Back when it became apparent that the coronavirus had made its way across the Pacific (or the Atlantic, or wherever it came from), I really did think that we’d be in a state of disruption for a month, maybe two, and then everything would get back to normal. That’s one of the reasons I had thought we’d keep the church open, keep our heads and hearts down, and just bulldoze our way through this thing until we made it through to the other side.
Last year Psychology Today magazine ran an article that would turn out to be far more prescient than they ever could have imagined. The article was titled, “What Are You Afraid Of?” While a glance at the title might lead one to believe that the article would be about different phobias that leave people paralyzed – phobias like the fear of spiders or snakes or the fear of heights – the article actually delved more deeply into core anxieties that act as an undertow in our lives, those fears that are constantly dragging us down and holding us back from becoming the type of person we really want to be – phobias like being rejected or being abandoned or being controlled or manipulated by others. What intrigued me about the article was the way it underscored our fear of losing control and being at the mercy of other people, especially when other people can rarely be trusted to have our best interest at heart (“What Are You Afraid Of?” Psychology Today, 8/4/19).
Hard times, such as the one we’re going through now, have the potential both to teach us new things about ourselves and to confirm other things we already knew. I’m still not sure what all I have learned over these last two months, but there is one thing that they have confirmed to me about myself – I am not too good at doing deprivation.
Earlier this year, The New York Times ran a story titled, “How to Be an Expatriate in 2020.” It was a story that focused on a middle-aged couple, Chuck and Kirsten Burgess, who decided one day to leave behind their two comfortable homes, one in Manhattan and the other in the Hamptons, along with their good careers, in order to move abroad to an entirely different country, where they owned nothing, knew no one, and had no real capacity for speaking any language other than their native English. And so they sold off everything, picked up the little they had left over, and moved lock, stock, and barrel to Barcelona, Spain. What really got my attention in the article was, of course, their reasoning. According to the couple, they transitioned to an expatriate life “because they yearned for something more – not something more in the sense of material things, but in the satisfaction derived from new adventures in new lands.” And as the article went on to feature other Americans who had come to the same decision as the Burgesses, it concluded with this observation on the “expat” life: “This is not a life for those who are running away; it’s instead a life for those who running toward something (“How to Be an Expatriate in 2020,” The New York Times, 2/21/20).
Every journey in life presumes a destination. In other words, when we set out on a particular course, most of the time we are aiming to get somewhere specifically. Granted, we may have adjusted our aim a bit in these recent days because of our current situation. For example, some of us feel the need at times to get out of the house and just go “somewhere.” We don’t have a specific destination in mind; we just know that if we don’t get out we may go “bat crazy,” which by the way is a figure of speech that has lost its charm in light of our present pandemic. But you get the point. A mobile society can’t tolerate a quarantine situation forever, and so we look for ways to get out, which in itself is enough of a destination for most of us.
You’re familiar with the term, “mixed bag?” No, that term doesn’t refer to an Easter basket that’s filled with different kinds of candies and colored eggs. The term actually goes back to the turn of the last century when hunters would bag various types of birds and put them together in a single bag; hence the term, “mixed bag.”
My wife and I moved into our new home a month or so ago, and its physical address is not yet on any of the navigation apps. So, when we have needed people to find us, unless they know the neighborhood, getting to our house is evidently impossible.
Like for many of you, spring is my favorite season of the year. I especially love the way that everything around me buds and blooms in a cascade of colors that not even Picasso could come close to matching. A good part of it, no doubt, is that spring just happens to be the season that comes after winter, which as we all know is almost always a dreary and dismal time. Even though we live far enough south for it not to get too brutally cold down here in Birmingham, we get just enough of the chilly stuff that we soon weary of it, which makes the springtime something we anticipate most anxiously.
Some years ago, I remember traveling from my hometown in West Alabama to get back to where I was living at the time. The route I took from York was US 80, which we chillingly referred to as “Blood Alley” because of the number of fatal accidents that had taken place on that stretch of road over the years.
As a “newbie” to smart technology, I continue to be amazed at the immense capabilities I have at my disposal with something as small as my smartphone. Not a week goes by that I don’t discover some new application that delivers on its promise to make my life go so much smoother and so much easier.