This COVID-19 journey has been quite a ride. I’ve ventured into unchartered territory as I explore new ways of being, feeling fulfilled, observing, learning, and connecting. Even the way I navigate through the internet has changed as I seek reliable, unbiased sources of information and updates on the virus. I’m wondering how I can serve this world from my place of social distancing. I’m feeling inadequate as I isolate myself, yet I know this is what I need to do.
Throughout it all, I pray. And sometimes my prayers ring true, deep, intense. Sometimes they are pretty shallow – just rote words instead of authentic conversations with God.
Similarly, sometimes I experience real connection through virtual meetings, and sometimes I feel like others aren’t really there. I see their eyes wandering on their screens, or I hear their fingers on the keyboard exposing the pretense of listening. I’ve seen meeting chat boxes on fire with comments, questions, jokes, and asides. I wonder how people type and pay attention. I see people reading the chat and laughing. How does that work if you are really present for the meeting?
Then I think, maybe I’m like that with God. I’ll say some prayers while I’m doing something else. The prayers help pass the time or strangely, give me something else to do. I’m not sure if I’m really communicating or just rattling off a bunch of Our Fathers or Hail Mary’s.
I have a dear friend who recently shared that she counts steps when she climbs stairs. I marveled because I thought it was just me. I figured it originated with my efforts to teach my kids to count. I’d hold a toddler’s hand and count one, two, three, four. Maybe having five kids solidified this habit, but I know how many steps there are to my office. I count them all the time, and I count them when I climb two at a time. I count to get the steps over with, but I don’t know where I am when I am counting. It is almost like I am in some sort of limbo, a place between.
Stay with me here. I think sometimes I pray rote prayers to pass time – almost like a mantra to tick away minutes – like when I’m sorting laundry, pulling weeds, and back in the day, running long miles. I know that during the last miles of a marathon, those were real prayers: Please God, get me to the water stop. Please God, get me past the finish line. Please God, don’t let me sign up for another one of these things.
I’m just wondering where I really am when I’m praying sometimes. Just like I wonder where people are who are on virtual meetings without the video on. Are they cooking dinner? Are they like me – sneaking in a quick ab workout and trying to get a double whammy out of being productive?
I wonder if God looks at me and thinks she’s not really paying attention to what she’s praying. I’d like to think that God gives me the benefit of the doubt, that I’m not judged by God. And so I’ve decided to do the same for others. If they don’t seem to be all-in, I figure they are doing the best they can. Maybe they, too, are inbetween until they find their grounding.
“Be where you are: otherwise you will miss your life” (Buddha). This is another version of Notre Dame’s “Play like a champion today.” Both remind us to be all-in, to be our best . . . every day. To be our best, we have to be where we are.
We don’t know when this virus will be eradicated. As I try to envision living with a perpetual sense of awareness of COVID-19, I know I have to be right here now. I have to feel like this is enough. I am not a healthcare worker on the frontlines, and I can do what I can to be philanthropic, creative, consciencious and loving. I look out the window and see new life in trees, grass, blooms. We are all coming into a new sense of being, living, growing, connecting. Our collective sense of unity prevails even in social distancing. We have to trust that we are where we need to be.
I find solace in the Prayer of St. Therese:
“May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born in faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that is given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.”