Everything has changed. The world we lived in at the beginning of 2020 is not the world we live in today. It’s not just COVID; it’s racial tension; it’s natural disasters; it’s election chaos; it’s personal loss; it’s disorientation from the tidal wave of change. I don’t know about you but I’ve experienced new levels of anxiety, anger and depression which turn into a vicious cycle of anxiety, anger and depression.
Recognizing that I have not been coping well with these “big feelings,” as we refer to them in our home, I decided we needed an unplanned Thanksgiving break. The first two days of it were spent in beautiful parks, absorbing the pristine weather. As my eyes soaked in the vibrant palate of colors and my skin absorbed the sun absorbed the sunlight and breeze, I could feel a reconnection with myself. I think it’s because my senses were able to focus on a calm, familiar distraction outside of myself and my emotions.
This leads me to recommend that in this time of upheaval we need to find what’s familiar and focus on that.
- The familiar of family and friends: it’s true that it’s difficult to spend time with our loved ones in the ways we used to, but we can still be there for one another. Sending mail and packages back and forth, snapping random photos from the day for each other or starting a group text thread can rebuild the sense of community we all long for. I know it can be hard to manage home life and screen time but children can be included in the communication. I’ll tell my children who I’m taking pictures for or who I’m texting so they feel a sense of connection with long distance loved ones too.
- The familiar of routine: our family has had to create routines and then new routines as the year progressed. It takes about two weeks of consistent practice for a routine to become habit. In those days when everything seems out of whack it is essential to have a daily routine to fall back on. Children (and adults) simply know what comes next and doing it doesn’t require too much additional effort. Even cycling through the same monthly menu can be comforting.
- The familiar of a safe space: special things that are in the same location wherever you live; soothing music; favorite aromas; natural light streaming through windows; plants that rest the eye; these are all necessities for creating a place where you can be you- no matter what is happening. It’s a haven, a respite, an oasis for the soul.
- The familiar of trial: this year has held a lot of difficulty. But trials, while unique in their own way, are not new to the human experience. I’m sure we can all look back and recount trial after painful trial after exhausting trial. Some might be repeats and others might be fresh; but the commonality is that we have made it through and learned something each time. Fall back on that knowledge and know that once again there will be a way through. Which leads me to my final point.
- The familiar of God: In the midst of uncertainty God might feel very far away. When things don’t make sense, it is easy to think that God must not know what’s going on either or that maybe He doesn’t care or maybe He is out to get us. I have been telling myself that I need to look for evidence of His promises because His Word doesn’t lie. If He says those who mourn will be comforted, then they will. If He says the wicked will perish, then they will. If He says He knows the way of the righteous, then He does. Dive into God’s Word and wait for it to take root; it will.
Whether you’re parenting through a pandemic or prepping to move or mourning the loss of a loved one or dealing with family turmoil or finding your way in a foreign land, there is always something familiar that can help you stay grounded. I think we are all being confronted with the impermanence of this life and it can shake us up a bit; but there is eternity waiting for us and glimpses of the eternal can be found in what’s familiar.