A couple of days ago, I woke up, looked out the window and thought, “Oh yeah, the virus.” And suddenly I felt like my nine-year-old self arriving at sleep-away camp for the first time. From a family without much, never having been out of my southside neighborhood, I was now in Racine, WI at a camp created for two weeks in the summer from a year-round orphanage run by Episcopalian nuns. Didn’t know the Episcopal church had nuns, did you? Neither did I until that day. And now I was being handed over to these nice but officious creatures in strange garb. I wasn’t even sure they were really human, but they had my life in their hands for the next fourteen days.
Everything was new and strange. The food, sleeping in a dorm, not being in control of my own time, being part of a herd of girls, wrangled and sent to various parts of the camp for a variety of activities, all day, every day. And church every morning, before breakfast, with incense. Keeping track of how many of us fainted during the service each morning was my primary distraction during church. I was a stranger in a strange land, and I yearned for home. At least I did for a few days, and then everything changed.
I adjusted. Instead of feeling lost, never knowing where I would end up next according to their bloody schedule, resenting the fact that it wasn’t I but they who decided my activities, I accepted this temporary expulsion from normalcy and emotionally claimed what was happening to me.
I took in the many acres of the partially wooded camp and began to explore what I could do to shape my experience into one at least partially controlled by me. This is what all kids do when they first are thrown into a territory never before experienced. Children are actually quite good at this. They have to be.
Of course, this was not how I thought about it when I was a child. But, like every child in the whole world, I did my best to belong to this new adventure and to make myself feel secure by forcing the camp days to belong to me, at least as much as possible.
My first days at camp I felt acted upon. Someone was doing something to me, and no one had consulted me about it. That is a scary feeling. And that is what is happening to us all, right now, today. We didn’t ask for this, and we don’t know what to expect, or how long it will last.
I wondered, looking out my bedroom window, how much longer I could hold out, not seeing my family, pushing back depression and anxiety, wondering what was to happen to the tumultuous world in which we now live. And this was the answer that came to me: What will happen to us, at least within the small worlds we inhabit, is what we decide will happen.
We need to eliminate the feeling that we are being acted upon and replace it with action. Find a way that’s right for you, and do something that allows you to feel in control, if only a little. Find ways to adapt, because we aren’t going back to “normal” anytime soon. Don’t allow yourself to be conquered by what is going on around us. Call on that little, adaptable kid inside of you. Be that child.