Though the impact of covid-19 is lessening in places around the world as vaccinations begin to roll out, there are still many areas and people that struggle. Some regions may not see the vaccination for months, in nations like Italy lockdowns are starting again. But for millions around the world, whether vaccinated or not, a disorientation continues. Life is not back to normal, whatever normal means. We continue to live in an uncertainty that seems to never end.
One year ago yesterday I wrote a blog post titled ‘Pause, Reset and Shift‘. (Pause, Reset, Shift in 2020) In it I wrote about the possible shifts that would come out of the global pandemic which had just been declared that week. Some we have begun already to see, others will take more time. These shifts may be personal related to employment or relationships, others are at a national or global level. But this preparation for change needed to start with a pause.
What has resulted often from these pauses, resets and shifts is a condition known as disorientation. The dictionary meaning of this state is a ‘loss of a sense of direction’ also a ‘confusion’ and ‘inability to think clearly’. We have seen the results of this on a national scale here in the United States, as not only the pandemic but viruses of racial struggle and political unrest have all gripped the nation this past 12 months. To be disoriented is not know where you are, to not know reality, to not be able to discern the way out of the maze. For many people, fear and resulting anger have caused a disorientation that feels very much like an ever present fog.
Deep, impenetrable fog is one of the scariest things we can face, especially in travel. Probably the most frightening trip of my life was a taxi journey from a North Indian city named Dehradun to Delhi, a trip of several hours. It was early morning, and it was a terrible winter fog where we could not see much at all in front of us. My driver felt confident enough to drive, and fortunately not too fast! But I was petrified, and closed my eyes and prayed much of the way.
When we are enveloped in a disorienting fog, we find ourselves in a corresponding fear. Will we ever get out of this? Will this uncertainty ever lift? An awfully tragic story of just over a year ago happened in Los Angeles, California. A basketball legend, Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven other passengers as well as the pilot, were in a helicopter crash one Sunday morning that killed all aboard. As the investigation unfolded, it seems that the conditions in that part of LA were extremely cloudy and there were questions whether the pilot should have been flying. A recent conclusion in the investigation was the pilot made a key error by flying through thick clouds, and in the process became completely disoriented. In a span of seconds, he ended up flying downwards toward the ground instead of upwards where the clear sky was.
Flying in thick fog and low visibility is a known danger for pilots, due to the disorientation that can result. Direction can be easily lost, confusion sets in and often very tragic decisions are made. There are parallels to what many are going through as we mark a year now in this global pandemic. Just as for pilots, it is very important that we are very careful in what decisions we make coming out of this year. We need to take some time to clearly connect again to reality, the reality of renewed relationships and finding our roots again.
After being in a degree of isolation for so long, it is vital to take our time re-emerging. I remember the first time I did a two week silent retreat. When I got to the airport to fly home after almost total silence for fourteen days, the noise around me was almost painful, though also welcome at one level. Our isolation has involved lots of zoom, Netflix and probably at least some people, but still has brought perhaps a degree of a loss of direction and resulting confusion. For me, six months after the lockdowns started in March, I got covid myself. It was a very difficult battle that resulted in a version of ‘long covid’ that lasted over four months. In some ways, I still feel like I’m coming out of it though the effects of heavy fatigue are over.
One of the greatest helps for me in finding my way through the fog has been a daily time in the Psalms. Each day I take one Psalm, for prayer and meditation. The Psalms are an amazing book of prayers of lament, victory, trust, pain, joy and so much more. They were originally written long ago primarily as songs, and many have been set to song in the last few decades and certainly throughout church history. I have loved the Psalms since a child, but over the last few years they have become the most worn part of my Bible!! My own practice is to take one Psalm a day and one Proverb alongside my other reading in the Old and New Testament. If you take one Psalm a day, you can read through the 150 of them every five months or so. That is what I have done for many years.
What areas of your life feel like a fog has set in? Where are you feeling disorientated, a loss of direction? If you are feeling that, it is not a time to make decisions. Wait, trust, expect, hope. The fog of covid-19 and its resulting loss of jobs or life patterns will lift. There are helps for you in places like the Psalms, and perhaps a trusted and loving friend. For me coming out of having had covid, the spiritual practice of gratefulness has been very important. I am grateful for each breath, as while having covid the very real threat to my lungs was there. I am grateful to God for life, for health, for family and friends. I am grateful that the fog ends, that a sense of direction will return. The photo with this post is of a book titled Rejoicing in Lament by Todd Billings. I am reading it right now, and Todd wrote it after learning he had inoperable cancer. His life was thrown into a place of disorientation, and lament filled his soul. But Todd and his family continued to trust, and that lament led to hope. He continues to live today, six years plus after the original diagnosis, but with a different perspective on life in the fog of cancer.
I started my post a year ago saying that pause needed to happen before reset and shift. But now I would say that pause needs to happen after as well.
Pause well. Be grateful. Re-emerge slowly.