What should have been….

Whenever something new or unexpected happens in my life, it takes me a hot minute to catch up. I wish I were quicker on my feet, but I need time to regroup. Part of that regrouping is looking around and finding someone in a similar situation who appears to know what they are doing. This was true for me when I first started working in the church, when I first became a mom and when I needed help parenting teenagers. Without fail, God has put people in my life who could guide me.

In this new world of COVID-19 and quarantining, I’ve looked around and it seems that none of us knows what to do. Actually, we do know a few things: that we should wash our hands and stay home and support the medical community and try to teach our kids something during the day.

What we don’t know is how to react to these changes or how to feel about all of this or what will come next.

I can’t find a “true North” to guide me. Even during other times of national crisis, like wars or 9/11, people haven’t been isolated like we are during this pandemic. We are all making this up as we go.

I have figured out one thing that does not work. For a few days, I would look at my calendar and focus on what was supposed to happen that day, before the virus. I would announce, like the town crier, “Today should have been your birthday party/prom/college visits/first home track meet.” It helped no one. What “should have been” simply isn’t important anymore.

There will certainly be a time to grieve all that we have lost, but I’m pretty sure that my required daily lament was just keeping us stuck. It was preventing me from figuring out how to adapt to our new situation. 

Here’s how I know that we are in unprecedented times: I’m turning to football for guidance. Football?!?

Several years ago, back when our friends could come watch football at our house, we had several families over to watch a big game. At one point, the quarterback threw an interception and one of my sweet girlfriends yelled, “He just hijacked the ball!!” We all loved this new phrase; I prefer it now to “intercepting” because it more accurately describes the surprise and the enormity of the other team now having the ball. I’ve started calling anything that doesn’t go the way we all expect a “hijacking.” 

The graduating class of 2020 has been hijacked. The lives of people filing for unemployment have been hijacked. Medical staff’s time with their own families has been hijacked. Teachers’ plans for their classrooms have been hijacked. Spring has been hijacked. Everything is going in the wrong direction. 

So, here’s what happens when the ball gets hijacked—people’s roles change. The quarterback and the offensive players have to get the guy with the ball. This isn’t usually their job, but in a split second, they have to stop the other team from scoring. After they do that, the coach pulls them out and puts in the defense.

The offense doesn’t stop everything and talk it through on the field. There’s no deep processing of the unexpected events; that’s for later. In the middle of the game, there’s only quick thinking and changing plans and doing what’s necessary.

The coach certainly doesn’t announce every few minutes, “This is when we should have been kicking a field goal.” That opportunity is gone and isn’t coming back. 

Figuring out what in the world happened to our plans will come later; for now, we just have to adapt and face these unexpected circumstances and do everything we can to get the ball back. For the sake of one another, we need to stay in the game. 

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  • This is so good! Have you listened to Brene Brown’s new podcast, Unlocking Us? I think you’d like it, and this seems in line with so much of what she says.

  • Anna,
    You’ve written some good posts, but this might be your best one yet. You nailed the emotions of most, if not all of us. Thank you for articulating what we are all feeling. We’re all in this together!