Erin is the Worship Arts Director at Seattle Unity Church, where she is part of the team that is putting on virtual worship services every week. I have always appreciated and enjoyed not only her musicality but her ebullient energy. I am not surprised that it comes through her writing as well as her singing.
by Erin McGaughan, Seattle, WA
“You’re doing enough. Just breathe. Relax.”
I’m a natural hedonist. I need to learn relaxation techniques about as much as your average house cat. And that’s how much guilt I have about it, too. But I’m also friendly and sloppy like a big dog, so I’ll eat up any validation you wanna dangle, with about that much gusto
And, like most of America’s house pets, I’m doing okay with this virus stuff.
But I’m seeing tons of online content offering messages like “You folks at home, don’t worry about being productive, don’t try to ‘win’ quarantine, just relax, grieve, focus on the present moment.”
So obviously there are tons of quarantined folks who are jonesing to hear that kind of validation. And I’ll certainly gobble up that stuff, why not.
Let’s be honest, though, we don’t all need it.
The problem with being an average American domesticated house-person is that sometimes we get like purebreds: prone to anxiety and hyper-sensitivity.
Some of us get addicted to the mantras and affirmations, the validation, on an endless search for comfort that never comes. So we gnaw hot spots into our own fur.
“Everyone else is doing better than me.”
“My career will never recover.”
“We’re all going to die.” (This is true, of course, but most likely not all at once.)
Or some of us develop an ever-expanding need for territory. Like housepets, we press our noses against the glass, hissing at interlopers.
“Just LOOK at those damn millennials, no masks, out there… laughing.”
“No children at grocery stores! Germy! SUPERSPREADERS!!!”
And me, I do this same thing, but who do I growl at? Well, of course, those red hat people. A part of me would pee in their shoes eagerly. (I mean, they don’t even believe in science. Assholes! Bark bark!)
But we’re not pets. I am no one’s pet.
We’re human, so we have some special, uniquely human capacities, too: the capacity to plan our future, to do mass communication, and to make meaning.
For re-opening, for re-scheduling, for re-envisioning our daily lives, for new business structures, new healthcare structures, new vaccines, new government roles and voting protocols.
Beyond our habitual silos, learning new tech, new languages, shoring up community, and creating brave new connections and collaborations.
To make meaning.
To create, to re-prioritize, to shift perspective, standards, identities, and beliefs, to begin mining this new mother lode of raw creative ore. Because that’s what this is.
Now is a moment of global transformation. Yes, it’s a horror, because of the deaths. But it’s also a societal evolution, and there are no affirmations that can erase the stress of true human metamorphosis.
So sure, be gentle with yourself. Eat a pot brownie, and take a shameless, hedonistic bath. But don’t wait for calm. Don’t look for a new normal, it’s not coming.
And anyway, you don’t need it.
Humans exist because we adapt in ways beyond what other animals can do: we plan, we communicate, and we make meaning—even while we’re anxious. We don’t need to first become calm.