A Sideways Look at Life in Lockdown

Onset Beach in September

I feel compelled to begin with something of a disclaimer. I realize the weight of the pandemic that has caused much of the world to grind to a screeching halt and retreat into a science-fiction-like version of society.

I am embarrassed to say that all this, our time in lockdown, has snuck up on me. Like many, I saw it coming on the news and watched with the wariness that one watches weather forecasts of massive amounts of snow, or none, if the cold front moves in exactly the right way; or a hurricane, unless it moves out to sea. (Or some other natural disaster.) We try to prepare, stock up and pray or whatever one does to get ready for an unwanted event. I am often struck by the messages that people write on the plywood they use to board up their windows in preparation for a hurricane. Go ahead and write, tell the weather where to go and what to do, but please do evacuate when that is called for; do not however, expect plywood or painted words to keep you safe.

Picture of a lighting strike at night, dark sky, black water
Photo by Philippe Donn from Pexels

Just so, I thought the news media was fear mongering and maybe they were doing just that. I do not think we need a steady diet of stirred up emotion, “Just the facts ma’am.” Then our Bishop urged us to close our churches for two weeks in March in an effort to “Do no harm” in the face of the growing pandemic. “Do no harm” is not only an important part of the Hippocratic Oath that Doctors take, but an oath that others take as well.

I thought, and perhaps others did as well, “I will do as I am asked, but I can’t wait until we get back to church and we will…celebrate, and have a party, and have a dish to pass dinner, and a hymn sing, and hug each other…” Then schools were closed for two weeks, and then the “Stay at Home” orders came rolling in, like storm clouds moving rapidly from one region to another. Now school was closed (In Pennsylvania) for the remainder of the school year, and our stay at home order was in place for 30 days and there was no going to church. But there could be church. Online.

I have often joked that I am ‘a-technical’, and so when I assumed the appointment to serve two churches in retirement and learned that it would be my job to prepare the power point each week for the smaller of the two churches, I was indeed stressed. I was glad to be serving a church where power point was expected, but in my recent years in ministry, I was able to expect someone else to do it. Someone who considered it a breeze, a snap, a walk in the park, a piece of cake!

picture of a slice of cake, chocolate, thick chocolate or peanut butter icing and blue berry tooping
Photo by Abhinav Goswami from Pexels

Yes, that piece of cake, comfort food with icing. That was what I wanted. I did not know for instance, how to locate lyrics online, copy and paste and make them fit the power point screen. Tasks that more technically minded people take for granted. You may be surprised to know that it takes longer to type hymn lyrics if you sing them when you type them! Trying to hold open a 2″ thick hymnal so you can see to type the words without the weight of the other pages flopping back down takes coordination and determination.

It took a while and even that “copy and paste” thing is not as user friendly as I would like, but it did help me prepare for bigger things. Now, to record a modified service on “You-Tube” and upload, download, reload, I am never quite sure which load it is. Figuring out which computer is the best option, my desk top or lap top, what room in the house has the best connectivity, and then the big shock. While recording on You-Tube is pretty straight forward, other options were more attractive. It took me at least 4 weeks to figure out that as a-technical as I am, I could learn to edit the mistakes out of the video. But that was more easily done in a different format.

Picture of a young woman in front of  a computer, looking like has a headache or is thinking.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

The big shock was recording in a different format and then loading it onto You Tube or another option takes H-O-U-R-S. Meanwhile my stress level is increasing and all I can think of is Sugar, give me Sugar. Chocolate Chips, in cookie form or just poured into my hand. Skip the Jack Daniels, you can have a beer. Just give me sweets! Many of my blogging friends who are into healthy eating are probably cringing or at least nodding sympathetically and thinking, “Ah, Michele, this is why we are stressing health eating in lockdown.”

Then came the Sunday, as I was trying to learn the intricasies of getting a recorded service loaded so I could email the link to those who were not on Facebook and did not yet realize that this other different format was still not going to load in the 10 minutes I had allotted. Instead of a 10:30 a.m. service, some of the flock had checked out other online opportunities, while I sheepishly was unable to load my service until 3:30 p.m.

It has been a process made better by two younger, patient, technically savvy colleague/friends who were able to walk me step by step through the process to some success and talk me off the ledge of chocolate chip cookie overload. Did I say I stress eat?

Picture of a half dozen chocolate chip cookies, lots of chips on a board
Photo by Brigitte Tohm from Pexels

This has been a large part of my ministry-life in lockdown. Don’t misunderstand, I am grateful that I have been able to do this and other things to help the churches I serve stay connected and have some meaningful contact with their own church. Let me just add two words: Learning Curve.

I fully understand the seriousness of the situation we have been in and are not out of yet. While I am in a confessional vein though, I confess to savoring the time to simply be home. I was unable to stay put the first few weeks because of impending surgery, physical therapy appointments, pre-op appointments, and the like. So it has only been the last four weeks that I have been able to just savor being at home, except for needed food runs. This has been permission giving, and it helps me look ahead to a time when I will no longer be partly retired and see the possibilities. My husband and I live a quiet, simple life which I relish, when I am smart enough to stay home (ministry is generally not done long distance or only online).

Being at home more, has given me an opportunity to write or to be more intentional and dedicated in writing and reading. While often my “reading’ is actually listening to audio books while I drive to classes, meetings, services and other gatherings, I have been able to hold my Kindle or an actual book in my hands and read it.

Picture of our dog, Sheba, a tall, lean mixed breed, black and tan dog.
Sheba, checking things out

I was going to say something about healthy eating in quarantine, but that “Cat is out of the bag.” I will say, that I am not totally ignoring the advice of blogging friends and have been working at healthier eating, in the hopes that something is better than nothing and while I am not the least bit athletic, our dog Sheba, has to be walked three times a day and that is generally good for a significant amount of steps on my Fitbit.

Sheltering in place at home without going anywhere but the store, has been mostly good. I have not turned into a hermit and there have been a few days when I have been weepy for no apparent reason. Between writing, emails and phone calls I have had lots of social contact, though I miss hugs from friends. I have not accomplished some of the things that I had hoped to do. I haven’t given up on them, just have not gotten to them yet.

Picture of an "oen "ign
Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

As of this writing, I have no clue when we will be able to fully re-open churches. I am quite sure no one in my area does either. We want everyone to be safe. I want, for myself and my flock at least, if not our culture in general, to think more deeply about needed changes. Speaking for myself, I have not gotten all the way there yet. I thought I would have a few other projects done by now and I expected to be making loads of homemade bread, but then came shoulder surgery. What am I hoping to gain from what remains of this ‘lock-down time?’

I would like to gain some mastery of the technical tools I need to use in this season, and thereby reduce my stress level and increase my efficiency. I want to laugh more; I want to stay home more (while still earning my keep at church) and I want to bake that bread. Okay, and maybe some chocolate chip-peanut butter-oatmeal cookies too! Perhaps most of all, I hope to reason my way through needed changes before life in lockdown is history and I unconsciously go back to the way things were.

What about you? I would love to hear from you. What has been your biggest learning or gain from this time? Have you been able to use it to your advantage? What do you hope will change, or do you hope everything will change back, as though it had been a bad dream?

Not holding back the tide,

Michele

Published by msomerville2014

About: Michele Somerville is a wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin and friend. She lives with her husband and their dog Sheba. Sheba is their fourth rescue dog in 30 years. She is a retired ordained United Methodist Elder and serves two churches part-time in North Central Pennsylvania. She obtained her Bachelors’ Degree in 1999 from Mansfield University and her Master of Divinity in 2004 and Doctor of Ministry in 2016, both from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York. My Doctor of Ministry Thesis was:” Prophetic Words of Grace: Biblical Storytelling in the Local Church.” Michele began writing and performing character monologues for worship in 2008. She began by asking the question about nameless characters in the Bible, “What would they say if they could speak for themselves?” and then using her theological education and experience of the human condition to attempt an answer that is both academic and creative. Much of what you will read here are memories from growing up in a tourist town, in a bar, in the 1960’s, shaggy dog stories about our rescue dogs, life in a small town, and stories of faith and hope. Throughout her life she has lived in many states, including small towns, large towns and cities. She lived in Rota, Spain, for nine challenging months. Despite all the places she have lived since moving away from home in 1970,Michele is at the heart of all things Jack and Maggie’s daughter, and a beach girl from Onset, Massachusetts.

20 thoughts on “A Sideways Look at Life in Lockdown

  1. Hi Michele, I have read where people are somewhat prepared for hurricanes and “an unwanted event.” We live in an earthquake zone and we are continually warned to be prepared. If there is a tsunami warning, then evacuate. “Do no harm” is always wise advice. It is interesting to hear things from your perspective, regarding church closures.

    I know some tech information, yet I have never worked with power point. Egad. A service on “You-Tube?” Wow, good for you! I hope the flock was compassionate and understanding. Yes, learning curve for all of us.

    It sounds like you will wear off any stress eating walking Sheba. Your post made me smile. You have a gift for writing wonderful, entertaining and interesting posts. A positive about the pandemic is how it has given you more time to write your stories and we benefit from this.🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Erica/Erika, you are more than kind. I appreciate how much you put into comments and feedback of the posts you read. I have noticed it in other posts you have responded to. You clearly have the gift of encouragement. Can’t wait to read your next post. It is interesting how every part of the country, every part of the world has its own tendency to natural disaster. I forget where you live, but I would take nor’easters and hurricanes over earthquakes and tsunami’s. Those scare me. Although growing up in my home town of Onset, Mass, there is water everywhere it seems. My daughter lives in Orlando and my son in Seattle and both areas have potential for disaster. I try not to think about it too much. Thank you again and blessings, Michele

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Michele, We live on Vancouver Island. Beautiful, yet subject to the pros and cons of nature. I also try not to think of it too much. I may take a little longer to respond sometimes because I do want to give the posts and comments some uninterrupted attention. I feel bad about this sometimes and yet, it is the best I can do energy wise. Nice to connect with you, Michele. Stay well.

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      2. Hi Michele, I am returning to share #MLSTL and share on my SM. It gave me a chance to reread your post and read the comments. I always learn a great deal from the comments. Take care.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Like you, I was taken by surprise by the severity and length of the pandemic. When schools closed in mid-March, I had no idea it would be for the rest of the year! I thought everything would be back to normal in 2 weeks! We had a trip to Morocco and Portugal planned for the end of March. When we rescheduled, we did it for September, thinking surely we could go by then. Now, I have doubts.

    I had to learn a lot of technology-related stuff when I was a teacher, so blogging was fairly easy for me. I also have to admit, I had help from one of my kids. Now my 8-year-old grandson is my technical advisor! 🙂

    I am thinking right now for things I have learned during lockdown. I plan to write a post on it too at the end of this month. I am having trouble gathering my thoughts on this subject for some reason. I was happy to read about all the technology you conquered as a result of hardship. Very inspiring!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Laurie. I am looking forward to what you write. I have continued to have a lot of stress around this but the leaders, of the one church especially have been very affirming and appreciative. So I will persevere. What did you teach, I don’t remember if I had asked that. Did you reschedule your trip for early September or later? I admit I have not been following the news reports very well, especially the Governor’s reports. We are very close to New York so we hear more from Governor Cuomo in some ways than we do from Governor Wolf. Blessings, Michele

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  3. I’ve actually written a local piece / post about my mother’s church and their move to online services. I interviewed her Reverend about using Zoom for services and Facebook live for morning prayer etc… The congregation is a very old one so technology isn’t particularly easy for them.

    I laugh hysterically when I’m at my mum’s cos (until the Minister mutes them) they’re all talking over each other! It’s so wonderful for them to still have that contact though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Deborah, thank you for taking the time to read this and comment. I serve 2 churches, the smaller one is mostly older folks and less than 20% are online. Also the churches I serve are rural so not everyone has great connectivity. It keeps us hopping, because one size will not fit all, so some online, some sermon notes, phone call and zoom meetings.

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  4. Ultimately you will have learned a lot from your trial and error YouTube adventures, so that is a big positive. DSo what if you had to have a few extra cookies along the way! I like the gentle rigour of the ‘do no harm’ motto also! I don’t know what I have actually gained from the lockdown, except a big increase in my reading and watching great TV! Now we have the summer to get through with two teenagers who are finished school. That will be … educational! I enjoy the humanity, and humour of your posts, Michele, I think you are maybe a bit hard on yourself, but then thoughtful people often are … #MLSTL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read this post and comment. You are kind. I love, LOVE writing and sharing these stories. Good news; this past weekend finally things came together technologically speaking and was able to get the service done, recorded, loaded, etc. I am using a pretty inexpensive program called “Movavi” and even though it takes forever, okay about 4 hours. In addition I was able to then separate the audio from the video and load to a flash drive to deliver to the radio station that does the broadcasts for the smaller church. Could not have accomplished it without my patient, longsuffering friends. But it feels good. Blessings Endardoo, Michele #MLSTL

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      1. Thinking faster than I was writing, what takes 4 hours after recording is saving it and loading it to You-Tube as a next step to being able to then share the video with the flock:)

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  5. Hi Michele – our church went to extra services when gathering numbers were reduced + social distancing came in, and no after church coffees etc. Then gatherings reduced further and they closed the doors. We’ve had online services produced by our pastor and a savvy assistant, but to be totally honest, I listened to one and thought it was rather “bleh” so I’ve been listening to some fantastic sermon podcasts instead and find that I’ve learnt more in the last few months than I have for the last few years! Restrictions are lifting and church will resume (in part) in a couple of weeks – I’m not overly enthused at the prospect, but hopefully it will be better than I’m expecting – still no coffee and chatting, still spaced seating, lots of wiping, no communion….. It’s a strange world indeed.
    BTW you’re doing amazingly well to upskill to youtube etc – I find it enough of a challenge just keeping my blog from falling over!
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Leanne, thanks for taking the time to read, comment and share the post. I truly enjoy the contacts with the MLSTL group. I confess that the sermons I have done for the online services have not been my best at all, which is really discouraging. But I and many in similar circumstances (small congregations to tech help at home) have felt like a one person band, with the weight. Maybe that “bleh” service was just a one off and others have been better. But as you point out, even back in person will be so different. In church, I don’t have to do it all, at least I didn’t. But it is also great that you have been able to listen to some good sermons. The lockdown has given many pastors the opportunity to listen to each other, something we can’t do on a normal Sunday. I haven’t listened to as many services as I would like, but I try to hit at least one or two when I am finished with all the tech pieces. Thanks for all you are doing. Blessings, Michele #MLSTL

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  6. Michele, kudos to you for adapting to using technology for your messages. Sometimes the best learning is born from necessity. I understand the ebb and flow of emotional and physical energy and have had a few days shrouded in dread. I give myself permission to feel sorry for myself, then get back on track. There is enough misery in the world without me adding to it. Do No Harm… #MLSTL

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  7. Suzanne, thank you for taking the time to read and comment and thank you for the compliment. I never want to be someone who stops reading, learning and pushing myself. In the case of the technology, push certainly came to shove. Finally after 10 weeks a feeling of success; I was able to do what I had to do without using the help line and leaning too hard on friends. Stay well and safe. Hoping for a good summer, even if it is different.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Michele, I really commend you on your efforts to get things working in this different world of today. I don’t think it’s been easy for anyone, especially in your line of work. I can only imagine the stress of trying to do all that you wanted to achieve.

    I laughed at your eating quandary, but only because I could relate to it 🙂 I’ve managed to keep busy and stay outside as much as possible given that winter is on its way and we won’t be able to be outside all that much soon. I like the term ‘sheltering in place’, we’ve not used that terminology here but it is a more gentle way of saying ‘lockdown’.

    I must admit to missing social contact with people, but I’m getting used to it, and restrictions are starting to lift here in Aus. I do find however, when I get to talk to people (in person) I prattle on and on, as it seems such a novelty! Seeing their expressions and non-verbal cues is much better than through text messages or phone calls.

    Lovely to read your words for #mlstl

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