Pandemic Permission Project. Sometimes we need that extra little bump of encouragement. We need permission to focus on care for ourselves and care for our beloved communities.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know you’re tired of hearing about the pandemic. Me, too.
The impact of Omicron variant is overwhelming, record-setting, and dominating the news cycle.
The highest single day report of new cases exceeded one million after the New Year’s weekend. In my own city of Nashville, at least one in 33 people currently are positive for Covid today.
The symptoms of the Omicron variant may be mild for vaccinated people and milder than the Delta variant. Yet the sheer numbers are overwhelming the health systems in unprecedented ways. The impact of the disease is higher on communities of color. We cannot ignore that, nor the injustices the pandemic is revealing among people who identify as Black, Brown and/or Indigenous. The virus also has more insidious economic impacts on people with disabilities as well as challenges to people with medically vulnerable conditions. As we learned starting in 2020, stopping our socializing in person, making work remote, and isolating also has dire consequences.
The realities are harsh. The tensions are intense. No ways forward are simple. Compassionate people who are vaccinated and boosted are asking just how far they have to go to protect neighbors who refuse.
What we know for sure after 22 months is that the coronavirus is not going anywhere.
The other thing I know for sure? I am called to love God, neighbors, children, the most vulnerable, and even my enemies. I am called to love myself with same compassion. To make a beloved community.
Here to stay
Because the pandemic is here to stay, we need to find ways to live with it, as creatively and compassionately as possible. Last week, Lenna Wen wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post, and she commends a third way.
NOT lockdowns and not free-for-alls or let-it-run-its-course.
A third path, however, utilizes vaccines, insists on high quality masks indoors, continues research for more treatment options, and gives greater care and caution for medically vulnerable people. This path also gives our hospitals a chance to avoid being completely overwhelmed (although in this moment it is too late). I would add that if we are building a beloved community, then we are also called to prioritize responding to the racist and ableist systems that the pandemic has revealed.
Wen: “This is our new reality going forward. There could well be surges of new variants every year — or even every few months. As long as vaccines continue to protect against severe illness and the risk to most individuals remains low, our paradigm has to shift from preventing infection to stopping societal devastation.”
Where does this leave us? How do we live our lives, attend the needs and ruptures that are before us, and not collapse at the sheer weight of it all? I think we’re going to need to give ourselves permission…
Now when I hear the words permission or permission slip my mind goes back to elementary, middle and high school. The days when my parents needed to write a permission slips for me to go on a field trip. Or the days when I needed to get out of gym because I was recovering from illness. Times that I needed special permission to leave early or take part in something extra.
In 2022, we need a new kind of permission. It’s a permission we need to give to ourselves and each other. We need to give permission for very basic everyday kinds of care. This is not the kind of permission one of avoids, in order to get forgiveness later.
This is the kind of permission to do the simple things because during hard times it’s extremely challenging to remember to do the simple things. Laugh, cry, step outside, or take a break. We need permission for the simple things in order to do the hard things. The big things. The love and justice things. The beloved community things.
For me? One of the permissions I need to give myself is to make fewer decisions based on obligation and more based on my sense of vocation.
What permissions, large or small, do you need to give to yourself?
How can we support each other?
So how does this project help us give one another permission? We are going to make it a priority in the coming weeks to speak about giving ourselves and each other the permission to do the little things, the simple things in life, the things that we need to live sustainably at this time. You’ll have more ideas that that connect to your life.
To get us started we have gathered some of our favorite permission slips together. We want to invite you to help us share them. Tell the story of how you’re giving yourself permission to …
- read a book
- go outside
- ask for help
That is what we all need do us one another for help. Because we can’t live in this new world isolated and alone.
Maybe you need a reminder for your refrigerator? Maybe you’d like to write a note to a friend? Your pastor or fellow minister? These permission slips that we’ve created or not about judgment. They are about encouragement to do the small things. To care for our well-being in ways that prioritize our spiritual practices, Sabbath, and our identities as disciples and not consumers, as spiritual leaders and not cogs in a machine. These permission slips may help us teach our children the goodness of good work and the goodness of good rest.
Last week at the Bridge to Epiphany, we did some excellent spiritual and emotional work together. We started the gathering with a prayer of gratitude for our bodies. It was a guided meditation, and I want to share with you here. As my encouragement to you.
Our bodies have been through a lot in the last two years, individually and collectively.
I hope you might give yourself permission to spend 12 minutes listening to this video. Then give yourself permission to spend another 10 to 15 minutes journaling your gratitude for your body and all it does to sustain you every day. Even when we have very complicated relationships with our bodies, they deserve our gratitude.
How can you be part of the project?
1) Please share the permission slips that we are creating on social media. Or make your own to share. And if you need permission to step away from social media, then by all means take it! Forward our weekly email to your friends and invite them to be part of the collective permission giving.
2) You can get the download and print the tear off sheets at home.
PDF Download: Pandemic-Permission-Project-Tear-off
3) You can buy your own beautiful high-quality permission slip cards and mail them to friends. Or you might just want to use them in your own living and working space. Let them help you to remember how to prioritize care for yourself and those you love.
Dr. Stephanie Crumpton reminded us in our series of conversations self-care is not simply an individual activity. It is something we do in community. We are cultivating a beloved community with you this year. We want to support you as you make local communities that prioritize self-care and spiritual practice. So that all of us can do the work of love and justice. Join us!