What If: Social Distancing Changes “Community” Forever?

Anyone want to take a swing at this one for me? ‘Cause I have a few things to say and they may not be the warm fuzzies that people want to hear. Who is ready?

This has been one weird season of life. There is a very real sense that our world will never be the same. I’m still keeping count, and it has been 87 days since I have seen Mom and Dad. I didn’t go 87 days without a visit when I lived in the state of Kentucky. I’m freaking over this. And guess what? I’m gonna see their little faces in just a week. I cannot wait. It will be on a porch with some distance between us, but I’m here for all the social distance love. All of it. But, when I just get really freaking honest, I must admit something very real. I don’t miss many people the way that I miss my parents. At all.

If there has been one thing that has come rushing to the surface in my relationships during quarantine it is that with the passage of time and removal of expectations, my circle is growing smaller. I have spent many years believing that to be “nice” and “kind” and a “friend” I need to continually expand the circles. This experience has proven to me that the width of my circle means so little to me, but the DEPTH of my circle is an entirely different conversation.

I’ve done some excavation work the last 3 months. I have spent considerable time shedding false narratives that have convinced me that things are “fine.” As I have unpacked the fine-ness of my life, I have taken a good hard reflective and challenging look at the relationships in my path. While I can’t seem to be motivated to honor Marie Kondo’s clutter goals, I have very honestly asked myself “do they bring me joy?” on more than one occasion. And, the answer is not always affirmative.

While I do not think that this season of life has caused things to happen, I do think that the intentional slowing, the time to process, the space for thought and observation and response has magnified the things that were already happening in my life. In some ways, I think I received a gift of intensified pressurization and in the process, I was able to step into and out of some spaces that I had avoided addressing in the midst of life busyness. The full calendar, the routine, the structure – they can be good. But for me, they were muffling the cries of needed attention. One of the single most important areas of this truth is in the way I see community.

I can be with people all day long. I can talk and read and Snap and Tweet @you. I can “connect” in the ways that I am supposed to. All of these things can happen in the name of forming connection and community and at the end of the day, there is still a very good chance that you are not my community. My people know that “community” with me is often defined in the best meme. Making your way to my shortest of short lists means that on a really bad day, you might (and let’s be real, it’s a baaaadddd day when I actually choose this option) get a text saying “do you have time to talk?” Community is not a Thursday at 7:30 event. It is not a standing once a week obligation. It is not even a predictable pattern.

My deepest community is found in the hard, messy, real, foul mouthed, smoke blowing, pretending I’m not crying moments – where life is falling apart and you are the person that I trust enough to call. For years, I have lulled myself into believing that there was a way to schedule connection. But the honest truth is that until you are staring at the bottom, until you are sitting in the midst of the most painful and can’t move, until you are so scared that you don’t even know how to take the next step, you may not even know you need community.

This time away has reminded me that there are some relationships that I cannot neglect. I now know that they have been forgotten and need resuscitating. In the insane spaces of my insane “normal” pace I have failed to love people, and more importantly myself, enough to prioritize them. In an effort to appease, there are pieces of myself that I have given up for the sake of being a part of something that I don’t really need.

Has this season changed my view of community? I sure hope so. I’ve been reminded that the deep is where I am fed. My life already has too many things on the calendar. As I try to find new rhythms and normal patterns in this time of “excused” absences from groups of gatherings, I want to look for the types of community that my soul needs. We each deserve to deep dive into connection, AND give ourselves permission to choose only the kind of communities that make us leap for joy inside. Let’s shed the should’s so we can have room for thriving.

What If: Opening Yourself Up Means Changing the Idea of Who You Are?

  • “You need to change your clothes.”
  • “I need you to change your attitude.”
  • “Changing your work ethic is the only way you keep this job.”

If you have ever been on the receiving end of a similar comment, your defenses are probably already raised. You know what I’m talking about. Perhaps you have made the connection that I ponder – the need for change implies deficiency. Why would we change if there is nothing wrong? If someone calls us to change, is that a sign that things are not ok? I think that is the lie that I have been consumed by for decades.

The only times that I have felt compelled to work for change is when I was broken, hurting someone else or violating a human decency code. Usually, this comes when someone else calls me on the carpet for bad behavior. For someone wired like me, the opposite of the desired outcome is usually the impact. Watch me do what I want (insert 7 year old face with her thumbs in her ears and her tongue sticking out), because YOU CAN’T MAKE ME! To say that I resist personal change is a wild understatement. I hate it. I avoid it. Change hurts, even when the outcome is with a positive end goal. Change calls me to look for a new start, and new starts require unlearning behaviors and beliefs that have grown deep within me.

Walking in with the full knowledge that good can and should come from change, there is a root fear to soul change. To look at yourself – your questions, your thoughts, your passions, your doubts – is to stare down your very being. When we begin to dig into the deepest recesses of soul exploration we find defining beliefs. We find the causes and motivations for life decisions. We define the values that we place on relationships and wholeness and healing. The very things that characterize us as individualistically unique humans are accessed when we begin to evaluate the ‘what’s’ and ‘how’s’ of our belief systems.

I have recently reached a new personal line in the sand. These are the moments in my life where I know a change is needed. When I reach the moment that I cannot force myself to live in a way that no longer feels like home, I am headed toward an interior remodel. In this season, I have been called to look at, explore, evaluate, access and define who and what I value, what I believe, who I long to connect with and where I long to grow. These excavation projects come with a similar fear that the opening three statements evoke. I might even suggest that the internal stare downs are more painful because I know the truth. I know that I CAN do better. I know that I have not worked on the things that I value. I am fully, painfully, aware that my outlook and attitude must change. And it is in that moment that I have to ask the hard question. Do I want to redefine my being or stick with my safe, known self?

I love that this question of change is posed with the word “open” as the root. That’s the very best version of change. To open is to allow access to your heart. To open is to uncover your soul. To open is to spread out. I don’t know about you, but these are the very things that I need more of in my life. I need to remove the coverings from the things that are obscured. I need to release myself from old beliefs about what “is” or “supposed to be.” When we begin to change the foundations of structure and systems, when we dismantle old thinking and truly open our heart and mind and soul to the next version of ourselves, we WILL change. And the change will hurt. The growing will be painful. You don’t get taller without stretching your muscles and tendons. You don’t get a degree without the painful work of study. You don’t get the mature marriage or friendship without changing what those relationships are when they start.

In addition to the writing that I have put out for the blog world to read, I have recently done some hard writing about changes in my own life. One of my favorite questions that has spurred both joy and pain is “What is my boundary?” I wrote this a few weeks ago:

I want to stop operating from a place of responsibility to others and begin recognizing the truth that is inside me. I want to believe that the Knowing that I have in my connection to my own soul is enough – that I don’t have to water it down or make it digestible to the masses so I can speak truth. My boundary will be my own discontent. 

There is nothing that will change your own ideas of self like honoring your soul. When I listen to my own discontent, things cannot help but change, because I change. When I know that my gut tells me that something is off, that someone is not giving me their truth – and I actually freaking listen – everything MUST change. That’s the kind of change that I am about today. Not the shame change. Not the blame change. Not even the should change. I’m here for the I AM WORTH IT change. I am worth all of the discomfort and hardness and unsureness and fear because I know that the version of me on the other side is a freaking badass. I’m making a toast to opening up. Who is drinking with me today?

What If: This Season Changed the Way We Do Life?

How is your household holding up? Is anyone else tired of trying to sift through the entire book of emotions (all of which have probably been felt at some point) to put your finger on the pulse of today’s crazy? I have not driven a car in more than a month. I have not been in a building that was not my home in 36 days. My two big “outings” have included riding in a car with someone else driving too remind myself that, in fact, the world has not ended. To say that I am on the crazy making roller coaster is a serious understatement. Some days I am completely content to have my simple schedule. Some days I am ready to claw the eyes out of all of the people in my path. Today may be one of those days…

For all the Enneagram lovers, I was quite fond of this accurate description of people like me:

“This type is mad. They’re mad they can’t protect or provide for everyone. They’re mad that people they think are incompetent have the power to restrict their movements. They’re certain if they were in charge they could do things better than everyone else. And they’re especially repelled by what they perceive as weakness in the people around them.”

One of my greatest struggles has been my inability to control the irresponsible actions of other people. I am the person that sees your Snapchat picture with your “one best friend” and judges you for being in public. That’s me. I realized that part of my struggle is that I am completely uncomfortable with anyone except for me being in charge. I hate it. And I would really be much happier if I could control ALL the things. But I can’t. And I can’t see my mom and dad. And I can’t watch my daughter graduate and go to prom. And I can’t hang out with my friend. While my go to is anger, the root is sadness. I am sad. This is hard. So, very hard.

On the days when I can find some clarity of thought, I try to be mature and wise and thoughtful and ponder these types of ‘what if’s,’ but you must know, this is not my natural posture. But for the sake of this question, here are 5 things that I have picked up from this bizarre and challenging time:

  1. I need my people. My people are more important than I thought. I have loved the time that I have shared with my husband and daughters. We have cooked and laughed and yelled and worked puzzles and had movie marathons. I love these 3 with all of my heart. But, GOOD GRIEF, I need the other people. I need the ones that talk to me in different emotional languages. I need the ones that sit at coffee with me for 3+ hours…something that would be painful for the current occupants of my home. I need the ones that like to challenge my thoughts rather than my instructions to load the dishwasher. My other people are necessary.
  2. I need to adventure. I miss getting in my car and driving with the windows down and the radio loud. I know what you are about to say, “you could still do that.” But if you have ever been around me, you know that my drives include big boujee drinks and frequent bathroom stops. Neither of these are stay-at-home friendly. I would also be the jerk that has a wreck joy riding…and I would NEVER hear the end of it.
  3. I need to have a better rhythm. I resist being told how and when to do things. But one thing that I know that has to change after this season is that I must build into my life rhythmic time for walking and thinking and soul stillness. I can know these things are necessary, but until they are thrust upon me I don’t appreciate them. And even then, no one is making me do them now, but there is so much down time that in my boredom I have done the things that I really need. I have seen these moments transform my quarantine experience. I don’t always enjoy what these moments expose, but I treasure truth. Rhythm is gold for people like me. And I hope I can continue to see the value when the schedule fills again.
  4. I need to say “no” more. I like to be needed. Because I know that I can do all the things, I tend to take the reins of projects that should not be mine in the first place. This season has taught me that it is healthy to step out. I am not responsible for all the people. I am not able to control the people or the things. So, dear Lacy, know your role.
  5. And here is the big one: I don’t need to go to Target, Marshall’s and all the other places like it is my job. I miss wandering. I miss being lost in a moment of dreaming of new and exciting. I have traditionally found that in shopping and buying. While I have purchased things on the internet, I have honestly not missed wandering in a store. I find wandering in my neighborhood walking trails has produced a similar experience with less debt and more wisdom. I’m not saying that this won’t ever happen again, but I do think this new awareness has been insightful and challenging. I’m looking forward to finding new places to wander and dream when I explore again.

What If: You Could Change One Thing From Your Past?

Just one? I mean I have so many moments that I would like to revisit. So many times when I have said or done something in a way that changed things. When the cutting words forever changed the friendship. When driving away forever changed the level of trust. When the decision to abandon myself transformed my ability to look in the mirror. There are many, many moments of regret. But the more that I live, the more I understand that there is a difference between cleaning up the wreckage of your past and “changing” or shutting the door on your past. The difference is actually quite significant.

For the first decade of adulthood, I believed wholeheartedly that running from my past mistakes was the least painful way to live. I was particularly fond of avoiding those situations that required me to look inward and admit that I owed an apology. This work is hard. It is messy. It requires self assessment and a desire to grow. At 25, these moments were extremely unappealing as I was sure that I knew better than those that suggested such things. As time passed and as I began to see my own failures for what they were, I knew these were opportunities to grow.

But there are some things that are bigger. Sometimes they are even scary. There are moments in time where life was headed in a particular direction and then it took a hard left. As I reflect on some of these moments, I remember car accidents, deaths, the end of relationships. I can almost instantly transport my heart to the moment that those monumental events happened. When the call came. When the arrest was made. When the test confirmed what you already knew. Some of these moments are so long ago, and yet in reflection, our hearts and minds are instantly drawn back to the pain and grief and heaviness. We can feel the weight of something that happened decades ago wash over us with just a momentary time warp.

There is a line that I learned in recovery that I go back to anytime this ‘what if’ comes to my mind. “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it” is one of the 9th step Promises. The first time I saw this printed on the wall of a recovery room, I thought for sure that this was lie. There was no way that I could get to a point that I would not only not regret the past, but I would not want to forget about it? This statement seemed to imply that I would make peace with the past.

This particular promise is not guaranteed on day 1. It is not given until after the first 9 steps (which include things like admitting powerlessness, turning pain over to the Divine, taking responsibility, honestly sharing your life with another human, looking at your part and making amends) are completed. To tell you that there is work to not regretting the past, is like saying that babies may need their diaper changed. It’s an absolute journey of necessity and regular duty. It is a passionate calling that is not for the feint of heart. This is a quest into the soul. It will wear you down in ways that you did not know were possible. But I can tell you that the promise is true.

I have countless things that I still wish had not happened in my life. Sure, I would gladly take away everything painful, from the random bumps and bruises to the deep gaping wounds that still have a tendency to cause unexpected reappearances or numbness on particularly hard days. But to go back, to try and do them over, would change me. Those days when the phone call changed everything or the mason jar of Wild Turkey seemed like a good idea are the very things that make me who I am today. As hard as it is to say, without the horrible terrible’s, the person that is standing today would not be me. It is in the experiences of life that I have been formed and that includes the really hard ones. They have shaped me in the hottest fire. I have used their scar tissue to walk alongside other people with similar scars. I have dug deep into the wells of strength that I have been given to withstand other setbacks. I have embraced that in not dying, I have a call to live. I have survived. And yes, that is in my very best Gloria Gaynor voice.