We've entered a strange new world wherein socializing and being together with others is no longer part of our day-to-day. We've been told, "Stay Home, Save a Life" and as a result responsible citizens across the world are following the rules and adapting to a new way of life.
For some of us, the less than lucky few, it's not a new way of life at all. We've been here and done this before and we are amazed that the rest of the world, the ones who haven't had the practice, are struggling so much with the adjustment.
In 2003, our daughter was just four years old, when she was diagnosed with Leukemia (A.L.L. for those of you who know about this all too well). It was the third week of July; the peak of summer and family vacations, camping trips, weddings and backyard bar-b-cues were in full swing. But not for us, without any warning, without any idea such a thing could happen to a seemingly healthy little girl, we were suddenly diverted onto a new route, a giant detour we didn't see coming. Maybe life was just to good maybe, we didn't deserve what we had, because truly, up until then life was just about perfect. The diagnosis came quite abruptly and the move into the hospital even more so. IV's and lines were set and within days her immune system was chemically destroyed. After a week that felt like a month time passes slowly in the hospital, every tick of the clock significant. We were sent home with care instructions from our the team of oncologists. And they stated in big bold lettering, "Keep her safe from infections. If fever of 101 or more is present, rush her to the ER."
And that was the start of our new way of life, we never called it quarantine, we weren't that sophisticated really, or maybe that aware. But for the many months that followed our lives were a jumble of stay at home alone. cancellation of play dates, plans and trips, masks for protection, sanitizer and thermometers. In fact, we took her temperature so often we invested in a medical grade electronic one. What was different then? We were in it alone. Sure there were other families out there dealing with a similar diagnosis and treatment protocol but all around us our friends, neighbors and extended family were carrying on with their life. It was the saddest, loneliest feeling to watch the world continue to spin without you in it. A darkest time of isolation that I've ever experienced. We were in the depths of despair, frightened and weary yet it didn't change a thing.
That's what's different this time around. Thankfully everyone under my roof these days is well and no longer immunocompromised, but even bigger than that, is that we are ALL in this together. It's not just our isolated little family, our street or our town, THIS quarantine is the whole country, the whole continent, in fact, the whole world. And in that I feel a sense of safety and certainty that things will one day get back to normal and that we'll all willingly do the right thing to save the lives our careful vigilance can protect .
But, when quarantine is over and we can all go outside, go back to work, go back out to dinner and socialize in large groups again, there will still be families like ours was back in 2003-2006, who can't. Thousands of families will continue to be in quarantine because a mom, a dad or a child is under going chemotherapy treatment and even just a simple cold could wipe them out. Those families are scattered all among us and I am sure most of us know someone in that position, but what you may not be aware of is how isolating and sad their experience is. Now that you've experienced it first hand, think about reaching out and supporting them a little more. There are ways to help, to keep them feeling connected and a member of your family, neighborhood church or community. When your quarantine is over, the people actively fighting cancer will still be stuck there.
Opportunities to support children fighting cancer:
Candlelighter's of Oregon
Sparrow Clubs USA
St. Jude Children's Hospital
We live in a hyperspeed world, where problems discovered this morning should be solved by tonight. It’s our societal mindset: Have a problem, fix it – and fast. We aren’t groomed to sit with problems. We aren’t comfortable living with them as they resolve or at least clarify themselves. And, I wonder, why the rush? Certainly, emergencies require swift and decisive action, but does every problem need to be addressed? And does everything we are uncomfortable with truly qualify as a problem?
If you step back for a broader view, you’ll notice there are giant global economic and political problems that have been around for centuries. The BIG problems, like poverty, hunger, human rights violations, apartheid, refugees, fascist regimes, to name just a few. These problems are so ominous that they’ve become part of the landscape. Their complexity requires a historian or social scientist to unearth their origins, let alone fix them. And, so, maybe that is why the problems we encounter in our day-to-day lives, the ones that are insignificant in the larger scheme of things, are the ones we are eager to fix.
Alexander Pope wrote in 1711 that “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” That famous line from his poem “An Essay on Man” may be a bit abstract to the modern-day thinker, but the idea still makes sense: Things are the way they are for a reason and we have no business fixing them to suit our own liking. That’s probably true, but then, why are so many of us so uncomfortable with the natural order of things? Think about the many times humans have rushed in to fix a problem, only to make it worse. We spend our lives fixing problems. The typical to-do list so many of us keep is really just a list of problems we believe need our attention.
My dad had a philosophy that I will paraphrase as “Not all problems need solving.” He knew that some problems are meant to be accepted. What if in your own life, you viewed the things that feel like urgent and nagging problems a little differently? What if you didn’t have to solve them but rather chose to learn to live with them as well as with the discomfort they may bring?
It worked for my dad. Over time, many problems he faced resolved themselves — and the ones that remained, he learned to live with and accept. And, in doing so, he grew and developed a way of being that was calm and content. I saw it first-hand: He accepted his circumstances. When we don’t rush in, problems can become an opportunity to grow as a person. Moving through discomfort forces us to develop, and most of us could use a bit more development. But how do we choose which problems need our attention and which we should let lie? How do we know which problems to address and which to accept? If you are uncertain, I think there’s a clear rule of thumb. Problems that hold us back from carrying out our responsibilities, either for ourselves or our families, must be addressed. That’s our social responsibility, and that’s an important distinction — accountability.
With that attuned acceptance comes peace and less anxiety, a more stable state of mind and coherence. When we are no longer fools rushing in, we become wiser, more thoughtful thinkers. Imagine a universally calmer way of being trickling down through a few generations. Maybe then, humanity will develop the ability to resolve some of the big global problems. If you see value in this idea, next time you bump up against a problem and the natural need to resolve it starts to well up, don’t rush in. Stop and consider for a moment: Is this really a problem, or is it an opportunity for me to rise and grow to accept the way things are
Lately, I’ve been traveling to faraway and exotic cities, walking new streets and pathways, discovering. Each place has its own foods, smells, sounds, textures and patterns — yes, patterns. We take them for granted normally in our rush to get from one place to another, but travel can allow us to slow down and notice the details.
In the stunning city of Lisbon, I noticed a myriad of patterns. The buildings, homes and sidewalks all boast unique patterns that, stitched together, make up a beautiful city and a place that people call home.
And in those beautiful surroundings it occurred to me that, although far less visible, the lives we live are woven from the day-to-day patterns we choose — and that a lifetime really is just a long series of repetitive patterns. All the days that make up our lives are spent engaging in patterns — patterns that are disguised as habits, choices, preferences and behaviors. They all add up to define that one and only life we get on this earth.
Given Lisbon’s lasting beauty, the craftsmen and artisans who built it must have taken great care to create beautiful, intentional patterns that could stand the test of time. And, so I wonder, do we humans work as carefully to design the patterns of our lives? Since we are building our lives, one pattern at a time, shouldn’t those patterns be carefully crafted so that they, too, can stand the test of time. Our language is filled with phrases hinting that we do not. We’ve all heard of “bad habits,” and we know that most marriages can easily “fall” into dysfunctional patterns. Such language implies that we have no choice in the matter.
Breaking bad habits is difficult, I agree. But what if it’s not a matter of breaking a habit. What if it’s a matter of slowing down to notice our patterns. Perhaps if we can see them clearly and objectively, we might be inspired to exercise our free will, our intentionality, and choose to design our patterns and, by extension, design the life we really want. When patterns are not haphazard or developed as a result of comfort and ease, but rather with intentionality and design, they tend to serve us better. After all, patterns that are developed without design are likely to produce less-than-ideal outcomes.
It’s something to think about in your daily routines: What patterns have you developed? Which ones are well designed and leading toward the outcome you desire? And, more importantly, which ones are leading you to a place you don’t really want to be? Take a close look and notice. Decide which patterns can be shed and which need to be re-designed.
After all, a house pieced together without a plan is simply a shack. What is it that you want to build with this limited time on earth that is your life?