In the past, I’ve written about relationships on this blog. However, at this point in this season of social distancing and safer-at-home orders, it would be much easier to write about the Netflix documentaries I’ve been binging on rather than relationships. Through all of this, I’ve seemed to grow somewhat numb, or perhaps even apathetic to all that has happened in this COVID-19 pandemic.
The coronavirus stories I read through news media never end. The economy is tanking, the wealth gap is widening, children are struggling with online learning, parents are challenged by homeschooling, professional athletes are gaining weight, Zoom is being hit with security breaches, and college campuses are sitting ghost towns until who-knows when. Each day it seems like there is some new development, while at the same time, everything is staying stagnant. More than a month of all this… and I feel numb.
Like most people in this season, stay-at-home has given me more time to call, text, and Zoom friends and family I haven’t talked to in a while. I’m also fortunate to have a job where I can work remotely from home; the high-touch environment means I’m on video calls for a good portion of the day. Even with all these options for connection, I find myself still numb (this article was helpful for me in understanding why Zoom calls can be so exhausting.) So how can I write about relationships in this season when I’m put off by the only forms of social connectedness available in this time?
There’s more going on under the surface
I participated in a prayer vigil for Denver recently; it was through Zoom, oddly enough, that the prayer facilitator gave those of us in that meeting space to give voice to our fears, anxieties, and even numbness that has reigned in this season. During that powerful prayer time, I was reminded of a phrase someone in WGA shared once during group: it’s okay to feel the feelings that you feel.
As I leaned into that Zoom prayer meeting, I realized that there were many feelings underlying that numbness that has dominated my narrative. Yes, apathy has reigned during quarantine but I’ve also felt anger, annoyance, loneliness, laughter (if that counts as a feeling), fatigue, nostalgia, joy, independence, productiveness, boredom, uncertainty, and a host of other micro-feelings I have yet to identify. These feelings ebb and flow for me. Some days, I’m beyond optimistic, while others day, I worn down the uncertainties of this ongoing pandemic.
Others in that prayer meeting voiced similar feelings too. It was wonderful in that space to hear that I’m not alone in my raging emotions. Perhaps these are the underlying feelings I’ve missed others communicating to me subtly over phone and video calls when people count their blessings behind the mask of strained smiles. Perhaps, like me, those close to me are coping with their feelings over the pandemic in different ways at different times.
Giving and receiving space to feel
Perhaps relating well to others in this season is being aware of my own feelings and my propensity to project annoyance on the person who lovingly texts me when I feel most irritated. And beyond that, perhaps it is giving those around me—those I’m texting, calling, and video chatting—space to feel their feelings too.
I think of Christ who came to a broken world as a man and didn’t immediately try to fix things. He sat with the woman at the well in the middle of the day when she was most likely to be judged. He sought out and dined with lonely tax collectors in the midst of their ill-gotten riches rather. He spoke words of comfort to his crying mother as she looked upon his crucified body in sorrow.
That example of presence in emotions is one I can emulate. Whatever people may be bringing to relationships during this season of pandemic, perhaps the most loving thing I can do is to meet people in the midst of their feelings over the phone and through Zoom calls. And as God loves, comforts, and accepts me in my numbness of emotions, so I too can accept those feelings in myself.
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