Have you ever noticed the places your mind will wander if you free it to do some mindless task like mopping or driving or watching another rerun on TV?
Wait. Driving is not a mindless task. I am always mindful while driving. And I certainly hope you are, too.
But sometimes my mind seems to have a mind of its own. Take this morning when I made the bed. You know the drill: Shake the sheets, smooth the covers, fluff the pillows and try not to tweak your back.
I’ve made a bed so many times I don’t need to think about it. I can do it with my eyes closed. In fact, somedays, I probably do.
Lately, after more than four months of “sheltering in place” for the coronavirus pandemic, I was starting to get, to put it mildly, tired of the whole thing.
Tired of feeling like a prisoner under house arrest. Tired of keeping distant from people I want to hug. Tired of fearing for the lives and livelihoods of loved ones and neighbors all around the world. And especially tired of wondering when will it end?
If you’re tired of it, too, let me assure you, we’re not alone. It’s so common there’s even a name for it: “Quarantine fatigue.” It drains us of energy for things we need and want to do — like laughing and loving, feeling truly alive. Worst of all, if left untreated, it can rob us of hope.
So this morning, I decided to clear my head of worry and fear by focusing instead on one simple task: Making the bed.
It worked. For about 30 seconds. Then my mind took off like a hound after a rabbit and suddenly I recalled a memory.
I was 7 years old. My parents were divorced. I’d lived most of my life with my grandparents. But my mother had recently remarried and we’d moved to a new town. I started second grade at a school where I knew no one. I missed my dad, my grandparents and the only home I’d ever known, the one place on Earth where I felt safe.
My new teacher’s name was Mrs. Harrison. A few days after I showed up in her class, she asked me to stay in at recess. When the class went out to play, she closed the door, took my face in her hands and smiled.
“I’ve noticed you don’t seem very happy,” she said. “Would you like to talk about it?”
I burst into tears. Bawled like a baby. Told her everything and then some. She listened.
When I stopped, she took a clean handkerchief out of her desk and dried my face.
“You’re traveling a hard road,” she said, “but it will get easier. You can talk to me anytime, but always remember this: You are stronger than you know.”
She was right. The road got easier, mostly because she made school a pleasure. There’d be more hard miles ahead, as there are in every life. But her words would echo in my memory just when I needed to hear them.
In the four years my first husband fought for his life battling cancer, I often felt so weary I wanted to hide in the closet under a pile of dirty socks. But mostly, I wanted to be strong for him and our three children — and myself. Giving up was not an option.
Several things helped. First, coffee. I drank a lot of it.
Second, I knew my kids were watching me. I wanted to show them we could help their dad live his last days to the fullest, and after losing him, we could honor his memory by moving forward with our lives.
Third, I had an army of prayer warriors — family, friends and readers around the country — asking God to give me strength.
And always, I had this: Every time I felt like hiding in the closet, Mrs. Harrison would whisper in my memory, “You are stronger than you know.”
Sometimes, when we doubt our own strength, it helps to know someone believes in us.
We have never traveled a road quite like this pandemic. But we are traveling it together, believing in one another. And we are stronger than we know.
— Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or on her website: sharonrandall.com.