At its heart is an unfamiliar vulnerability. Our faith in the bedrock of our system is shaken. Something dangerous and unpredictable moves among us. The structures we put in place to protect us seem inadequate. Our only defense appears to be isolation. Our only answers: hunker-down, wait and see.
In the emergency, we’ve been quick to give up liberties in the name of safety. Politicians have taken extreme measures under the banner of “State of Emergency.” Not just our President but also our Governors, Mayors, Commissions, and Councils. Travel bans. School, restaurant, and beach closings. Limited gatherings. Curfews. Shelter-in-place. Fear. Uncertainty.
One thing is clear: we aren’t prepared for this. Calls for social distancing quickly became orders to isolation. Fearful citizens started hoarding groceries. And toilet paper. Entire segments of the economy have been shut down in preparation for the worst case scenario. The prospect of which our news outlets remind us hourly. Young people are criticized for being cavalier and endangering the most vulnerable among us. Those not complying are initially shamed and now moving toward legal penalties. Fear. Uncertainty. Shifting sand.
In such times, we become consumed with the moment. That is the way of survival. Living is redefined through the lens of that “new normal.” Stripped of the artifices of a wealthy luxurious society, we retreat to the basics found within the walls of our homes while our eyes look anxiously outward. Watching the news feeds, we search for anything new. Any indication of increasing danger. In this place, we find no reassurance, only shifting sand beneath our feet.
Within these moments, it’s easy to miss the opportunities under our feet as we look restlessly toward the horizon. We forget that the sand is also shifting under the feet of those who look to us for steadiness. Locked in our homes, our children, spouse, or grandchildren watch our eyes, keying on fear, anxiety, or hope. At work, our peers look to us for reassurance…never with a spoken word. In the pause, rest so many opportunities to connect on a different level. A level nearing innocence. Who can we be in this moment? Who will we be?
The sand is shifting. The lockdown will not stay. It can’t. We will have to emerge and walk forth into this new world and face the vulnerabilities we’ve rediscovered. Yes, they were always there but it takes catastrophe of a different magnitude to shake us from our stupor. There is no place on this earth where we are not vulnerable in some fashion. Named or not, the threats are always there. Still, we must move forward.
How Will You Respond?
How will we respond? Will we trade our liberties for a greater sense of safety? Will we give up power to someone who claims they can protect us? Or, will we accept responsibility for ourselves and the world in which we live in new, more fundamental ways? Will we trust to Divine Providence and take a higher view of our place in the world? Will we hold leaders accountable for their decisions and demand something exceptional from them? Will we will focus on what we can control rather than what we can’t?
Coronavirus is pretty scary but our choices in the days ahead will define the true extent of its devastation. Who will we choose to be individually, as a community, as a nation, and as a world?
The sand is shifting but you can already see the outlines of the new normal. We’ll find a way to deal with today’s Coronavirus and steadiness will return. For a moment. The reality is that we are vulnerable. Coronavirus hasn’t changed anything. It’s just reminding us. it’s always been here. Our real challenge is living fully in the midst of that vulnerability. Emergent or not.
Back to the Basics
COVID-19 is a call to get back to the basics. It has forced us to pause. Those things we thought were so important have been relegated to a new, lesser place. Survival demands a different perspective. Things start to get very simple, very quickly. Now is the time to take a fresh look at your life, your priorities, and your choices. Now. Today. The pause is a gift.
As the sand shifts, consider where you invest your time. Is 80% of your time spent on the most important things? Not sure? Then ask yourself: what are the most important things? Where do you derive your sense of purpose? Is that job that you spend most of your day in still the center of your life? Where did you spend most of your time two weeks ago? Where are you spending most of your time today? How do you feel about that shift? What is worse about it? What is better? Take the time to think about it. Write it down. Discuss it with someone you trust. Discuss it with someone you love.
We are grasping right now. Grasping for steadiness. Grasping for safety. Good grief, we’re grasping for toilet paper! Stop grasping. Stop thrashing. Quit reading the news and turn off your feed. Look up from this post right now and cast your eyes upon what is right in front of you. THIS IS YOUR LIFE. What are you doing with it? You will not be sitting in this place for long. Soon, the hustle and bustle will return. Soon, you will be distracted again. Soon.
We have a limited window of time on this earth and we cannot control what happens in the wider world. However, we have an incredible array of options before us and have absolute control over the choices we make. In a world of shifting sand, that is true power. How you choose to react to the world is the most power anyone can have. How you steady yourself on the shifting sand is yours and yours alone.
Today, go steady yourself with the choices you can make. Take control of what is happening by taking control of your own life. Invest yourself in the places that are most important. Today. Now. Be the person you always wanted to be regardless of what you felt you had to be or, regardless of what you felt you couldn’t be. Most importantly, don’t give up your freedoms for a sense of safety. That safety is a mirage and, along with the most important people in your life, your liberties are your greatest treasure. Treasure them possessively.
Sent to several people! We all need to prioritize using this perspective! I particularly enjoyed having audio.
Thanks Mom! Always wonderful to know you’re keeping track of me 🙂
As always Phil, you put this time in perspective and give great guidance to all of us……I just listen to Father Mike Schmitt’s homily this morning 10am (3-22-20) and it gave us great wisdom as well…..goes well with you thoughts if you have time to listen……your family is in our prayers….
Thank you Fred! We love Fr. Mike and I will make it a point to listen to this week’s homily.
I think I’m going to need a couple more weeks of self quarantine to reflect on your post. I am one of the lucky ones, Trish gave up being mad at me for Lent.
Yes, you are truly blessed!