There’s nothing quite like a good Chuck Norris joke. A while back, my family went through a streak of sharing one-liners and memes heralding the prowess of Norris, now 80 years old. It was unbeatable humor even for the siblings who couldn’t tell you what he did before the turn of the century.
We could all use a few roundhouse-kicks worth of humor and heroism right now.
Did you hear that Chuck Norris was exposed to COVID-19?
That’s what they say, and coronavirus is the one in quarantine.
They also say that Chuck Norris’ tears cure the virus. Too bad he never cries. Most are just wondering why we haven’t asked him to fight the coronavirus, because even the flu gets an annual Chuck Norris shot.
Humor is definitely an effective coping mechanism; and there is no doubt that coping mechanisms – the tried and true, trending and new – will be around for awhile. In as many hues as that set of 96 colored pencils you bought for the stress-relieving coloring book still on the nightstand.
Into the new year, this quip sums up how most of us are feeling: “I’d like to cancel my subscription to 2021. I’ve experienced the free 7-day trial, and I’m not interested.”
We know the drill for our physical health: wear a mask, wash your hands and socially distance, seriously discern getting a vaccine when available.
How about for our mental health? In all seriousness, what else can we employ besides humor? What tools can help us unstick when our minds and hearts get stuck in worry, despair and frustration?
There is no one-size-fits-all “Coping with COVID” prescription. Not for the socially distanced elderly. Not for parents who’d take a month-long family road trip rather than one more week of juggling home learning and remote working. Not for students and school staff whose lives continue to hang in limbo.
The following are a few things I and my family have found effective for keeping our mental and spiritual stamina in shape for the long haul: perspective, a growth mindset and simple pleasures; all wrapped in good doses of humility and God’s grace.
Perspective does not negate the struggle or the pitfalls. There is nothing that can bring loved ones lost back to life or return rightfully earned opportunities.
Pain doesn’t stop being pain, but suffering – when it finds meaning, accompaniment – can be transformed into something life-giving. And perspective can be the bridge connecting the two.
Through countless conversations, I know that I am not alone in experiencing great loss but also tremendous gain since the pandemic began.
Home learning meltdowns have led to a deeper appreciation for our principals and teachers, a new sense of teamwork and better time management as a family. Financial stresses have forced reassessment priorities and fostered gratitude. Disappointments of canceled family gatherings and trips have allowed for further discovery of the natural beauty and outdoor activities closer to home besides adding fewer miles to aging vehicles.
Zoom and FaceTime cannot replace hugs with extended family or coffee (or wine) sipped with dear friends, although having less people to interact with outside the home has most definitely led to more and better communication and relationships among the people under my roof.
Closely related with perspective, a growth mindset identifies the opportunity in the setback. It energizes us to get creative, resourceful and innovative.
It nudges us to assess where there’s room for improvement, as well as adjusting expectations a few notches below Wonder Woman and Chuck Norris. Growth is multifaceted – spiritual, mental, emotional – admitting vulnerabilities connects and encourages, surprises with a mirror image of resilience and determination.
On a deeper level than sharing a meal with friends or exchanging gifts with family, the desire and motivation to grow allows for “getting real” with each other, valuing interdependence and can lead to genuine reconciliation. In something akin to long-distance dating, when written and verbal communication is the only option for spending time together, a lot more is exchanged and the relationship grows in leaps and bounds.
A growth mindset encourages taking stock of existing skills and tools yet isn’t ashamed of what is yet to be acquired.
The list of resources is endless: books, talks, courses, intentional conversations, etc. Even fictional characters in novels and movie can inspire in powerful ways.
“Pleasure” is one of those words all too often associated with sin or indulgence, but God gave five senses to broaden and heighten our experience of the truth, goodness and beauty of his creation. Engaging those senses in simple and wholesome ways can redeem the present moment and purify the mind and soul.
Getting out that family favorite recipe or experimenting with new flavors. Rekindle enjoyment of hobbies with busy hands – woodworking, knitting, painting or something as practical as fixing the broken sink (earning points with your spouse is always a bonus).
Slowly savor what you eat. Attentively reach out embrace your spouse and children when possible. (Counting 30 seconds doing either feels very strange at first, but I promise makes all things new).
Listen to music that moves you – drench your spirit in classical harmony, wake up your energy with some oldies, “Let it Go” in a Disney reprise or let your hair down to pour a little sugar on a sour-mood day.
Read – or write – poetry and dive deep into God’s creative process; collaborate with it.
Reflect on what brings you joy – that heart-skipping, life-giving sensation. Find ways to recreate those experiences and then find ways to share that.
Celebrate the small, cultivate simplicity and seek humor. Call up a friend or family member and share a healthy dose of laughter, making your own top-10 list of best Chuck Norris jokes.
If we do anything in a day, find some way to share perspective, growth mindset and simple pleasures with someone. Be forgiving – of yourself and others.
We can and will get through this pandemic crisis – not without loss, but the best way to honor memory is by living the present moment in a memorable way.
Lastly, when anxiety levels match the unprecedented circumstances, be still and know that even God steps aside for Chuck Norris. Do you know the reason God rested on the seventh day?
Because he let Chuck Norris take over.