I did a little social experiment with myself at the beginning of 2020— I began the year vowing to minimize my engagement on social media and promising myself that when I did engage, I would only post encouragement. Little did any of us know what 2020 would pour down upon us and here we are in October with the hate and division escalating and crashing all around us. It can be easy to fall into hopelessness and despair.
2020 was also the time that I was recovering from a brutal year of radiation and chemo in 2019—and my body and mind were experiencing many changes. With the fear and anxiety and unknown of the pandemic, as well as the deaths and protests and rioting—for the sake of my physical and mental health, I began staying off social media altogether. Of course, I want to stay informed. But not through 24 hour news streaming and scrolling through furious FB posts with contentious comment feeds. And I don’t even have Twitter. Won’t go there. Even with the minimal input, I began to get restless and fatigued and I wasn’t alone—collective grief and lament have affected us all—with social distancing affecting jobs, community, schools, and churches.
I knew I needed to change my mindset. I had to remind myself of this over and over: There are many things I can’t control, but there are things I can choose; things I have to let go. I have choices of what I read, view, listen to. What voices would I allow into my mind and heart? I could also choose and take charge of how I would spend my time and energy. I found that how I wanted to spend that time and energy wouldn’t be found on any device. I tried some escapism. I read some books with my book club that revealed glimpses of the wonder and resilience of the human spirit. I watched and rewatched all six seasons of Schitt’s Creek—which gave me laugh out loud moments to share with others as well as the hope that with acceptance and intentional relationships, our hearts and priorities can truly change.
It was in early August that I found out my cancer had spread to my pelvic bone and that I had numerous tumors in my lungs. I was exhausted; this news hit hard. I needed treatment again--radiation and chemo infusion. The pandemic meant that I cannot have visitors during treatment—something that many have had to deal with concerning older parents, or hospital stays, or surgeries.
Today I am writing from the infusion center as I begin the first of many rounds of chemo treatment. I have been here before. I know what to expect. My hair will fall out. I will be weak and tired. I will have nausea and diarrhea. I will have days with no appetite. And hopefully, I will have days that aren’t as hard where I can play games with my family, or go on walks with my dogs, or hikes with my friends. Days where I can appreciate all that I have been given and days where I recognize with gratitude all that is around me that brings peace and joy.
The main thing I learned from my social experiment of 2020 is that I am in charge of what I allow into my thoughts and mind. And secondly, relationships that run deep must be intentional. They aren’t made up of quips on Twitter, or poses on Instagram, or rants on FB. Relationships that run deep require time, energy, and commitment. Intentional relationships take the time to listen, to disagree, and to still love and accept the other. You will not find this in the world of social media. You will find it around your kitchen table. You will find it when you fellowship over a meal together. You will find it when you listen instead of waiting to pounce with your next idea. Intentional relationships grow into intentional communities. And intentional communities can begin to affect change.
Haters will hate. Lovers will love. Friends will accept. Decide today where you want to spend your thought time and your heart energy. Make a choice and commitment and stay true to that. Your heart will thank you. Your family will thank you.
As I end my day in the infusion center, I think of what Christ has given me as I geared up for this next round of treatment. He has given me my husband, my boys, my family, and my friends who are interceding in prayer for me to have strength, peace, and healing. He has given me my church family who also love with words and action and meals and care. He has given me his Word which reminds me that He is in control, yes, even now. Jesus said he would give us His gift of peace—and it is a peace that surpasses all understanding. It is a peace that social media and the cacophony of news streams and commentators cannot give. Because Jesus said it is a peace that the world cannot give. Now, may you rest in that peace, despite the triggers of this cruel world.
The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.