June 22nd 2021 my email box dinged with an official letter from Governor Gretchen Whittmer declaring it Mask Emancipation Day in Michigan. “Today is a day that we have all been waiting for, as we can safely get back to normal day-to-day activities and move forward together,” she said.
I have absolutely no idea to what extent wearing masks was effective for containing the germ or necessary for reducing the spread of COVID, but this I do know. My Lily, she donned her Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) hundreds, probably thousands of times, before entering COVID positive patients rooms to treat their illness. But even with her most vigilant care, she watched helplessly as one after another of her patients died. So, I wore my mask for Lily– to recognize her care, to acknowledge her trauma and to honor the value of the lives that were cut short by this superbug.
This coming out of sorts– returning to some kind of normal- on the other side of the COVID crisis- begs the question, “What is normal anymore?“
Is it normal to dispute whether or not violence is taking place when we watch one human being use his body to apply pressure to the windpipe of another, at the very least, contributing to death?
Is it normal for people to take out their communal frustrations by setting police cars on fire? Vandalizing and looting private businesses? Or storming the nation’s capital building?
Is it normal for neighbors and friends to put up relational fences between each other because they didn’t choose the same political candidate or agree about social distancing?
Is it normal for Christians to claim they’d be willing to die for the love of Jesus but refuse to wear a mask for the love of their neighbor?
Will it be normal, going forward, for the government to randomly pay its citizens hard, cold cash to bolster the economy and if so, where will that money come from?
Will standard practice for car purchases require preorders due to manufacturing shortages? And will binge buying toilet paper for fear of future scarcity continue to be a thing?
Will bidding wars and multiple offers for tens of thousand of dollars over the asking price be the new norm for the real estate market? And will it really continue to cost at least 200K for a 2 bedroom fixer upper in Hometown, USA?
Will restaurants operate with reduced seating and limited menus due to staff shortages for the foreseeable future? And will Chick Fil A provide only carry out dining forever?
Will the new normal include livestreaming church on Sunday morning in your cozy jammies?
And mass online education?
Will weddings trend toward small, simple celebrations?
Will social anxiety become status quo for children turning adults because of the trauma they’ve experienced connected to COVID isolation?
And, the most pressing question of all just might be, what’s normal about 3 people at a dinner table that’s designed to seat at least 6?
I miss what isn’t anymore…and I don’t want this normal!
And I definitely don’t want the normal of a table set for 3 turning into 2, which is what I have to anticipate.
For sure, the family wedding and condo purchase in 2020 were significant events in my story but the struggle is less about where the girls now sleep at night or how many open beds I’ve got at my house and more about the morphing roles and relationships connected with the messy middle of their individuating and my letting go.
Mamas experience this process differently than their kids do. My kids are mostly focused on beginnings and all of the options that their card carrying adult status offers them, but for me, something I value is ending or at the very least changing significantly and transition comes hard. My default is always to fret and forecast the worst. Relational clouds with heavy rains– forever. That’s the superhighway my neural connections self-drive. But here’s an idea. What if as soon as I recognize the road I’m on, I interrupt the automatic GPS guidance system in my brain with self-regulating deep breaths, I apply the brakes, flip on the turn signal and exit onto scenic highway M22 where the extended forecast reads mostly sunny and 75?
What if rather than fixating on our relational barriers, misunderstandings and disagreements, my attention pivots toward creating artifacts of beauty between us, one adult to another? And what if I lived into that vision with courage and confidence and hope? That’s a relationally life giving paradigm shift! What if I can learn to receive their hurts about the ways I have harmed them without being sucked into a vortex of self-abasement? What if I humbly listen to their perceptions of where I got things wrong without grasping for immediate repair? What if I just own my sin and mistakes as their mom and rest in the confidence that God can and will companion them in their process? What if I entrust their present and future to Him and release all claims on how He will write their story and what kind of role I will play in it? And what if I embrace the beautiful moments of common and profound connection between us as a gift without the greedy expectation that they all should be beautiful?
This past year everybody’s been travelling on a pioneer path shaped by a worldwide pandemic and I’ve been on a steep personal learning curve of my own.
In grad school, I’ve been learning about theology and counseling and the beautifully complex interconnections between the spirit, the brain and the body.
At my job at the hospital I’m learning about the resiliency and fragility we hold in our bodies and how to contribute to a care giving team.
But the journey of discovery that been most compelling to me, is watching my girls increasingly grow into their own unique identities and supporting them on those journeys. And in that process, I’m learning to let them go….