I hope you’ve been able to use this time productively to learn more about yourself.  I sure know I have.  I wrote a blog a month or so ago about living in the “grey” during this pandemic.  It was raw and honest, and I think this is going to serve as a sort of follow-up as we head out of quarantine.  One of the positive things I’ve found in the last 11 weeks is that it has allowed me to explore deeper who I am and what I want, without some normal responsibilities and distractions that are usually a part of life.

I’ve approached work differently as we’ve navigated WFH and virtual interactions and meetings.  My expectations have been changed, the way I gauge my success/failure has been modified, and my identity as an Associate Minister (who primarily works with kids and youth) has been rattled.  It’s been tough.  So much of my energy comes from interacting with my young people on at least a weekly basis.  And that either hasn’t happened face to face (for obvious reasons), or it hasn’t happened at all.  I’ve been mourning the loss of our Camp experience for the Summer of 2020.  So the grey of how to operate in this pandemic has taught me that 1) I am capable of more than I thought, 2) I need to remain flexible and resilient, 3) I can make things work in ways unimagined–I just have to dream it and follow through.

I’ve had to be adaptable with my school work and classes this Spring and Summer.  Part way through our second semester we moved to online classes and Zoom lectures.  In some ways, it was nice to not drive to campus every Monday night.  It was nice to make food during class, sit on the couch, and just be in my own space.  But there are pieces I don’t like about this style.  I don’t get to interact with my people.  Our cohort is really close and we love the break time during/between classes to catch up with one another.  This same sense isn’t there when remote, and I miss it.  But I recognize how privileged we are to be able keep learning virtually.  So the grey of what is to come for our program and classes has taught me 1) to apply things I’ve learned to my own experience–at least we can continue and this doesn’t stifle our ability to meet, 2) I need to remain vigilant to my studies–it’s really easy to get off track, 3) I really value the colleagues I have in my cohort and care deeply about them–we support one another.

I’ve seen my relationships have morphed as well.  Quarantine has had a away of shifting the flow of things–things grow fast and deep, other things maintain status quo, and some things find their natural end.  You can’t often predict which life a relationship will take in the climate in which we’ve lived.  Typically I am what I’d call an “initiator”–I generally reach out to my people and ask for hangs/etc.  But quarantine has pushed me off of that game.  I found that I didn’t feel my normal pull to check-in on those I usually keep close tabs on.  I was experiencing my own type of social grief and it didn’t feel comfortable to put myself out there.  I was evolving (or perhaps some would see it as regressing).  This isn’t easy or comfortable to acknowledge because it is so counter to me, but it’s what I needed as I processed the emotions that came with the pandemic.  Quarantine became a time I could experiment with who I am…it gave me a safe space to be introspective and evaluate what I really want in life.  It gave me flexibility without repercussions.  Coming out of quarantine this fluid reality has become more rigid.  I’ve been able to see and connect with my people again, and the things that were filling that void are slowly finding a new space to hold.  The grey reminds me that 1) it’s okay to step away and work on you, your people will understand and still love you 2) some things have a specific space and time, and mourning those things is a part of moving through (I don’t think we ever move on) 3) life is hard, and complicated, and weird–listen to your own needs, if they aren’t being met change something so that they are  4) vulnerability and honesty are just as important now as they’ve ever been 5) people and relationships feed my soul.

I’d be remiss not to not mention other events that are happening in our world as well.  As the news of COVID instances and death tolls has lessened, it’s made room for news of movements and riots.  There has been much of it that I haven’t been able to watch (yes, I recognize my privilege in that).  As an empath and HSP, I have to start taking care of myself and my emotions first (though this isn’t normal for me).  I am sad, distraught, confused, and feel at a loss.  I recognize that on both sides there are those who are going to extremes and causing hurt; and on both sides there are those seeking justice, peace, and collaboration.  I’m taking time to learn more, I’m trying to have difficult conversations even when it hurts, I’m trying to think about what my faith and my God calls me to do.  I don’t have the answers, I don’t always make the best or right decision.  But I know in whatever small way I can I need to keep moving forward, keep trying, keep elevating the voices of others.  Small steps are still steps.  Originally this post was called “When grey becomes black and white” but including this last paragraph made it feel too much like I was making light of the situations at hand.  And thus it changed.

I can only control me, I can’t control how others react to me.  I seek to do/be better.  And I think it starts with open and honest (albeit difficult) conversation.

I thought you were done with other people planning your life. --Sweet Magnolias

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