I can do all things through the One who gives me strength. - Philippians 4:13 (The Inclusive Bible)
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been leaning on these words a lot lately. Living in and through a global pandemic takes a lot of different kinds of strength.
We need strength to be in relationship with each other right now, in new and different ways.
We need strength to care for ourselves while we are also caring for others.
We need strength to keep our sense of identity –of who we know ourselves to be--safe and healthy while we are isolating.
We need strength to keep all the parts of our bodies as healthy as we can.
And we need strength to resist messages that are damaging to our body image, our sense of who we are, our relationships, our very beings.
We need all the strength the One can give!
When reflecting on these words, I think it’s important to point out that they don’t say “I will enjoy doing all the things I need to do.” Or even, “I won’t complain about doing all the things I need to do.”
I did not enjoy recommending you all stop holding in-person OWL programs right now.
I didn’t want to have to communicate with hosts and postpone or cancel OWL trainings through August.
I don’t enjoy telling you no, please do not offer OWL classes or trainings online in any way.
I, like so many of you, have times of wondering how I’m ever going to do all that needs doing—and not doing—right now.
And yet, through the ups and downs, I’ve managed to find the strength to do what must be done and not do what can’t be done now, just as so many of you are finding strength to do so many things right now.
Here are some tips to help us through this time together:
- Witness how folx you serve are feeling and coping
- Resist urges to try to “fix” everything—some things are hard right now, and it’s ok to help youth and others know that we can do hard things together and with support
- Be creative, and at the same time, respect boundaries
- Strive to use communications to connect with each other, and lift each other up, instead of using them to blame or complain
- Continue to practice much self-care and kindness with your body, mind, and spirit
We are also living into many new layers of consent in order to keep our bodies, minds, and spirits safer, which bring up new questions for us to ponder/discern:
- How do we consensually negotiate physical distancing in a crowded grocery store?
- How do we practice informed consent regarding requests that may not feel like a choice (staying at home during a crisis while also trying to work, keep children learning and/or care for others)?
- What new routines to bring a higher level of safety are now less or no longer negotiable (physical distancing, wearing masks, taking temperatures)?
- Whose needs are most important in our relationships at any given moment?
- How do those living alone feel comfort and intimacy right now?
I don’t have all these answers; however, I am with you in the struggle, the grief, and the discernment as we move forward.
May the One who gives us strength help us to continue to stay connected in ways that are meaningful to us, so that our relationships can continue to be the foundation of the work we do together: dismantling shame and stigma about bodies and relationships, and building a healthy, positive and sacred frame about what it means to be sexual beings.
May it be so,
PS The national UCC Minister for Sexuality Education and Justice and the UCC Minister for Mental Health and Disabilities put together some ideas of Self-Soothing Practices in Times of Physical Distancing. They have a whole lot to do with sensuality. You can find the graphic here