This past week I had to keep asking myself what day it was. I got up at my normal time every day and did my morning routine, but after that all bets were off. I didn’t drive the kids to school like I normally do. My calendar quickly cleared out as first a Bible study, and then a coffee with one parishioner and a lunch with another got pushed off indefinitely. On Wednesday I didn’t have the follow-up doctor’s appointment that could wait, and I spent Thursday in virtual meetings that would have happened in person otherwise.
We’re finding food in our freezer that had long been forgotten, and made it into tasty meals. We cleaned our workout space in the basement to give us an indoor option. Buster has gotten multiple two mile walks this week.
We’ve heard it’ll be 4 weeks to 18 months of this. And already I don’t know how to navigate this new normal.
In his book Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why Laurence Gonzalez seeks to discover what it is that allows some people to survive harsh and life-threatening experiences while others don’t. He recounts the story of a trained fireman—Ken Killip—who after a long day of hard backpacking, realized he was on the wrong path. He’d drunk his last bit of water hours earlier, and while he had a map, his companion—an acquaintance he didn’t know well—had hiked on ahead with the compass leaving him in the dust. After waiting out a thunderstorm, he hiked into the driving rain down into a place he couldn’t locate on his map.
He got utterly lost.
Even though he had enough supplies to easily make it through a week in the wilderness, he nearly died. During his first day of being lost he climbed up a steep incline with scree, and slipped. Unable to arrest himself, he sprained both ankles and severely injured his knees. On Day 2 he bushwhacked up a mountain, and then got caught in a horrific hailstorm. He grabbed on to the trunk of tree and held on as hard as he could, finally collapsing in exhaustion. He woke that night with 12 inches of hail around him.
That’s when he came to his senses.
Gonzalez describes it this way: “He put on his fishing waders and started walking around to get warm. He made a fire and built a makeshift shelter using his garbage bags. (Both were things he should have done the first day, but better late than never.) For the next two days he stayed put and attended to the business of adapting to the environment.” Gonzalez writes that Killip finally got to the point that led to his survival as he embraced “a pragmatic acceptance of—and even wonder at—the world in which he found himself. He had at last begun to model and map his real environment instead of the one he wished for. He’d worked out his salvation. He discovered the first Rule of life: Be here now” (169).
The hardest thing, according to Gonzalez is letting go of the world as we know it, and living in to this new one.
I don’t know how long this will last—none of us do. I hope it isn’t months and months and months. But even if it is, I recognize that I need to be here now. That I need to accept—and yes even wonder at—this strange new world.
In the days ahead I’ll be writing more on this blog; it’s part of my new normal. The new structure to my day allows me to think and ponder a bit more and to reflect on things around me. I intend not to just get through this time so I can restart my old life on the other side. Rather, I want to fully survive it and flourish allowing it—and God—to transform me.
I hope you’ll join me on this journey.