In my last email I recounted being held hostage in the sausage aisle of a grocery store by my anxiety, and realizing I needed to pray for God’s “transcendent” peace before my next grocery run.
By choosing to receive this newsletter you’ve allowed me the privilege of being a small voice in your day (along with ten different clothing brands, suggestions from Instagram on who to follow that you don’t know how to turn off, and that one app you downloaded along time ago but never used and are too lazy to unsubscribe from).
It might sound dramatic, but the fact that I have this “voice” at all is something I put tremendous care and thought towards.
And I think right now — in the middle of the craziest, largest scale event I’ve experienced in my life — the best use of my voice is to create a sense of connection. Though our circumstances might be different, we’re all going through this together (and yet also completely isolated).
So instead of placing your responses to my questions in the “Fellow Valleyists” section at the end of each email like I usually do, I’m going to bring them to the forefront. I hope that this will function as a form of group therapy.
Think of these next few Valleyists as a little pop-up social network (in the purest sense of the term).
In my last email I asked two questions:
- At what point during this pandemic has your anxiety been at its worse? (in other words, what’s your sausage moment?)
- What are some practical ways you manage your anxiety?
Without any commentary of my own, here are some of your responses.
When has your anxiety been at its worse?
My ’sausage moment’ came at the grocery store, as well. It was an early morning and I knew that the store opened at 7 am and we needed some essentials so I ventured out to arrive at 6:45 am. I arrived and quickly realized that this was similar to Black Friday shopping with crowds already lining up, police in attendance (apparently there had been a fight break out the day before over toilet paper and a drug bust in the parking lot where a dealer was trading drugs for…toilet paper). I think at that moment, I realized that this was a cultural event like no other and it made me feel a deep sadness.
For me, it was right near the beginning of all this. I had decided to meet a friend to go for a walk and get coffee. He lives by what is usually the busiest intersection in [major city]. It was almost completely empty. We walked around an empty mall and it was clear by the end of our conversation that we couldn’t do this again for a long time. On the way home I listened to news about the size of the fiscal bailouts and the magnitude of what this is really sunk in.
“Many moments but the one that feels most ‘oh, is that what got you?’ was right before the shelter in place came into effect. It was that period where my company was starting to emphasize working remotely, other institutions started realizing that changes needed to happen but there weren’t set policies in place. I needed a gym. (“Needed”. Right. This situation has been helping me understand what my needs are.) Over the course of a few days all my gym options kept closing-first my gym, then my backup option then my backup backup option. As I was in the middle of watching my options either get restricted or removed one by one, I had my moment of “what is happening?! I just want a gym. Why do I need to restructure my life in this specific aspect too? I don’t want to run or do at home exercises. I want to keep my routine.” Of course, since then I’ve realized what’s important. Is it a gym or is it physical activity? If physical activity, then you better suck it up and go outside to run and do some bodyweight squats.”
What are some practical ways you manage your anxiety?
Still waking up early enough to make my bed and do devotions before work.
I’ve been sharing prayers with my students at the beginning of each class. Having words already written to pray sometimes help me when I’m not sure what to say or think. This Liturgy for those Flooded by too much information was especially comforting.
Remembering what’s important and digging to find the ‘need’ behind my old routine, then finding ways to address the need.
Remembering that I don’t need to add another burden to my shoulders of ‘making good use of this time.’
Managing my anxiety looks like jumping on the tramp with my kids each day. Something about the lack of control in the air helps me be reminded that, while I’m not in control of everything, I can solidly stay connected with my creator.
Shots of Serenity
I recently came across Karimoku, a Japanese furniture company that describes their work as bringing “a sense of serenity.”
Isn’t that a lovely word? And so rarely used!
A couple of months ago Nidhi and I spent an entire Saturday afternoon with our friends and their newborn outside of Palo Alto’s Verve coffee. The sun was generous and time passed at a slow jam tempo. Close friends, good coffee, perfect weather, luscious conversation.
As I’ve meditated on the meaning of serenity for the past few weeks, this is the moment that keeps coming to mind.
Of course, social distancing and rote routine inside of a tiny space makes recreating this experience impossible — so I’ve been searching for pockets of serenity that are available to me in my new reality.
It’s a little too easy for me to slip into disparaging our apartment — it’s tiny, poorly maintained, doesn’t have a washer or dryer, etc. — especially when I’m spending literally 24/7 inside.
But I love the way natural light fills our living room in the mornings. I find the way the shadows cast onto the floor and couch so calming.
Before sheltering-in-place I didn’t have much time to enjoy the morning light before leaving for work. But now I get to fully enjoy it every day. Each night I look forward to when I get to wake up and open the blinds for the first time.
And, as old the saying goes,
when you can’t go to the coffee shop, bring the coffee shop to you.
After three weeks of waffling I caved and ordered a 12 pack of Verve’s cold brew (please do not look up how much this costs). It was an indulgent purchase, but when paired with the morning light, it has brought me serenity.
Here’s a completely uninteresting, basic photo of exactly that:
Where have you found serenity?
Maybe it’s food that you’ve made (or ordered!), or a pet (or plant!), or something you spied on a walk (or at home!).
I’d love for my next email to be a collection of photos like the ones I’ve shared above. No filters or special compositions required — we’re not Instagramming in the Sagrada Família here 😏.
When you reply with your photo don’t forget to include a title, caption, or story (and if you feel like it, your location).
As always, I’m honored that you’ve chosen this as a safe space to share your stories with me and everyone else who’s chosen to come along for the journey.
I’ll end with one last nudge towards connection: if you thought of someone while reading this email, would you forward it to them?