It has been a while since I’ve managed to write anything. The craziness of trying to balance life, lockdown, kids, work and a church to be honest has been a nightmare and overwhelming…but no different than what many are facing right now I know.
As someone new to the ‘blogging’ world I said that I would post as and when I could and therefore this has been a long time coming however, over the last number of months I have done a lot of processing of what we are all going through and its implication on us all. So, as we are taking time off as a family, I’ve had capacity to put some words down particularly on the place and purpose of process. I hope these are helpful.
Don’t switch off…I know this may sound boring, but I believe it’s of utmost importance for us as we move forward from living out the experience, we have all been through. For me I have felt that recently the purpose of being present in personal process, the process of what has been going on in and around us all during lockdown as well as specific situations such as the BLM movement has all been highlighting our need to be present in both our personal process as well as what is going on in and around the world.
The significance of going through the experience of lockdown due to Covid 19 is shaping us as humans more then we realise. Putting not just a country in lockdown but many parts of the world in total isolation and shut down at the same time has caused more chaos then we yet know. For our lives specifically in our home during lockdown we have experienced huge pressure, strain and stress and I know that we are not on our own in this. Covid and the life change it has brought with it has made us realise life is way more fragile then we once thought or made ourselves believe. The experience of going through lockdown and the process of it has reminded me of not taking my life for granted, that I only have one life and what I do with it matters. How I spend my time and with whom matters. It all matters and makes a difference. We only have so much time here and therefore this process of lockdown and all the challenges it has uncovered has presented me with the choice to engage …or not to.
I’ve been reflecting on the desires we have to live the ‘best life’, of happiness, meaning and importance and how so often we are disheartened and feel like failures when things go wrong in our lives and our expectations of the ‘good life’ are not what we experience. Covid 19 has had this impact on our lives in many ways. Holidays we were looking forward to having now been canceled, seeing loved ones has changed and often the very things we have been seeking meaning and value in such as our careers have gone through major shifts. What has this left us with? And particularly how has this left us feeling?
It’s made me think that part of the difficulty is to do with how we view the things in life that are hard and challenging. Such as disruption, anxiety, fear, loss, grief or sadness. These emotions and experiences we all face at some point in our lives. They are emotions we want to avoid at any cost as they are often not nice however they are part of our lives whether we accept this or not. If we view the good life, a happy life as being a life absent of these emotions when we experience them we somehow feel we have either failed at life, that our lives have been written off because we are ‘feeling’ emotions we said we wouldn’t experience and they will define us forever or we try push these experiences away, ignoring or burying them. The problem is life is full of all of these things and ignoring them, burying them or trying to cover them up with other things doesn’t make them go away but in fact it means they can end up defining our whole lives and often at the detriment to those around us too.
For me personally the unique aspect of Covid and lockdown has been that we as a family have had to journey through some really tough stuff personally, in our family as well as that of our church’s and it’s meant choosing to experience feelings I didn’t want to or that felt good.
I so wanted to run away …but literally couldn’t due to lockdown. The pressure sometimes felt overwhelming and unbearable. But not being able to ‘go anywhere’… but be present made me face the tough stuff and reflect therefore on the importance of this being part of life. I had to choose to be present in the process of stuff I wished wasn’t there, that I felt was causing me extra problems I didn’t want to engage with and quite frankly made me feel awful. My anxiety went through the roof – worse than when I was diagnosed with complex PTSD, I wasn’t sleeping, my body started to show signs of the stress and it often felt like a tunnel without an end. All because I was choosing to be present in the things that had gone wrong or been uncovered.
There were days when I thought why do people choose to engage in the tough stuff…it makes EVERYTHING worse and certainly for a number of weeks and months that was the case but I’ve learnt a number of really important things through this all which I am thankful for. These have been:
Process brings pain. We are geared to avoid pain because we see it as a problem to be solved or avoided and not the place we find healing. But it’s true, by ‘feeling’ our process, by choosing to be present, turning up for conversations, by taking part, by listening and by sharing our voice we may experience more felt pain to begin with than if we tried to ignore it but by feeling our process we are able to take part in it and take control. It’s like a journey that you don’t know where it’s going to end so starting feels hard, uncertain and scary but as time goes on, we learn what it’s like to be on a journey with its uncertainties. Although not always easy, nice or enjoyable, coming through the tough parts is better than never starting the process and the more tough experiences we have survived and navigated the more courage we experience as we face the next challenge.
For me I spent most of my life trying not to experience what I had termed as ‘bad emotions’, sadness, anger and anxiety because I didn’t know how to experience them in a way that felt secure or safe…but they didn’t go away, they just got pushed away deep down and came back to define me. Choosing to experience them was really hard and scary at first but it was the first step to healing. It was me choosing to show up – feeling what I felt and take some control. This personal experience of learning to view these emotions that can feel hard and scary has helped me face some of the challenges we have face recently through lockdown and view the present pain we can experience as not lifelong but for a season. It’s helped me hold perspective.
Process isn’t perfect. As a perfectionist when I choose to deal with something hard, I want to deal with it perfectly because then it may not last as long and hurt as much. The unknown element of choosing to be present in our processes is really hard. It challenges our want to be in control of everything all the time, but we are not perfect, and neither is our sorting of our mess. Accepting this has been key in helping me learn to be grace filled and to focus on the one who’s strength I have in my weakest moments and when things are far from perfect.
Process needs time. As someone who likes things resolves NOW I hate that good things often take time and resolving things does too. If I’m ever part of a fall out with someone I hate for it to be unresolved. I need it fixed straight away. This is for a number of reasons mainly my own issues and past however, I’ve learnt that time is really important and can give what we need even if it means we have to wait longer than we would like. Rushing a process can mean we miss out on the important things that come up while waiting. When things are given time they change, grow and evolve. It’s growth that can’t be fast tracked especially when it comes to our personal journeys as people. When we give ourselves time as well as other’s things can happen that otherwise wouldn’t. We give ourselves opportunity to find out more of who we are, of who others are and allow space for healing, learning and therefore growth. The things that have been uncovered in my own life as a result of going through lockdown have needed me to give them time. As a result, they have changed, I have changed all because I allowed some space.
Lastly process is a place of growth. We all want the growth without the cost. Cost of taking time out to deal with things, of facing realities we would rather avoid, taking the hard conversations, re visiting the difficult relationships, bringing issues into the light that others would rather ignore or hide or choosing to fight for the things in our lives that matter even if it costs us. Growth comes from challenge, tension and uncertainty. It’s the soil that growth grows in. If we choose to engage in the challenges that come our way I believe we have the opportunity to embrace the life of meaning and purpose we crave. But we have to choose this and to not give into the voices that tell us to ignore things or put things off. Often these are learnt behaviors. Asking ourselves about how our families have dealt with issues they have faced is often a good place to start in helping ourselves think through how we respond. Our natural reactions to these things is often learnt from observing what was accepted and affirmed in our own families and unless we consciously work out how we want to respond we often will follow suit. This is why choosing to engage in our process is so hard. It pushes our thinking, feeling and acting. But it is possible.
So what do we do?
In answering this question I want to share on some of my own journey and learning response to the BLM movement which was highlighted recently in response to the horrendous and brutal killing of George Floyde. The issue of racism isn’t a new thing to our world as I’m sure you know but the challenge it raises for us to ‘see it’, and be willing to do something about it poses a question of us being willing to be ‘present in the process’ of engaging in the issue and be willing to learn and bring about change from it. This only comes if we are willing to be present in the process. Things won’t change unless we stop, see things in honesty for what they are, ask the questions that need to be asked and personally reflect on our own biases, cultural upbringing and our role in bringing action to end injustice. These changes won’t happen if we bypass the feelings of guilt, shame, grief, sadness, loss and feeling uncomfortable with the facts. This is something I am going to come back to in future posts as I recognize my need to questions my viewpoints, prejudices and the impact of my culture on issues of race and the role I pay but for now I want to simply reflect that it’s the very thing of process that brings about the opportunity for change, growth and healing.
Racism won’t change unless I learn to be ok with feeling uncomfortable. Unless I’m confident enough in myself to look at myself, question my beliefs and be willing to see that I don’t have it all sorted as a white women and that I have a need to realise my privileges, it’s impact and be willing to open my mind to the role I play in bringing about the end to racism. Similarly, when life throws us a challenge, maybe one that’s come up as a result of the pressure caused by lockdown I want to be the person who leans into the challenge, is able to step back, be honest, ask the questions and reflect on my role and what I may need to change and develop so I can learn to grow.
The most significant aspect of this all has been learning to pause to experience His presence in process. God present with me in it all. As a Christian I am learning that there is no where I can go that he is not with me and there is nothing I can face that he hasn’t faced. These last months when I have been at the end of my rope, I have been able to experience his presence in my process and his strength in my weakness. It is this that has enabled me to remain present no matter how messy that has been.
Isaiah 41:10 says that I need not be afraid for God is with me, the Bible says that God is ‘with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. … Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock.’
This has been an assurance to keep on keeping on when things feel impossible and has been light at the end of a seemingly endless tunnel. If there was one thing I could encourage you with it is firstly, that choosing to be present to the tough stuff in life, not letting it define you but being willing to be honest about it – being willing to see things for what they are as they are even if that’s ugly and not what we want see is one of the most significant things you can do. Secondly, be willing to ask the hard questions of yourself and others – looking to learn and be willing to change. Lastly letting this help shape the responses you give and the action you live out. It’s one thing to realise there is an issue, but it is a whole other thing to do something about it. It’s the walking something out that really pushes us to our limits but it is the birthplace of growth of us personally as well as the world around us. Choose to be present in your process and that of the worlds and see how things will change.