Turning Towards the Sun
Presented on Zoom October 11th, 2020 Rev. Fiona Heath
Here we are gathered together apart on this thanksgiving weekend. A memorable thanksgiving for all the wrong reasons as we return to a higher level of shut down to once more flatten the curve of the rising pandemic.
I am finding it difficult to be thankful as I know we have many months still to go and the nights are drawing in and we are being asked to stay home even more. I know it is necessary and needful and I still don’t like it.
I have hit the wall. Slammed right into it at full speed.
The wall, as some of you may have already heard as it has been trending on twitter, the wall is something people experience six months into an on-going crisis. Dr. Aisha Ahmad, professor of political science at the University of Toronto, has worked extensively in war zones.
War zones include restrictions on movements, uncertainty, daily bad news and distance from loved ones. Sounds familiar.
Dr. Ahmad says that she always hits a wall six months in – a slump. You want to get out and there is no out to get to. It is the desperate sense of this is too much or I can’t keep living like this. Hitting the wall is the low point in an on-going crisis –- for those of you who have met the wall – life may not feel like much fun right now.
We are surviving but we aren’t thriving. You won’t be wildly happy or incredibly creative. You may not feel much gratitude this thanksgiving. Each day may feel like a slog, and that’s okay.
It’s okay to not be okay. It’s fine not to be fine.
This is tough and weird and sad and scary. And that’s just the pandemic. Reading the news at all these days will only make it worse!
Dr. Ahmad says this is a time to give yourself a break. Don’t bash your head against the wall trying to make yourself feel better or be more productive.
Just be okay with not being okay for awhile. Use the wall to lean against while you rest. Don’t pretend to feel better then you do. Don’t give in to self reproach or guilt. Be kind to yourself.
While you are being kind the wall will crumble on its own and you will get your mojo back and move forward again.
Dr. Ahmad says that the wall disappears in four to six weeks. In all her years in war zones, the wall always crumbles. Always.
You may have already gotten past the wall. You may have just slammed hard into it. You may not have met the wall yet.
Wherever you are at this thanksgiving weekend, know that you are not alone. There others experiencing what you are going through. We are all in this together. Even apart.
Shortly after I graduated from university, in a new city with work that was temporary at best, I went through a period where I would sometimes put my clothes on wrong.
I rarely noticed in the morning, but at some point during the day I’d realize my cardigan was inside out or I’d put a sweater on backwards. It went on for months – inside out socks and backward t-shirts.
If you had asked me I would have said I was doing just fine, young and eager, but looking back I was stressed and anxious without a clear path forward. School was over but I didn’t have steady employment and was unsure of my career path.
I suspect the inside out clothing was expressing that underlying constant anxiety that I didn’t want to acknowledge. The uncertainty of the future kept me from paying attention to daily life.
Eventually my work and finances stabilized and I found a path forward. And stopped with the inside out clothes.
It all turned out okay in the end.
And this will too. We just haven’t hit the end yet.
As Dr. Ahmad reminds us, hitting the wall and struggling is totally normal in the midst of on-going uncertainty. It’s part of the process.
We have to sit for a little while and suffer – to be in the interlude instead of the story. It’s part of life to have these down periods in a crisis, and once we come through one interlude we know we can make it through another.
It’s may not feel good – it’s the wall of this is too much, I can’t go on living like this – but we can find ways to mitigate the struggle until that wall crumbles, our resilience resurfaces and we move forward.
When we are sitting by the wall you will discover – or recover – your strategies for getting through.
Some might cope be knowing your limits – not letting your battery drain fully dry – recharging with self care before you hit the bottom.
Others learn not to compare the self to others – we all have bad days and good days – it just feels like your bad days happen while everyone else is doing amazing.
Trust yourself in what you need to do to do your job or get things done.
Many people turn to the arts for comfort – good books, fine films and great music can nourish our spirits, remind us that life, even in the midst of a war zone, even in the midst of a pandemic, still includes beauty and goodness.
Of all the national holidays, thanksgiving, I think, is most reflective of Unitarian Universalist values. Our principles call us to affirm the goodness of life, and an essential way to do this is through gratitude.
We are grateful for other people – affirming their inherent worth and dignity. We are grateful for community, for democracy. As people of the chalice we see the beauty of the interdependent web of all existence.
We are people of gratitude.
But it is hard to feel gratitude in the midst of the pandemic. I can say the words but I am finding it hard to actually feel gratitude in this moment. I am still leaning against that wall. I want this to be over and I want to get away and I’m tired all the time and I…. I could go on like this for awhile.
Sometimes whining is good for the soul. Perhaps this year the holiday should be known as grumpygiving.
But if we are people of gratitude then even now in the struggle, I want to find my way back to that precious sense of gratefulness. I don’t think I’m there yet. The wall hasn’t crumbled.
But I can turn my face to the light.
Like a sunflower I find myself following the sun – following the light in my twitter feeds – following the light in warm hearted comedies – following the light of close friends and good books.
None of this makes it all better, but that shaft of sunlight reminds me it isn’t all terrible.
We may be stuck right now, more rooted in place then we ever expected to be, but we can always turn towards the light.
Be a sunflower and seek the sunshine.
I invite you to take a moment now and consider what you are grateful for this morning. We will share in the chat.
For what do you feel genuinely emotionally grateful for? It may be small – it probably will be small if you have hit the wall – the smell of your first cup of coffee – or the way your hair looks so good this morning.
What do you feel really truly glad for right now? Just one thing.
(sharing time in chat, read aloud)
Hearing other people’s gratitude helps me feel more grateful. Even in the midst of crisis, slumped against the wall, we can turn our faces towards the light.
Life Calls us On. Love Calls us on. The wall will crumble and we will go forward into the uncertain future. Our resilience will return, gratitude will rise and we will keep on going together.
May this holiday of thanksgiving settle into your heart, today and in the days to come.
So Say We All