I am one of those people who simply LOVES office supplies. I get giddy with excitement cracking open a new calendar, and flipping through all the clean crisp pages just waiting to be filled with the details of my life. Office supplies signal organization to me; a place for everything and everything in its place. So imagine my surprise when I sat down with a nice glass of white wine, my new calendar and my favorite pencil (always use pencil because life can change so quickly) only to find that the printers had gotten the dates all wrong! From the first day in February forward the calendar was exactly 1 day off.
Something strange happened in that moment…I felt confused, betrayed, sad even. All those feelings welling up over a misprinted calendar. How was I to know where I was supposed to be? What if plans changed and I had nowhere to put it? What if I let someone down, or missed a deadline? This was the time I set aside for putting my calendar together, and now I was thwarted. Worse still was that those feelings lasted for several days as I negotiated finding another calendar; one who wouldn’t betray me in my quest for perfect squares to contain my life.
I desperately want to be more flexible than I really am. If you ask most people (not my wife) I’m very easy going, happy to roll with the punches and ride the tide. The truth is, that just under the surface is a tidal wave of anxiety when things unexpectedly shift. This dual existence has some perks. For instance, in a crisis, I’m actually the one you want at the helm. I’m happy to take charge, think on my feet and do whatever needs doing. I’ll fall apart later, just out of sight and in a grand fashion.
So why should you care that my calendar betrayed me, and that I’m really a bundle of controlled chaos?
Well, because flexibility is hard for all of us at times. We are just a few short weeks away from the start of our third year living with a global pandemic that has managed to touch each of us in some way or another. It was this week in 2020, when I first heard about Covid; an illness that I paid no mind to because it wasn’t on my nice neat 2020 calendar. A global pandemic didn’t fit into my boxes…until it forced its way in pushing all the lines askew.
The last two years have taught all of us about flexibility and going with the flow. We’ve pushed the boundaries of our tolerance for isolation, for change and for creativity. Now, we talk about the “before times” and the “one day’s”. We live in the constant shadow of the “numbers”.
As we approach this two year mark, I’m reminded that we are living within a collective trauma, and that we all approach each moment differently because of it. It feels scary to have hope right now as those in the known tell us that perhaps we have finally reached a turning point. I think that may be why my calendar being a day off sent me into such a tizzy, it was a reminder that I’m still not in control, even an imagined control. For me, the neat boxes of my calendar help me contain my anxiety in the fast changing world we live in; it is my way of coping.
In this inbetween time, between what was and what will be, we all find ways to cope; to survive one more day. What ways have you found to hold your anxiety? What is it that gives you hope in the darker days?
My prayer for us, for you, is that you always remember you are stronger than you know and braver than you feel. I hope you never forget that like the willow tree, you were built to sway in the wind and reach for the water and sun as you need. I pray that when the boxes of your life burst open at the seams, you’ll call out to us for tape so that together we can build new stronger ones; that you’ll let us help you carry them when the load is too heavy. May we be gentle with each other, and ourselves, and may we never forget that life is change, and sorrow, and joy and constant steps into the unknown.
Amen and Blessed Be