Skip to main content

Accepting "The Except"

As smart as we humans are, we are not really good at accepting reality. Not at first.

Ever heard of the term "object permanence"? (Parents and human development experts nod.) "Object permanence" is why it's so much fun to play peekaboo with a baby. They don't grasp object permanence yet. You're there, and suddenly, there are just hands. And then you're back again! Whoo-hoo! Magic!

We mature, and we develop an understanding that just because an object is hidden, it still exists. (Except for my husband and kids, who are convinced that if they don't see the bottle of mayonnaise in the front row of the refrigerator, clearly, it no longer exists. I have offered to play peekaboo with them to teach them about object permanence. Surprisingly, they did not appreciate my generous offer.)

For the most part, we adults have, if anything, an over-developed sense of object permanence. We can go days without seeing each other, but we not only know we still exist, we still feel connected.

And then something very sad happens, and someone dies unexpectedly. What do we say? "But ... I just saw him Sunday!" "But ... I just talked on the phone with her last week!" Our brains can't wrap themselves around the fact that reality has changed so radically.

And so now here we are, living in The Except.

I had some tv shows on my DVR from last December and have been watching them. It is the commercials that feel so jarring. People in large groups together, preparing for Christmas or New Year's. They are hugging! Total strangers are gathering in large theaters, shoulder to shoulder! I gape. Surely that was from 10 years ago? No, just a few months.

It was just over a month ago that we still gathered in groups, in church, in restaurants, at the mall. How can that be true, and the reality we're now living also be true? My brain can't grasp it.

But grasp it we must. And we must continue to put in front of ourselves the reality of the situation, seeking out the best information, and avoiding those who seek to persuade us away from accepting reality. There are those who hope we are babies, and if they can just obscure what we see, we'll think that it is safe to gather together again.

It is not. The reality we were living was not permanent. (Nothing is permanent.)

We are living in The Except. And the sooner we accept that, and adjust ourselves to living in the current reality, the sooner we will be able to flatten the curve, and give the scientists time to find the medicines to treat covid-19, and please God, a vaccine.

The time for peekaboo is over.


Popular posts from this blog

Don't Trust Your Instincts, or, "Well-Meaning People Can Exacerbate Big Problems"

My evangelical friends talk about being "convicted." That moment when you hear or read a message and like an arrow, it dives into your heart, and you know that you have been guilty, and you have some growing to do. At the very beginning of my learning about Bowen systems theory, the professor was laying out the basic idea: that we all feel anxiety, and when we do, we act (often in unhealthy ways) in order to lessen our anxiety. And in an unhealthy system with emotionally immature people -- a family, a business, a church -- one person's anxiety can trigger the anxiety of others. Here's a great primer on that. Really great. Like, watch it 20 times in a row. Or every morning as you drink your coffee. (I'm not kidding. I think your life would be better. Consider it a spiritual practice.) So back to my conviction moment. The professor went on to talk about how when we see someone who is "vibrating" with anxiety, our instinct is often to rush over,

The Most Controversial Thing I'll Write All Year

Back when you were a kid, you learned a lesson. It was wrong. And it's time for you to unlearn it. You learned that you were responsible for other people's feelings. Not that you should care about other people's feelings. (You should.) Not just that you should be sensitive to other people's feelings. (You should.) But you were taught that you were actually responsible for other people's feelings. It happens in almost all homes, even the loving ones. In abusive homes, it's more blatant. If Dad is unhappy, you get hit. So you learn that it is actually your responsibility to keep him happy, or there would be consequences. But even in non-abusive homes, it happened. If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.  You are not responsible for other people's feelings. That's their job. And in fact, you are crossing their boundary if you try to control their feelings. They get to decide how they feel about something, not you. They may decide that you

Me and My Collar

You may run into me on a Friday, in my neighborhood, so it's time I let you know what you might see. When I was doing my required unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), my supervisor suggested that any of us who came from traditions where a clerical collar was an option, take one "collar week," to see how we were treated, as opposed to wearing regular professional clothes. After a couple of days, I joked to the Catholic priest, "How do you manage the power?" In regular clothes, I would walk into a patient's room, and it would take about 5 or so minutes of introductions and pleasantries before we could really get down to talking about their feelings, their fears, the deep stuff. With most people, as soon as that clerical collar walked in the room, with me attached, they began pouring out all the heavy stuff they were carrying. I was riding the bus back and forth every day, and though not quite so dramatic, the collar effect was alive there, to