At the end of 2019, I chose the word surrender as my focus for the coming year. Little did I know how much I would learn about letting go. I had just walked away from a job I deeply loved and entered into a season of grief.

By the time February came around, things were looking better for me. I was waking up early, exercising at the gym and getting into a rhythm of caring for my mind, body and soul.

Covid-19

And then the rupture happened. We entered into the unprecedented. The school district closed, the gym closed and everyone on Facebook started arguing about masks. More than anything, I wanted life to go back to normal [Cue stomp!]. I wanted to find “answers” or someone or something to blame, but what I found instead was my self and my soul knee deep in conspiracy theories.

It didn’t take long to discover what it was doing to my mental health and my physical body, the way the information was affecting my nervous system and feeding into fear. After a few (lost) weeks, I crawled out of that hole.

Perhaps you know someone who climbed in the hole and they aren’t coming up for air. It’s very likely they have a heavy background in fear-based faith or an upbringing focused on the end rather than the beauty of the right now moments, of living, breathing, being.

That’s the thing about conspiracies, they rob you of the present and feed into that deep down desire for wanting to be in the know. They leave little room for open dialogue, for curiosity or connection. But lend itself to dualism, and the inability to trust or engage with the other side.

Stay Curious

For a lot of years, fear has been my go-to emotion. I don’t like that I usually find it underneath a thick layer of anger and/or pride. But God is good and he doesn’t give up on me either.

I didn’t learn how to cultivate curiosity or sit in the tension of the unknown until recent times. In western culture, I’ve learned a lot about how to find answers and follow rules–especially unspoken ones.

Could this be why uncertainty has been so difficult for Americans? I don’t have the answer. All I know is that the way our society is collectively responding to a rupture in culture (Covid-19, grief, unrest, loss, etc.) is exactly what psychologists have written about in years’ past. Us humans are responding as expected.

Renormalization leads unconsciously to social narcissism, a complete identification with those perceived to be most like oneself, and an alienation and dissociation from those who appear different. Polarized identities – we are good and upright, they are bad and delinquent – are rigidified in this scenario.”

Toward psychologies of liberation (2008)

The above quote uses the word polarization in the midst of a rupture. Did that get your attention too? How are you doing with all of that, because here’s the thing … most of my friends and family will not cast the same vote as me. And yet, I still want to be loved. I’m guessing you want to be loved for who you are too, rather than the bubble you fill in on your ballot.

Several months have passed and life hasn’t gone “back to normal.” The year 2020 has been hard on a lot of us. It’s common to want to find someone or something to blame, but we need to make room for empathy instead.

Choose Empathy

Whenever I’ve been met with empathy about my own lived experiences, whether it’s a battle with mental illness or feelings of inadequacy, those are the times I’ve felt seen, heard, known and loved.

How about you? When was the last time you felt seen, heard, known and loved? For me, it was in a recent counseling session when I learned that being too sensitive isn’t a thing.

It’s more about creating healthy boundaries and building shame resilience. Did you know resilience is produced by empathy? How are you doing in giving yourself empathy when others fall short?

As we approach election week, may you find a way to protect your mental health and be gentle on your nervous system. May you learn the art of letting go, staying curious, and choosing empathy.

It is the pathway to resilience.

Do not hesitate to love, and to love deeply.

Henri Nouwen