One evening in early August, I stood in my kitchen in front of three open lunch boxes, feeling anxiety welling up in me. In order to cope in that moment, I went through all the necessary questions out loud with myself, right there at the kitchen counter. “OK, Gretchen, do you have enough snacks in here? Do you think the icepacks really will last the whole day? Do you have the mini bottles of hand sanitizer and extra masks ready for each kid?” I checked off yes on my mental checklist to each question. Then I asked myself the hardest questions of all: “Are you sure they are going to be OK? Are you going to be OK?”
I was preparing my children for a soft launch into the school year—a mini-camp while I returned to school myself. It was weird for me to feel anxious about all this, because I have been launching them into other people’s care since they were six weeks old. They have always been out in the world, and I have always felt fairly confident they would be OK. But this? This launch was so very different. To have them leave the protection of my home bubble in the middle of a pandemic—that introduced nerves and fear I had not previously experienced.
So, on that late Sunday evening, I stood in my kitchen and let all the fear come right out of my mouth. I let the anxiety and the feelings of desolation wash over me as I shoved juice boxes and crackers into matching blue lunch boxes. And then I took a deep breath, zipped up the bags, and went to bed.
The time we are in now leaves many feeling like there is no right decision for anything. Am I doing the right thing sending my kids to school? Am I doing the right thing keeping them home? Should I be going into work right now? Do I really need to run this errand today? Are my high-risk friends and family doing OK? We have so many questions and feel an almost constant unsettled feeling as we try to find our footing in the chaos.
I get it. I feel it too.
For me, especially on nights when I feel the ground disappearing beneath me, the tools of Ignatian spirituality are what I lean on to keep me upright. Ignatian spirituality reminds me that:
- It is OK not to be OK. It is OK to admit we are in a time of desolation. It is OK to admit we are sad or hurting or scared. We do not have to be afraid to show up to God just as we are.
- No decision will lessen God’s love for us. It’s OK, even after careful discernment, to still have some uncertainty. In the end, if we make the wrong decision, God will still love us. If others make the wrong decision for us, God will still love them and us. We can let God’s love be our one certainty.
- We are not alone. When we are standing at the kitchen counter processing aloud to an empty room, God is there. When we are embarking on our first day of anything, God is right there, embracing us and rooting for us. I do not have to be brave or vulnerable or decisive alone.
- There is someone focusing completely on us. In our homes, in our work, and in our relationships, we are focusing a lot on how others are doing right now. Ignatian spirituality reminds us that while we direct our attention outward, there is someone who is focused in on us every second of every day.
We are a few weeks into this year now as a family, and there have been many ups and downs along the way already. I expect many more ahead. As I continue to look for solid ground every day, I know I’ll hold these truths close. I’ll let them be my anchor that keeps me rooted in hope. And may they be yours as well.
Photo by Kristina Tripkovic on Unsplash.
These past several days, I need to remind myself — It’s okay not to be okay before God!
Thanks for reiterating…
It’s something I must remind myself often as well!
There is someone focusing completely on us…if we think about it, there are a number of persons focusing on us, Mary, our mother, for one, and our guardian angel…night and day, I am “Gil’s” [my angel’s name] sole concern given to him/her by God on the day I was born…can’t wait to meet him/her and commiserate with him/her. Of course, from his/her point of view, he/she was just doing exactly what he/she wanted to do, God’s will and giving God glory and honor forever and ever.
Dear Gretchen, I feel so sad for all , especially parents trying to cope and wondering if they are doing the RIGHT thing. I hope and pray that God will help us and stay close to us all through this most worrying time. I am old and just as anxious for all my loved ones as well as the world families . i’ll try harder to stay positive and keep praying more ; I let things slip from time and just try and put it all out of my mind. God Bless you and keep you and your family safe. I could see you standing there with the lunches packed and trying not to be fearful. Yes, we all have to rely on our heavenly Father and His helpers to get us all through this most difficult time. A.M.D.G.
School has been a blessing these last few weeks. Fear has been replaced with gratitude for all teachers and administrators are doing to ensure the safety of our kids. God’s grace definitely abounds!
Thanks Gretchen. You are always so sensible and comforting. True, I am aware that I am not alone, but I need to be reminded constantly. You do it beautifully.
Thank you, Florence!
Thanks Gretchen. Indeed we are never alone. We are all connected.