This last premise isn’t something I learned in 2020 but it did serve me well. In 2003 I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, a diagnosis that wasn’t well understood then and even now is still a mystery in many aspects. Everyone experiences it to different degrees and the symptoms include joint and muscle pain, trouble sleeping, brain fog, fatigue, emotional swings more unpredictable than any roller coaster, and a wide variety of other challenges. The way I feel from hour to hour can change, making it difficult to commit to plans with friends or feeling guilty if I do plan and have to cancel at the last minute because the pain is too bad.
Some mornings I wake up with muscles so tight I can’t stand up straight or turn my head. I’ve learned over the years tricks to ease the tension but there are days when nothing works. I just have to bear it and tell myself, “Tomorrow is a new day”.
I’m a student of history. It always frustrated me in school when each year we would only cover the same time periods. We rarely made it to World War I and never beyond. I took it upon myself to read about the events not covered in class.
The magnitude of devastation the world has seen and survived helped to keep the events of 2020 in perspective. The “Black Death” swept through most of the known world in the mid-1300s and lasted seven years killing an estimated 200 million people. There was no known cure or treatment. This plague came on the heels of a famine about thirty years earlier, which is estimated to have killed anywhere from 30%-60% of Europe’s population.
Many of you have probably heard the statistics of the Spanish flu that began in 1918 as WWI was still grinding on. Somewhere between 20-50 million people died from this illness and again there was little doctors were able to do. Just over forty years later, in the late 1960s, my grandmother was stricken during the Hong Kong flu epidemic. Thankfully she survived but her lungs were damaged for the rest of her life. Treatments had progressed, though, and this outbreak’s death toll declined to between 1-2 million lives.
Most recently, in 2009, the Swine Flu swept across the globe creating panic and causing around 200,000 recorded deaths. My dad contracted this illness and was very ill. He survived, but again his lungs were damaged and he’s suffered breathing issues ever since.
Disease is not the only thing that has claimed lives through the centuries. Wars, famines, natural disasters, tyrannical leaders, unchecked gang violence, and everyday car wrecks have laid claim to millions of victims. When the media is bombarding us with one story all day and facts are evolving on a frequent basis it’s easy to get caught up in fear and become paralyzed, desperate for any action that offers protection.
I have family members and acquaintances that contracted COVID. Some were very sick, some died, but most were minimally ill. I have gone through the gut wrenching pain of watching loved ones die of incurable diseases. I don’t discount the suffering of those who have experienced loss. It took a period of anguish for me to come to terms with what my heart has known since childhood. God knows all the days of our lives. He knows when we will be born, all we will do and the day we will die. It’s an inevitable part of life none of us like to think about but cannot escape. Remembering that along with the lessons of the past helped me keep the year in perspective.
If you don’t know Jesus in a personal way, it’s difficult to see light or experience hope in this fear filled time. If you need hope, I encourage you to take time to read the New Testament of the Bible, the words of Jesus himself. Start with the book of John. If that is intimidating, watch Season 1 of The Chosen, which follows the calling of the disciples of Jesus. It makes the life of Jesus relatable, understandable, and real. Season 2 will begin streaming on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021.
Humanity has suffered great turmoil before and we will do so again until the day Jesus returns. What a glorious day that will be!
Before the pandemic, I worked in an environment with plenty of distractions. One wall of my office was shared with a busy conference room and another with the main breakroom for the floor. When the refrigerator door opened it would often hit my wall and threaten to shake loose anything hanging from it. People often hurried past the door or dropped in to see what was going on and my office mate being an extreme extrovert, people-pleaser, engaged them all in lengthy conversation. I became an expert at tuning out what was happening right beside me.
Transitioning to a home office stripped those distractions, but replaced them with new and, for a period, more interesting distractions. What time did the mailman come? How many deliveries did the neighbors receive each day? Would the construction across the street ever be finished? Who are the new neighbors moving in? Is the handsome new guy single? Yes, I became the one drawn to the window at any new sound or rumbling delivery truck. I’ve seen enough mysteries where the nosy neighbor gets killed, though, to know not to buy a pair of binoculars for a better view.
All I learned about tuning things out in the office started to come in handy at home. I didn’t need to see which children where playing outside or what the handsome young man was wearing when he left. I could have the TV on for background noise and when one of the podcasts I follow wandered into the now repetitive and pointless topics, I hit fast forward.
As the weeks passed, I started to see more families riding bikes or taking walks. I wonder how many of them were outside hoping to escape the pervasive doom and gloom. It was good to see families out together, enjoying nature and time together. There is a wonderful drive through a wildlife refuge a few miles from my house along with a maze of tiny dirt paths that meander along spits of land in the Indian River. I took these drives several times and saw more people enjoying them along with me than I have in all the years I’ve lived here.
It’s healthy and often necessary to tune out the noise in life. I don’t mean just the news and social media, but the things that nag at you and keep you from spending time with family. The house will always need to be vacuumed, the dishes or clothes will always need to be washed, there’s always another conference call or report to write. It’s important to draw boundaries and stick with them.
Keep work at work and home at home. Of course emergencies can arise with either, and those can be handled as needed, but other than that, focus on where you are and who you are with at that moment. Turn off the TV and computers. Put your phone on silent or Do Not Disturb and take a walk. Tell your kids stories they will roll their eyes at, but years down the road they will remember and realize how right you were.
I’ve been pretty self-sufficient for as long as I can remember. I have put together all my furniture, even the Ikea stuff with the terrible directions. Watching HGTV demolition days always inspired in me a feeling of how satisfying it would be to take a sledge hammer to my kitchen cabinets.