By Elisa Morgan
What metaphor would you use to describe the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on your life? One Monday morning each month, I participate in a zoom meeting with seven other women from across North America. Some from the U.S. Some from Canada. Some much older. Some almost my age. Some married. Some single. All of us are intrigued by the latter years of life and the process of aging as we grow in our relationships with God. We first met in person at a gathering in San Antonio, Texas where we’d each signed up for a two-year course on aging. Due to the pandemic, we haven’t seen each other in person since January 2020. Like so many others on this planet, we’ve learned to connect in other ways as we continue our studies and ponderings. In our recent Monday meeting, as we rounded the “Brady Bunch” style squares updating each other, I listened as a thread of a theme wove through our conversation. We seemed to be trying to describe our pandemic world with a metaphor. Each of us. But with different metaphors. We were attempting to sort through and face up to our emotions and do the work needed to make sense of them - to move forward. Metaphorically speaking. I began to wonder what metaphor I might use to capture the evolution of everyday living that this pandemic has created … The Doldrums: A nautical term that refers to the belt around the Earth near the equator where sailing ships sometimes get stuck on windless waters. Doldrums can have an emotional interpretation as in a season of listlessness or despondency or a state of inactivity or stagnation. A slump. Am I in the doldrums? Are you? A Waiting Room: The place where you wait for what you want. To see a doctor or a dentist. To board transportation. At the DMV, to take your driver’s test. Take a number and be seated! Just endure until it ends. Am I in a waiting room? Are you? A Battle: A struggle against the bad for the good where health professionals wage “war” on disease. As soldiers in such a battle, every day folks take up weapons of masks and social distancing to do our parts. Am I in a battle? Are you? The Ostrich Effect: The term comes from financial avoidance where investors ignore or avoid negative information. A legend (false) holds that ostriches bury their heads in the sand to avoid danger. As it applies to the pandemic, this is pretty much denial. Am I being an ostrich? Are you? A Roller Coaster: As with the up and down, careening movement of a roller coaster – always out of our control – emotions can take surprising turns. The ever-changing COVID guidelines, the ongoing “pivoting” from one effort to another, weave us back and forth and up and down. We want to get off! Am I on a roller coaster? Are you? A Pause: Like a comma in a sentence, a pause in time is a brief stopping place. Similar concepts might be a rest in music, where playing ceases for a beat or more. In the pandemic, we might experience longer than anticipated – or normal – pauses. In the first months, such “rests” may have been welcome. Now? Am I in a pause? Are you? Hold Your Breath: Breathe in but don’t breathe out. How long can you hold your breath and still live? Some of us are running red-in-the-face, at our limit in breath-holding. Am I holding my breath? Are you? A Schoolroom: The place where we go to be taught information and life lessons. We plop down at our desks and tune in to learn, which can be an adventure, or an annoyance if we prefer other things. Am I in a schoolroom? Are you? A Baby’s Mobile: When one object is bumped, all other attached objects sway off balance until the entire construct returns immobile. Everything that seemed normal around us becomes hazy and confusing when unpredictably dancing about us. It’s dizzying and we long for it all to just stop moving. Am I in a mobile? Are you? Liminal Space: The word liminal comes from the Latin word limen, meaning threshold – any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the what was and the next. It is a place of transition, a season of waiting, and not knowing. Author Richard Rohr expresses, “This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don’t encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy.”* In some ways, this space is indeed, sacred. We find a new way of viewing life. And a new way of living. Am I in liminal space? Are you? Like me, you may find several of these metaphors simultaneously describe your pandemic world. Or you may move between them – or several of them. Life is complicated and messy and rarely, if ever, what we expect it to be. In such seasons, metaphors can help us sort through and face up to our emotions as we do the work needed to make sense of them to move forward. To move from metaphorically speaking to metaphorically living. *https://inaliminalspace.org/about-us/what-is-a-liminal-space/
Elisa Morgan is the cohost of the new podcast, God Hears Her. She is also the cohost of Discover the Word and contributor to Our Daily Bread. Her latest book is When We Pray Like Jesus. Her other books include The Beauty of Broken, Hello, Beauty Full, and She Did What She Could. Connect with Elisa @elisa_morgan on Twitter, and @elisamorganauthor on Facebook and Instagram.