Is anyone else feeling emotional confusion over this pandemic? It’s a cocktail of worry and joy topped off with guilt. Choosing joy feels so backwards right now and yet it feels like exactly the right thing to do while we still have a choice.
It is possible I will eat these words tomorrow – heck, maybe later today, because change happens hourly these days.
The thing is, I’m struggling to process the dark side of this because it feels like it’s happening to “other people”. My family is healthy. I haven’t lost anyone to it. My husband is a healthcare worker but he’s not on the front lines so I don’t feel that burden directly.
Sure, I’m concerned. I’m never without “concern.” I worry when he leaves the house three times a week to go to his “essential” job (the quotes being for the term we’ve given such work in this season, not because I don’t believe that it is essential). And I’m doing all the things – I’m staying home (I haven’t left my house in three weeks other than to walk in my neighborhood), I’m wiping down our groceries, I’m keeping our mail and packages in the garage overnight so as not to risk bringing “it” in on those items . . . the list is endless. I’m living this too, but I’m not living in fear.
I hear it. I read about it every day. I pray. My heart is heavy for those who go to battle for long hours every day on the front lines and for those who have lost. I can’t imagine what our healthcare workers are seeing and experiencing or how they come down from it to go to sleep at night knowing they have to wake up and do it all over again. How they are coping with being distant from their families. Thousands of people have died a horrible, lonely death which means thousands of healthcare workers have experienced the loss of patients and thousands more have experienced the loss of those loved ones. And yet, it almost seems surreal to me given that we go about our days with the aforementioned caution but ultimately with joy – maybe even an elevated level of joy – and I can’t help but feel guilt over that.
I recognize that joy is a choice but it’s also a privilege and I’m grateful for that perspective and ultimately for that gift. I’m not taking it for granted for even a second. I have the foresight to recognize that I may not always be so lucky and so I choose to focus on that joy and the bliss of ignorance for all that I cannot fathom. In fact, I see it as my duty to choose joy because just maybe it offers some balance to the world right now.
This morning I listened to the weekly training for the #Next90Challenge with my (internet) friend Rachel Hollis. The topic there was also ‘choose joy’ – it’s what got me thinking and ultimately writing about it. Rachel urged listeners to “fight for joy” and to start by practicing gratitude. In our Spotlight Grace Story last Saturday, Rock Your Best You, we outlined how to start a gratitude practice.
Rachel also suggested that we “schedule joy.” This tapped into something that I was mulling over all weekend . . .
What if you knew there would be a hard-stop to this pandemic and hence the quarantine in 7 days. How would you spend the next week? You’d likely spend less time worrying and maybe get really intentional about completing all those decluttering projects you started over the last few weeks.
Now, what if you knew that hard-stop would come one year from now. How would you spend your year? How would it affect your outlook and mindset?
The ONE thing we don’t know is when this pandemic will end but the worst thing we can do for ourselves and for our families is live under the weight of impending doom. It is detrimental mentally, emotionally and even physically. Sadness begets sadness.
This is not to say you shouldn’t grieve or feel all the feels, but be aware of them and be cautious about how long you linger in those feelings. Keep fighting for joy! And when you fall out of joy, give yourself grace then get back up and keep fighting! Take Rachel Hollis’s advice and schedule joy. Get intentional and make it a point to experience it in some form every day.
We may not know what the future holds but in the words of Rachel Hollis, “The faster you can come to terms with this new normal and let go of what WAS, the sooner you can be joyful in what IS.”
For many, the grief is outweighing joy. If you’re lucky enough to not be among them right now, choose joy. Choose joy even if it means starting small. Much like sadness, joy is also contagious and though this quarantine is specifically designed to stop contagion, we can foster it in our homes and among our families. We can spread it across phone lines and virtual gatherings. Start with a simple smile. Wear it on your lips, in your voice, and in your eyes until it convinces your heart and mind that you are genuinely experiencing joy!
How will you choose to live out this season? Will you choose joy? What do you have to be grateful for today? Manifest your joy through gratitude and watch it spread through your household – one smile at a time!