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I initially had grand plans of reading and writing about two excellent new books that are out this month on Christian nationalism, but then a pandemic happened. Alas, that post will have to wait till this is all over, when I can focus on reading again and pick up the books from my favorite local bookstore once it reopens.

Like many others, I’ve struggled to focus on anything besides the news the last few weeks. Between moving to working remotely, tracking the spread of the virus, and worrying about myself, friends, and family, I’ve had limited energy for anything else.

This week, however, I’ve been working on coping strategies and hunkering down to make it through for as long as this lasts. If last week I spent all my time doom-scrolling through Twitter, this week I’ve seriously cut back on my news and social media time and tried to find other things to focus on.

Here’s what I’ve found helpful so far:

1.) I didn’t give up anything for Lent but I did decide I’d read through Rainer Maria Rilke’s Book of Hours during this season, and it couldn’t have been better timing. Here are a few examples of poems I’ve been returning to this past week. And one of my all-time favorites:

I love you, gentlest of Ways,
who ripened us as we wrestled with you.

You, the great homesickness we could never shake off,
you, the forest that always surrounded us,

you, the song we sang in every silence,
you dark net threading through us.

you began yourself so greatly
on that day when you began us.

2.) I’ve been watching Sunday services from the Washington National Cathedral, even though I cry every time the camera pans the empty church pews. But the ritual and rhythm of the service are comforting, especially since I won’t be back in my home church until the end of May (hopefully!).

3.) I’ve been keeping up with Science Mike’s podcast and his live stories on Facebook and Instagram. Mike is a favorite podcast host and author of mine. During the last few weeks, he has struck the perfect balance of being honest about what we’re facing, explaining the science even if it’s scary, and acknowledging our complex feelings while also providing space to be present and to step outside our fears of the future. If you’d like to be better informed about what’s going on but need someone who will break the news to you in a gentle way, Science Mike is your guy.

4.) I’ve been walking all over my neighborhood, because what else is there that’s safe to do.

5.) I rewatched Derry Girls. Again. And I started rereading Lord of the Rings, relying on the comfort of the familiar when everything else is so uncertain.

6.) I’ve thought a lot about what Science Mike, Anne Helen Petersen, and others have had to say about grief during this time. We’re all grieving the loss of normalcy–”our lives as they once were”–and feeling anticipatory grief over what’s yet to come.

7.) I listened to the A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, watched it snow, and pretended to be somewhere else for a little bit.

8.) I’ve called family and friends a million times, grateful for how easy it is to connect even when we can’t see each other in person. I even got to watch my godson take his first steps–via a WhatsApp video.

9.) I emailed all my advisees to set up meetings to talk about their Fall courses. It feels like an act of faith, trusting that things will be back to normal in the Fall, but it feels good to look ahead and know that we will make it through.

I feel better just writing this all down and reflecting on the small, beautiful, and hard parts of the last few weeks. Even when it feels like everything’s falling apart, life continues and there is still beauty in these small moments.

What have you been doing the last few weeks to cope? Are there any practices, writers, poets, or other resources you’ve been relying on to get you through?

Allison Vander Broek

Allison Vander Broek is a historian of American religion and politics. She recently graduated from Boston College with her doctorate in history. Her dissertation, Rallying the Right-to-Lifers: Grassroots Religion and Politics in the Building of a Broad-Based Right-to-Life Movement, 1960-1984, explored the origins of the right-to-life movement in the 1960s and its rise to national prominence.

3 Comments

  • Rowland Van Es says:

    Thanks for the Washington National Cathedral suggestion. Personally, I would also recommend giving up Twitter for Lent (and probably for good).

  • William Harris says:

    Since we are advised to basically live as hermits, I’ve taken to reading the Sayings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, Benedicta Ward (tr.)

  • Susan says:

    Thank you. I am also worshiping with the Washington National Cathedral. Wonderful service. Traditional hymns with choir and organ. Biblical and socially important sermons. I really feel like I have been to church. Find them on live on UTube at 11: AM. Also lots of past services to be part of.

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