I woke up this morning to a pleasant feeling. My wife, Janell, rolled out of bed, took the pup out and fed him. All this after a night of cuddling with the kitties in the spare bedroom. Talk about St. Francis!
It’s a whole thing, making sure the cats feel loved in spite of having a rambunctious puppy in the house who wants nothing more than to ‘play chase’ them. Without human babies, we are definitely a little ‘extra’ for our rescues.
Back to this morning, as I yawned, stretched, and wiped the drool from my mouth, I was able to tell myself “5 more minutes”. Rolling over in my extra spacious, animal, and spouse free bed. I knew I was loved.
It sounds odd, but an empty bed made me feel even more connected to my family. Janell did all of this to support our fur babies, which I love and appreciate, and in doing so supported me and my insatiable desire to hit snooze one last time. Sometimes, it really is the small things that make the biggest difference.
Feeling grateful as I rose and began my day, stumbling to the coffee pot. I got to thinking. I got to thinking about Glenn’s message this past weekend.
I got to thinking about the wonderful ways I get to experience God’s love every day and how many things I have to be grateful for. I decided to take Glenn up on his suggestion to make a mini gratitude list and send it to him, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, feeling all things good, I grabbed a second cup of joe, opened my surface, and sat down with the intention of taking this a step further. I felt the call, I felt the invitation, I wanted to apply Glenn’s message to my own life.
Reflecting on my experience from the day before, I remember watching the livestream with Janell, Ares, Mercy, Loki, and Howie all nestled throughout the living room on chairs, couches, rugs, and sofas. As Glenn began painting the picture of his message, outlining as he spoke, I felt myself experiencing all the emotions and all the stages of grief.
At first, I didn’t even want to admit that I had these feelings. “Oh, not me” I told myself in true denial. “I am coping just fine”. But as he continued, I could feel reality setting in. I did have emotions and they really were beginning to look like a picture window to my soul.
Coming face to face with this truth, I threw my hands into the air and muddled to myself in silence, “I’m ready to be done with this”. I was angry at myself for having these feelings in the first place because I didn’t want to acknowledge my humanity and admit that I was vulnerable.
I then began to bargain with myself. “I am in the midst of ‘worship’, surrounded by a loving community, I guess I can allow myself to be vulnerable for a few minutes”.
And in that moment, accepting my emotions and my vulnerability meant settling into mystery, into unknowns, and a loss of control, which inevitably lead me to feeling sad. I was sad for my present, being isolated, sad for my past, for not appreciating life with all its wonders, and sad for my future, because I really didn’t know what was going to happen. My thoughts were starting to slip away from me, down a deep, dark, rabbit hole.
“Are you okay, Kyle?” Janell prodded, shocking me back to life. “You look sad” she said. “I’m okay” I responded. I meant it as I was beginning to feel better after allowing myself to be sad for a moment.
My emotional expression felt like I had just cleaned and polished my picture window, opening it just a crack, allowing the Sun in, to nourish my soul, and allowing the crud to leave.
Still engaged vividly with the sermon, in the span of minutes, I had hit all the emotional stages of grief. I moved through them so effortlessly, I knew Glenn’s message was speaking to me. I connected to its purpose. It opened my eyes and prepared me for what’s next. And I was grateful but not yet ready to continue with this experiment for the day.
The rest of the afternoon was full of movies, with skies gloomy, cuddled on the couch. I slipped off into dreamless sleep in an empty bed. And now the next day, after waking up feeling loved and full of gratitude, here I am.
To reiterate, with my surface on the table, coffee on the side, I’m ready now. I’m now ready to accept and name COVID-19 and the impact it’s having in my life. This includes all the knowns and unknowns and their full range of accompanying emotions. And if by any chance, explore the meaning in all of this. To find the brightest day after the darkest night, I hope.
Let’s start with what I know. As I sit here today, I know and accept that I was supposed to preach yesterday but we pivoted, so that we can harness Glenn’s leadership. It was a smart move and although I was sad about missing the opportunity, I was grateful for our community and its leaders.
I know and accept that I am supposed to be a on plane to Portugal as we speak, visiting friends who live overseas. And yes, I am absolutely bummed. No beach, no vineyards, no catching up and sharing memories. Yet again I am also grateful that Portugal isn’t going anywhere and neither are my friends. <3
And for what I don’t know, I accept there is a lot of uncertainty with the ministry I was a part of building. Right now, nothing about being a Deacon Intern focusing on Outreach and Volunteerism at Nativity is clear or ‘normal’. I accept that I am afraid for the future. And yet, I am grateful once again, for our community, committed to ministering to people on the margins and generous, giving life to the entire body of the Church.
Okay, now I am starting to wonder why I did this to myself again. I mean, not really, but sometimes it’s easier to put my head in the sand. I had the full range of emotions yesterday and now I’m stirring them up again as I face my reality. It’s a hard journey. Nonetheless, I can’t escape my gratefulness. And then I begin to hear Janell’s voice echoing in the chamber of my mind.
“Kyle, ask Glenn what to do when you experience all the stages and emotions of Grief, all at once”, she chuckled. She was asking for herself as I hadn’t shared any of my emotional life with her during the sermon. She somehow always knows, intuitively, how to ground me and put things into perspective with humor, reminding me that we are not alone in our transition to a new normal.
And I realize that this new normal is eventually going to happen, but not today, not tomorrow, and as Glenn put it, not without struggle.
Feeling like I’ve adequately explored the depths of my grief and the levels of acceptance, I am still searching for meaning. I’m still searching for that guiding light to help see me through this. For now, for comfort and solace, for hope and promise, I return to my list of gratitude.
I am grateful to see people connecting more. To see people showing love and compassion. To see people out there enjoying nature and being good stewards of the earth. And for all of this, I truly am grateful.
I want to rest here. I want to rest in this sensation of all things good, without pain and without fear. That is where I want to be. But as the situation changes daily or even faster, I find my emotions, needs, wants, desires, and perspectives, changing just as fast.
A little more settled after returning to my list, my heart is still pounding a bit and my nerves are just about shot from this emotional roller coaster. I realize, I need some help. I need help ‘settling into God’s Love’ and finding my meaning.
Ready to exit the Amusement Park, stage left, for the day, I once again have chosen to follow Glenn’s lead. I choose to sink into my favorite armchair, with soft lighting, and my best set of pajama pants, allowing myself to get comfortable. And with a little help, I began to breath.
Ah, that’s much better! More to come on that in a sec… But just so you know, this is, pretty much, the story of my life! Anytime ‘Dad’ is silent and stationary for a few moments, he can absolutely count on becoming a human cat-tree.
Feeling much better and fulfilled in naming my reality, facing it, and accepting it, I’m ready to engage the rest of my day with its full array of challenges and opportunities. And with even more good news, for now, I feel refreshed and secure in the moment, resting in God’s Mystery, and living life to the fullest. One day at a time, ‘Sweet Jesus’.