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  • brittain sobey

Holding Space


Holding space is something I started practicing in the last year. It seems to be something that is hard for our society to do. Hold space. Sadly it seems to be something that Christians have a hard time doing. So often we want to paper over suffering with platitudes. God has a plan! He is working it all for your good! It was meant to be this way. Just praise the Lord! They are in a better place. Platitudes reflect our inability to sit with others in their suffering, our inability to hold space. Suffering makes us uncomfortable. Fear makes us uncomfortable. So we want to change the subject. Dismiss it. Shut it down. I cannot hold space for my pain, I cannot hold space for yours. What a sad lot we are if this is the case. How out of touch with the feelings and emotions that are a God given part of being human, made in his image. Why do we seek to do away with the hard, when our perfect example, Jesus, leaned into it?


In this midst of this pandemic, my heart goes out to those who are most vulnerable. One of those populations is those who struggle with mental health. Those who have been through trauma. Those whose symptoms rage in isolation. I have felt so many feelings about so many things throughout the last several weeks. I wanted to rush into action to help others. I saw my own mental health deteriorate. I sought to stay informed and find myself unable to trust the sources of information and overwhelmed by what I read. Fear paralyzed me. Fear of the unknown. The uncertainty of all of this. How bad will it get? What loss of life? What will be the fallout beyond loss of life from this virus? Why am I in a position of privilege and others are not? How do I leverage my privilege to help others? What is the balance in all of this? How can I take care of me, my children, AND others?


I have been so frustrated by some posts I have seen. Surprised even by some of those perpetuating narratives that puff up themselves and shame others. Those who are pridefully pointing out what is left at the grocery stores, communicating the lies of diet culture and superiority. Asserting that Americans do not understand how the immune system works because they are buying up "toxic" cleaning supplies and non-perishables and leaving fresh produce. First of all, one's ability to stock up on food at all reflects privilege. Privilege that most do not have. What the abundance of produce left shows me is that people know the difference between perishable and non-perishable food. Is it possible to boost your immune system with fresh produce and supplements? Sure. And if you can do that, good for you. Why not do it if you can and want to. But is that the difference between life and death? No. If it is, then most of the world will die and those who benefit from diet culture will be left with themselves and their supplements and fresh produce and none of the rest of us to prey on. I guess we will have to wait and see? I think China and South Korea have already proven this to be untrue.


What the abundance of shaming posts shows me is that people want to believe they can control their body's response to the virus and protect themselves. We all just want to believe that if we do the right things, if we take the right precautions, if we follow all the rules, we can protect ourselves. But the reality is, even with doing all the things, taking all the precautions, and following all the rules, we are not immune. We are still vulnerable. The best thing we can do right now is to simply stay home. If your situation affords you fresh produce and supplements, have at it. If it does not, that is okay too. Telling someone they are stupid and do not understand something does not help. It sure does not make me want to venture out to the store and stock up on produce and supplements for some illusion of control that most do not have. We have to work together to move forward. So can we please stop shaming and just hold space for each other where we are at? It is totally cool if you love your produce and supplements. Also if someone is not asking you about them, can you just say something like "hey this time is scary, isn't it, how are you holding up?"


Last week I was on a call for this mentoring group I am a part of. Mostly comprised of different business leaders. The head of the group seeks "honest truth seekers," most of which are C-level executives. And then there is me, the stay at home mom. It was interesting hearing the different perspectives on the pandemic. Some taking it very seriously, others merely annoyed that the panic has halted deals they were counting on. Some taking precautions seriously, others mocking and bucking them. Probably has something to do with the political leanings of each member of the group and who they trust as their sources of information. I walked away from the call hoping that the reality of this situation is somewhere between the doomsday predictions and the pie in the sky mindset. Maybe it will not all be resolved in a matter of weeks, but maybe the world will not all come crashing down either. One thing is for sure. If we are going to make it, we will have to work together.


I have seen expressions of "working from home with children is impossible" and "if you are at home with your children, be grateful and do not complain." I am honestly grateful that I was a stay at home mom before this all hit because as least our lives were not completely upended. We are merely at home more than we would be usually. With zero face-to-face contact with other humans outside of our immediate family. Okay so maybe our lives are completely upended. Last week Sabina was asking every morning "where are we going today?" and this week that question has ceased. She has adapted to the reality that we are not going anywhere for awhile. I think there are challenges with staying home and challenges with being essential personnel. Challenges with living alone and challenges with living with others, people big and/or small. I have read the sentiment that older generations had to go to war and we are just asked to sit on the couch. As if it is easier to sit at home and do nothing than it is to get out and do something. Kind of similar to the debate about motherhood and those who stay home vs. those who work for compensation and who has it harder. I think all the things are hard for different reasons. Can we just let everyone feel their feelings about their unique situations? Hold space for all of it? It is okay for a mom to complain about being stuck in the house all day every day with no end in sight. Maybe, if this is your reality, do not share that complaint directly to a healthcare professional (unless its your therapist). Maybe share it with other mamas in a similar situation. Just like you are hopefully not complaining about how awful your pregnancy is to someone who would love to be pregnant but is facing infertility. Lets be sensitive to the experiences of others and hold space for all of them. It is okay to have different experiences. We are all in this together. It does not work unless we all do our part to support each other. Hold space. Unless of course someone is being reckless and endangering others by not adhering to shelter in place orders because they value their "freedom" over all else, etc. I am not holding space for that.


I started dabbling in the news again the last several days after taking a hiatus. Knowing the information does not help me do anything about it. I stay up on the orders by our government to shelter in place and such. I listened to a few briefings from the president last week before deciding that was not for me. I am highly triggered by our president's blatant narcissism. The reality that governors have to play his game if they want help for their people. I know how this goes. I have lived it. I have had words uttered to me that expressed "if you do not play by my rules, you will go down." I do not hold space for this. I do not hold space for abuse, grabbing for power and control over another human being or an entire state of human beings. I do know that now is the time to play the game, unfortunately, for the greater good. When this is all over I hope that we can make some better leadership choices so that whether or not the request for a major disaster declaration is accepted is not at the whim of a narcissist and how he feels about a particular governor. I know from personal experience that narcissists will stop at nothing to protect their ego. That fact is terrifying to me. And so I have turned my attention to the governor of New York and his briefings. They communicate the gravity of the situation and also call all of us to action to help each other. Defeat is not an option. We will band together to give every human being a fighting chance. Once New York has made it through, they will use what they have learned to resource other states. They are going through the storm first and need help most urgently. If we can come together and assist each other in our time of need, maybe we can conquer this virus together. It will not be without loss of life. It will not be without significant economic disruption. And we are going to do everything we can to minimize the damage. The governor of New York is who I wish were our commander in chief in this present moment. Alas he is not. And so most of us buckle up and prepare to play the game, do our part, and wait and see how this will all pan out.


When I hear sentiments like "God is not a God of fear" and "God commands us not to fear" and "God has it all in control," I just kind of want to separate myself from all the noise. And I have. I addressed this in a previous post. I want to address it again. Fear and anxiety are normal human emotions in response to the unknown. One is not an inferior follower of Christ if one experiences fear and anxiety. One is merely human. Hold space. Hold space. Hold space. You know what helps me when I am fearful? Reading the Psalms. Reminding myself that biblical characters expressed to God my same feelings. It did not make them sinful. It did not make them less than. It just made them human. God comforts us with the truth that he is always with us. He does not promise a life free from suffering. No. What he promises is to be with us through it all. When I am afraid, I do not picture God standing over me commanding me to stop being afraid. I picture him gathering me close, saying "I see you, I love you, and I am with you." Holding space for my fear and pain. Easing it with his presence. Giving me the grace to get up and keep going even as I experience fear and anxiety. Lets do this for each other, shall we? Hold space for each other. Hold space for the feelings that make us uncomfortable. Check our hearts when we want to throw a platitude on top of pain. Presence is the gift we are looking for. Even presence without words.


I want to leave my readers with this challenge: hold space today. Hold space for yourself. Hold space for someone else. It is okay to feel your feelings. To tend to your needs. To mute or unfollow those triggering accounts. To drop out of the group chat. To shut out the news. Step outside for a moment. Listen to your body. Give it what it needs to feel safe. Is it anxious? It might be telling you that you need to step back and take some measures to insulate yourself. Connect with nature and all that keeps moving when our lives have seemed to shut down. The sun still rises. The birds still sing. Spring is coming. There are helpers in this mess doing beautiful things to serve others. Hold space for all of it. Talk over the phone with a friend. FaceTime. Skype. Zoom. It is surely not as good as face to face, but it is what we have right now. Paint a door wall with washable paint. Bake a cake. Do whatever you need to do to take care of your mind, take care of your heart. Hang in there. I do not know what tomorrow holds. What I do know is that God is going to be with me through it. Holding space for me. Holding space for you.




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