Over and over again in recent weeks, as the pandemic drags on and on with no end in sight, I have heard a recurring question: where is joy? In making peace with this virus and its ongoing hold on our collective life, it seems like many have found ways to navigate the struggles of it, but have yet to figure out where to find a sense of fun.
We have (even though we haven’t wanted to) become more acquainted with grief and coping with the unwanted, but real, circumstances of our daily lives. In many ways, it is no small accomplishment to have made masks and distance and Zoom meetings a regular and “normal” aspect of our living. We have figured out how to maintain connections to loved ones across distance in ways we didn’t know we could before now. And yet, in the midst of all of this flexible adjusting to pandemic life, we are now feeling (many of us) the grind of it all. We are worn down. Nerves are frayed. We are tired. Exhausted by all of this adjusting without the usual supportive encouragement we get when we have loved ones by our side to lift us up. Even more worrisome, we have seen the societal toll it is taking—increased struggle for those without homes and basic necessities, a troubling rise in violence, ongoing high numbers of people lost to the opioid crisis, climate collapse made devastatingly clear by this summer’s fires, and divorce rates up by as much as 30% in BC this year. No wonder we are feeling tired and disillusioned. That is a huge amount of stress with which to cope. Is it any wonder that anxiety and fear are so high?
Spiritually, the antidote is to ask ourselves—what feeds my spirit? What nourishes and sustains me when things are hard? Are there rituals or routines that I could practice regularly that would help me seek and see moments of beauty and joy come what may?
As it is with our physical health, we sometimes don’t take seriously the need for changing habits and taking better care of ourselves until we find we have no choice. The pandemic is, I believe, such a turning point for us spiritually. In order to make our way through these months and years of challenge and change, we will have to cultivate spiritual wellness. What contributes to a sense of well-being for you? Inspite of the gloomy headlines and isolation, what brings a smile to your face? Where are you able to find a sense of fun or playfulness, even now?
If we are going to make it through this time, and bring to our collective life more than our frazzled, and quick-to-anger selves; we’ll need to find spiritual wellsprings of hope and resilience. Is it in music? Appreciation of the natural world? Is it in continuing to reach out, in whatever way is possible, to those who love of us, and enrich our lives? Is it in giving back to the community by volunteering? Whatever is your means of staying connected to the animating aspects of life that give you a sense of meaning and purpose and fun—lean into those now. If you pray or meditate, or practice yoga, continue to be guided by those embodied acts that remind you of who you are and what holds you in the larger Whole (whatever you call that Whole…God or Nature or Love?). May we be gentle with ourselves and others. We need tenderness now.
Rev. Shana Lynngood is co-minister of First Unitarian Church of Victoria.
You can read more articles on our interfaith glog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE
* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Coloniost on Saturday, September 25th 2021