To Sift

The origin of the word “crisis” is the Greek word krisis meaning to separate or to sift.  When I hear the word sift I think, of course, of sifting flour to bake something carb-y and delicious – a loaf of crusty bread, a birthday cake, warm biscuits topped with butter and honey.

I think of a mound of silky flour nestled in a sieve, and the tap tap tap of the palm of my hand against the smooth metal rim, watching a shower of smooth white particles land in the mixing bowl, leaving the odd lumps behind.

Sifting separates the fine flour and the lumps that are left behind.  It helps you see the difference between the two in a way you couldnt when it was all mixed together in the flour sack.  Sifting makes it easier to separate what you want to keep from what you want to discard.

A crisis, I’m finding, does the same thing.

My sifting started two weeks ago at work, when the response to coronavirus made its way to my work and team. I was suddenly plunged into what I can only describe as a vortex  – necessitating quick decisions and action, day and time be damned.

It was a crisis and all the normal rules and parameters of “work life balance” went out the window – I was on 7pm Saturday and 7Am sunday phone calls, checking email for updates at 2am. And I wasn’t bitter – this wasn’t a work emergency – aka “my boss needs this preso done by the end of day” – this was an emergency emergency, a whole different category. 

I was looking at agendas from pre-Coronavirus meetings and was struck by how silly it all seemed “Aww I used to be worried about creating that presentation, how adorable!” #perspective indeed.

The sifting started to hit even closer to home a week ago, when I started making tough decisions about what parts of my life I would have to change – like working from home (which I do not enjoy – I miss my work buddies and the routine of an office) and cancelling a long-awaited trip to Hawaii for a family wedding.  That sifting was hard and painful.

There was some good sifting too, though.  Things that were worrying me a few weeks ago – how’s this date going to go? when am I going to do my taxes? – seem adorably quaint now. “Aww, how cute that I was worried about my taxes!” #perspective

You know that “What would you do?” question that you pose on a long road trip or to get to know someone better on a date – “If the world was ending in 24 hours, what would you do?” I feel like we’re all living that to some degree right now, and here’s what I’m finding myself doing:

  • Talking to my mom on the phone every day, sometimes twice a day.  Even if I just have a few minutes before I need to start working or go to sleep, hearing my mom’s voice helps me stay anchored to the fact that the world isn’t actually ending.  
  • Texting/calling all my friends to tell them I love them and see how they are doing.  I literally went through my contacts list alphabetically yesterday – because my brain is fried from work – to make sure I didn’t miss anyone. If you’re reading this and I missed you, I’m sorry #friedbrain and I love you lots. Text me! 🙂
  • Prioritizing caring for myself – with sleep and exercise and deep breaths – because I know if I don’t put on my own oxygen mask first I can’t help anyone else

When I was 22 my dad died suddenly of a heart attack, so I’m no stranger to the reality that “tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us” – but even though I say it often, it’s easy to get swept up in the day to day and forget how precious and precarious life is. The blessing embedded in crisis is it sweeps away the noise of daily life and leaves us with the heart of what matters – the people we love and caring for each other.

Here’s the truth I have to keep reminding myself of and grounding myself in – this too shall pass.  

Is it serious? YES. 

Do we need to take extreme measures like social distancing, cancelling events and vacations and dramatically altering our way of life in ways that just kind of suck (I’m an extrovert who loves hugs, I get it people!!) – YES. 

Are we all going to be trapped in our homes under mandatory quarantine until 2032? NO.  

This is not forever, this is a tough and scary and surreal and difficult season  – but it is a season. Season’s change, they ebb and flow, sometimes so slowly and imperceptibly that it feels like it will last forever – but they don’t.

When I lived in NYC, there was one year when winter lasted 6 months – it was freezing and dreary and depressing and I literally thought I would never see the sun again.

And yet.

And yet so slowly that I almost didn’t notice it, the ice began to thaw and the snow began to melt.  And one day I looked up and I saw the sun starting to peek through the clouds. And before I knew it, one day I was outside in the park with no coat, shoulders unhunched, feeling the sweet warmth of the sun on my upturned face. Spring always comes.

So in this hard season of fear and crisis, I am doing a few things.  

I’m trying to remember to take deep breaths and treat those around me – and myself – with extra patience and grace. We are all under a lot of stress and anxiety, and we’re all doing the best we can.  There has never been a time when we need to be more kind and patient and gentle with one another.

I’m staying connected (yay for technology!) to the people I love and telling them how much they mean to me, and making sure we’re caring for each other.

I’m loving my neighbors – literal and global – by following all the recommendations about social distancing and hygiene  – even though it’s not fun and requires self-sacrifice and inconvenience – to do my part to reduce how quickly this virus spreads.  

I’m praying with my whole heart for the heroic healthcare workers who are on the front lines, for people in positions of power (the CDC, WHO, every global governmental body) to have sharp minds and soft hearts as they make decisions, and for everyone who is living with fear and anxiety to experience peace and hope.

And I’ll probably do some baking too.