Monday, September 27, 2021

Having reached the summer solstice, the realization that yet another school year has ended and half the calendar year is now history sets in. At the same time, we see how the COVID-19 situation just lingers on. While the restrictions are easing up, as vaccinations increase, the virus simply is not over yet; new strands of it are appearing around the world. While the mask is no longer required in some settings, it remains mandatory in others. It is as if one is on a subway ride with no clue when it will reach one’s desired stop!

I am sure many of us yearn for an official declaration that, just like the school year is over, so too is COVID-9. I have no doubt celebrations will ensue around the globe once that happens. In the meantime it behooves us to attempt to come up with coping strategies to deal with this burden of uncertainty we continue to face every day. Some of my thoughts on how best to cope stem from my experience as a chaplain attempting to render effective pastoral care, but the ideas can be effective with many other trying situations as well.

1) Validating the emotion one is experiencing. For obvious reasons, dealing with this quagmire is certainly both annoying and frustrating, and it is very normal for it to feel upsetting. There is no crime in acknowledging that dealing with this, or any unpleasant situation, can be a royal pain.

2) Accepting that one is not in control. As much as we would like COVID-19 to vanish, nobody I know has a magic wand to wave that will make that happen. It is tremendously invigorating to relinquish the notion that one is “running the show” and will also preserve both physical and emotional energy.

3) Remembering that we are all affected by this. There is an old parable (VaYikra Rabbah 4:6) about a passenger on a ship who starts to drill a hole under his seat, and when others rebuke him, he responds that it is none of their business what he does under his own seat. To which they respond, “Are you crazy? If you cause the ship to sink we are all going to drown!” Certainly it would be nice if we could discard the masks completely. But until the medical and governmental authorities declare that we may do that, we need to keep in mind that our concern for others in certain settings, as the precautions are maintained, needs to override our personal comfort and convenience.

4) “Reframing” what is called “normal.” Yes, this is indeed a significant struggle. The face of many aspects of our daily routine have changed, be it school or meetings via technology, or how one can travel, or whom or how many one is allowed to congregate with, and so on and so forth. However, if one stops and considers, isn’t change and adjustment to many situations so much a part of the journey of life?

Certainly this is not an exhaustive list of strategies, and different people will respond differently for many reasons, but I do hope these ideas will be useful and make a positive difference for many as we continue to navigate this ocean of uncertainty.

Rabbi David Blum provides pastoral care throughout New Jersey as part of the Rabbi Chaim Yosef Furst Chaplaincy Program, which is conducted via Congregation Ohav Emeth of Highland Park, and the chaplaincy program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest. He resides with his family in Highland Park and may be contacted at [email protected]

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