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Social distancing feels more like close encounters of the kid kind + glutting yourself on news media does not a functional human make

Hi. Hello!

2 blogs in 3 days, told you it was going to be a renaissance of sorts.

I have progressed, over the past 5 or so days, from something resembling benign curiosity in world events to full blow panic to sugar-and-booze-numbed apathy to anxiety to now, hopefully a stable sort of new “normal”.

It’s fine, this is fine.

– Olaf

Since this will all make sense when we are older, there’s no need to be terrified or tense. (I’m truly sorry, we watched Frozen II last night in a fit of delight upon finding newly, freely streaming.) But just in case you are feeling a little…off, I’ve found these few resources helpful:

This reflection on “social distancing as the monastic life” written by a cloistered sister.

This anxiety-interrupter from Max Lucado.

This video from Chris Stefanik, who, incidentally, I owe an apology for perhaps thinking he was a little nuts for saying he was planning on pulling his kids out of school way back as far in ancient history as during last Thursday’s 2nd grade Medieval feast. Mea culpa.

I’m not having great success with prayer recently, but I realized today that I’d made a pretty stupid mistake and inadvertently (and almost unconsciously) discarded my Lenten sacrifice of fasting from social media in favor of hours-long and even middle of the night binges on Twitter. I was stress vacuuming earlier this afternoon following our first official day of homeschool (hashtag fun) and I thought to myself, well shit, Jenny, you’ve basically abandoned your Lenten practices when you could most use the grace.

I had an immediate flood of consolation almost simultaneously as I realized this, vowing to redouble my abstinence from the Twitter. 24/7 news coverage makes me anxious under the best of circumstances, but the craziness of the past week or so has had me basically in a low grade state of panic during all my waking hours.

I had another thought, this one while changing a very aggressively stinky diaper, as one does, and it was this: you’ve been running from your vocation for a long time, Jenny.

It was one of those thoughts that makes you sort of jerk back in almost physical shock. I don’t mean I’d been wanting to leave my marriage or abandon my children, but that I’d been mentally and emotionally checking out a lot, lately. And I mean, yes, I do have a 3 month old lying around (lying on the floor beside my chair as I type right now for maximum irony) and so standards have plummeted and all that, but gosh, does it get easy to sort of put life on autopilot and cruise toward the weekend, the next holiday, the next Big Event, all while telling yourself “I’ll do better tomorrow” each night, falling into bed exhausted and somewhat remorseful about how the day had been spent.

I’ve said a lot of “in a minutes” and “tomorrow I promises” to the kids lately, and it’s not only because I’m recovering from a new baby, it’s also because my will has become, along with the rest of me, just a little soft. Accustomed to being indulged and immediately gratified, the past 72 hours of togetherness have been a sort of brutal wake up call.

No escaping to Target. No running out to the store in the evenings for one quick thing and taking my sweet time. No drives to school and back, podcast or radio station of my choice blasting from the speakers. Who knew I’d miss the commute?!

I honestly think I’ve gone through most of the stages of grief in the past couple days, from shock over school closing to anger over losing access to the Sacraments and the Mass to despair over, well, homeschooling to a sort of bargaining “God if you’ll make them just magically good and kind and docile while this is happening” to, now, I guess, a place of acceptance. The closest thing I can compare this with is actually Benny’s c-section. I have never felt more out of control or afraid in my life as when they wheeled me into that OR. I wanted so badly to run, to be unconscious, to somehow leap off the table and out of my body and leave until the experience was over.

Alex, I’ll take control freak for 200, please.

And now that it feels like the entire actual world is out of control, my fragile sense of normalcy all but shattered, I have to seriously re-evaluate the sort of Christianity I’ve professed to be practicing.

It’s easy to let phrases like “this world is not our home” and “Have no anxiety about anything” sort of roll off the tongue when times are good. It’s a little trickier when you’re watching horrifying updates on your foreign friend’s newsfeeds and wondering if a slow rolling tide of doom is heading for your neighborhood next.

I mean okay, yes, we’re all going to die one day. But this all feels so destabilizing that it has made death less of an abstract. And how’s that for a first world problem?

At the end of the day none of us can know how this is going to end up. All we can do is double down in our prayer lives, keep our kids alive and fed and relatively clean, stress clean the bleep out of our basements and beer me some strength for the lesson plans our school sent over this afternoon. My kids are all going to be heading back to their eventual classrooms like brother bear in the Berenstein Bears classic “The Trouble at School” flunking every subject but PE, mark my words.

And all kidding aside? If this is a wakeup call from Jesus to get back to first principles and reinvest in our own little domestic churches, I can’t think of a better set of training wheels than having the gym/library/school/coffee shop/parish/restaurant/play group/girl’s night/sports broadcast/fitness class ripped off like an enormous, life-encompassing band-aid.

Look, no distractions. All eyes on Me.

God, grant me the grace to respond in faith and hope and not in despair and anger.

Luke has been training for this carb-saturated season all his life.
(Also, how ugly was our kitchen prior to the miracle of paint?)

6 Comments

  • Becky

    Yes. Please blog when you can. Your posts are my absolute favorite and needed in my life (and others!!) now more than ever!

  • Danielle

    Hi Jenny,

    I love your blog! Hoping youre able to keep up these frequent posts 🙏🏻

    I am wondering your thoughts on the current mass cancellation of the sacraments by US Bishops. Do bishops have the authority to cancel masses completely? Is there a limitation on this authority?

    It’s worth noting it’s two very different things to tell the faithful they don’t have to come (i.e. dispensation) vs telling the faithful they can’t come to mass.

    Are our bishops and pastors not our Shepard’s whose job it is to save our souls by bringing us the sacraments? I am surprised so few have been courageous or creative enough to get them to us. Save for the few drive thru confessions I have seen popping up here and there.

    I’ve been researching this topic and have come across a few good resources including this one:
    https://canonlawmadeeasy.com/2020/03/20/bishops-authority-cancel-masses/

    Thanks for taking the time to read my comment.

    God bless!

  • jeanette

    I started bringing up the subject of planning for death with my entire family. A subject people always tend to avoid or put off. And really, we don’t see a need for it most of the time when we are younger, because it would be a rare instance that we would find ourselves in a situation where those kinds of arrangements need to be made. You kind of figure if one spouse dies, the other will take care of things. But, in the current situation, we don’t know what will happen, and the normal planning situation won’t be normal either. Parishes are saying things like “you can have a memorial later” and I’m guessing you might find the government deciding you will be cremated even if that was not your desire. So, I advise everyone to not be afraid to have these discussions. Another discussion not to be afraid of or dwell upon but just to do the adult thing is to have a list of MULTIPLE people you would designate to care for your children if something should happen, because none of us knows if our FIRST choice people would be able to do that. So, have many choices. These are super hard things to think about, but once you do it, you will feel better for being prepared for things that are out of the realm of normal. Getting these kinds of things out there will help everyone in times of otherwise distressing circumstances.

    My son commented that this is the first time he’s ever heard me talk about this stuff. Yes, it is, because prior to now, there was really no reason to. Now there is, and I’m going to express my wishes while I have the chance, and not make people deal with such decisions later on if the situation arises. As if life is not hard enough!

    Parents are particularly going to be stressing about this kind of stuff, because the whole weight of the world is on your shoulders when you think of your kids in this situation. Be proactive and you will be less stressed. Just a few words to tell people what you want will open them up to making their own plans. You’d be surprised how much tension it relieves if you break the ice on the subject. Most people are afraid to bring up the subject, but we need not be. Most people are not going to have to face death, but some will. It mostly will not be parents of children, it’s just not statistically likely. But it is never wrong to be prepared.

    Another tip: my daughter’s husband works in a medical setting, and they are told to strip their clothing off as soon as they get home, and put it in a plastic bag. That’s good advice if anyone should find themselves having to go to the hospital for any other medical reason during this time of viral germs being present and be there for any great length of time (and if you know people who are working in such settings, they probably will agree with this).

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