My Life/Teen Life Peace During COVID-19 by Stephanie Espinoza If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others call 911 or Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 (TTY 1-800-846-8517). Welcome to the year 2020, where we don’t yet have personal flight devices yet but we do all have to adhere to some strict social distancing in order to flatten the curve on a worldwide pandemic. What a wild ride, mi gente. At this point in time, there is not one of us that is not impacted by COVID-19. And depending on when you are reading this, things may have changed drastically from what I’m seeing at the moment. What I imagine will still be true no matter when you read this is that there is quite a lot going on in our world. There is a lot being said, shared, retweeted, liked, etc. and it feels like the most impossible task to try to speak anything of value to you as you look to navigate these times. In solidarity with all of you who are uneasy about how COVID-19 will continue to affect our communities, I offer but a humble few thoughts for us all in these days. It is my sincere hope and prayer that they will bring you God’s peace within the uncertainty: It’s OK to Not Be OK I know I haven’t heard this enough this week, so I want to say it clearly here: there are very real and deep feelings that come with the weight of phrases like “national state of emergency” and “worldwide pandemic,” and I want to remind us that these feelings are absolutely valid and warranted. With the very fluid and rapidly-spreading dynamics that are changing every given hour (or so it seems), we are well within our rights to not be well. This whole situation is not normal, so we should not feel shame for feeling out of sorts. There are a lot of people out there hoping this time will help us be more productive. Influencers on social media are selling us their content, pushing their quarantine-friendly workout routines, crafting pre-determined schedules for your day, and giving you the low-down on how to use this time at home to kick off a YouTube channel. If this helps you stay distracted and/or avoid becoming lethargic during your extended time at home, don’t let me stop you from doing it. But be sure to leave room for you to feel all the things without feeling bad about it, and make space for others to do the same. If you feel anxious, that’s 100% normal. If all of these developments are stressing you out, you are not the only one. If you’re experiencing worry but are too nervous to admit it, join the club. If you’re scared, uncertain, overwhelmed, concerned, any or all of the things, at different times, or all of them at once — hi, welcome to the human experience, it’s good to have you here. We all will bear this cross differently, but we ought to remember the cross is heavy and the struggle is real. The last thing I would want for you is to think that you are any less faithful or any less trusting of God just because you’re having a difficult time under the weight of it all. Acknowledge Your Agency At times like these, everything feels so far out of our control and we are so much more aware of our helplessness — two things that tend to contribute to our anxieties. But it is important to recognize that we have not lost our agency. There is still so much that we can mindfully and intentionally do to remember that we can do this hard thing of navigating uncertainty. What am I already doing that claims my stake in the common good? For starters, our obedience to recommendations of social distancing and heightened hygiene practices is a decision that is under our control. Though there are lots of things in place to ensure that we are making the right decisions here, these actions are still very much a choice we each make personally and as a community. Even when everything seems to be spiraling out of your reach, you still have control over you and what you choose to make of these days. How can I move forward, one step at a time and one day at a time, through this time? Where can I act personally, where can I support communally, in helping the most vulnerable while still remaining safe? The ways you choose your health and the health of those closest to you, the way you decide to be intentional with your schoolwork, the way you choose to stay rooted in community by spending time with friends virtually, the way you choose to look out for those who are less fortunate in these circumstances by donating to a local food bank, the way you choose to love your family, and the way you choose to care for your home and your personal space… all of these and more are wrapped up in that. Yes, there is and will be lots that is out of your hands, out of mine. But let’s step back and remember: anything we choose to do, big or small, is crucial in our mission as disciples to care for the least of these, to love the most vulnerable, and to choose to share the love and peace of Christ even in a crisis. Actively Welcome Peace I won’t claim to know what’s coming in these days, but I am sure we will all find moments when our space feels too small. When our family members begin to feel like a lot. When everything will feel repetitive. When we will grow tired of this and not know what to do with ourselves. Anxiety thrives in these kinds of environments. But peace is ours, mis amigos. Let’s claim it! The great gift of our God is that peace is offered to us freely, at any moment. We don’t have to grasp, we don’t have to desperately reach — but we do have to actively welcome it. Peace can be welcomed when we make a list of things we feel grateful for. Peace can be welcomed when we listen to songs that soothe our minds. Peace can be welcomed when we deeply breathe in and slowly breathe out. Peace can be welcomed when we offer up a decade of the Rosary for health in our world. Peace can be welcomed when we do one kind thing for a parent or other older family member in your house. Peace can be welcomed when we spend a few minutes reading Scripture. Peace can be welcomed when we FaceTime a friend and learn a TikTok dance together. Peace can be welcomed when we step outside and take a walk. Peace can be welcomed when we play a card game with our siblings. Peace can be welcomed when we treat ourselves to a nutritious snack. Peace can be welcomed with a smile. Peace can be welcomed when we take a sweet nap. Peace can be welcomed by simply speaking the name of Jesus out loud. The peace of God is for you and me and all of us, His dear and beloved children. It can carry us toward hope even in these unprecedented times. Welcome it and see where it takes you. Let God Be God At the end of the day, there is only so much we can do — and the rest is up to God. No, you won’t always be OK. No, you won’t always boldly claim your agency in the midst of the things out of your control. No, you won’t always remember to welcome the peace that is offered to you at every moment. It’s bound to happen — these are uncharted waters for all of us, after all. But God is still God. God was with Noah through the flood, with the Israelites through the desert, and with Jesus from passion to death and Resurrection. Let’s walk through these times together, mindful of the loving and unending care of our Lord who tirelessly desires our peace.