I don’t know if many of you know this, but I have lived in 3 intentional communities in my life. An intentional community is a group of people who live, eat, and pray together. The idea is to create a living environment that is supportive, where each member is thoughtful about how they interact with one another and how they spend their time. We care for one another, learn from each other, and grow together.
The first intentional community I lived in was in college and was called Romero House, named for Archbishop Oscar Romero from El Salvador. (If you’re not familiar with Romero, please google him. He’s amazing!). My second foray into community living was with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps NW. I lived for a year with 5 other volunteers in Anchorage, AK. And my third experience with intentional living was in graduate school. My housemates and I lived in a house on the edge of campus, right on a lake with a beautiful view. We were very lucky!
Through all these experiences, I’ve learned a lot about living with others - how to support one another, new ways to communicate, and how to have fun together. Of the many lessons I’ve learned about living with others, there are three that may be especially helpful during this season of “staying at home”.
Sharing space does not mean a free for all. Sometimes it can feel like it, when people are in your room and it’s difficult to find a bit of peace and quiet. Establishing healthy boundaries can give everyone more ownership over their living environment. These days, with “stay at home” orders in place for at least two weeks, creating healthy living spaces will help us all make it through with a little more grace.
The first important part of setting good boundaries is creating a routine. For many of us, we are entering our second week of social distancing. Many teens are returning to virtual learning after spring break. There are dozens of suggested timetables online: how to break up your day between work, exercise, and fun. I encourage everyone to try them out, modify them, and find one that works for your family. Creating a routine can offer a structure and balance, two parts of a healthy life.
One of my favorite authors, Annie Dillard, describes the importance of a structured life:
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living.”
A second and very important part of boundaries is doing regular check-ins with those you live with. These can feel funny at first but are definitely worth trying and building in. A great time for this might be during or right after supper (followed by prayer -- more on that below). With the Peer Ministers at SJA, we begin our check-in with highs and lows. Everyone takes a turn, speaking for as long or as short as they would like without interruption. This is an opportunity to reflect on the day. Ask yourself: what went well today? What brought you joy? What inspired you, challenged you, discouraged you, lifted your spirits?
Check-ins provide an opportunity and an invitation to slow down, notice where you are, what you’re doing, who you’re with. They are also a chance to practice deep listening to ourselves and to those we live with. As we begin to pay more attention to our daily lives, let’s also begin to pay attention to the stories of those with whom we share our lives. They might surprise us.
I know, I KNOW, the person you live with just finished the last of the milk and left the empty jug in the sink, and someone else walked through the house with muddy shoes, and dang it but the neighbors keep cranking up their music at all hours of the day and night. How am I going to survive?! How can I keep my cool?!
Living together in close proximity, with few outlets, can bring out our best selves and our roughest edges. That’s what community does.
It’s important, maybe even vital, to remember: we are all doing the best we can. We are all doing the best we can in a stressful, unexpected, unprecedented time.
Remember to breathe. Really breathe. When you are tempted to be annoyed or frustrated or short-tempered, take a second and take a deep breath. Ask yourself: can I assume this person isn’t trying to drive me up the wall by skateboarding right outside my bedroom window at one in the morning on a work night? (That’s a true story - it was during the summer in Alaska so in his defense, the sun was still up). Breathe. Ask questions. Try to listen with patience to the answer. Assume goodwill: that we are all doing the best we can. Because we are.
Praying together is a key part of living intentionally. It might be uncomfortable at first, and like most things in life it takes practice. One time to do this might be right after check-in. I recommend creating a routine around this as well: do it in the same spot every day, maybe light a candle, take a minute for everyone to center themselves by taking deep breaths.
Remember: you are in the presence of God.
There are so many ways to pray: you can use Scripture (the USCCB has all the daily readings for Catholics: http://usccb.org), poetry, silence, or prayers such as the “Our Father” and “Hail Mary”. Everyone can name someone or something they are praying for. You can end your prayer time together with everyone saying aloud something they are grateful for.
Lastly, I’ll leave you with a prayer I’ve been saying on repeat for the last couple weeks: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” This was written by Julian of Norwich, who was the first woman to write a book in the English language. What I find especially notable and comforting about this prayer is that Julian survived the bubonic plague and was still able to write these words of encouragement.
All shall be well my dear St Joan of Arc community. We miss you. We are grateful for you.
We are praying for you.
Many of us are watching world events unfold with great anxiety, fear, and sadness. With so much confusion and chaos in front of us, ‘hope’ can be hard to find. In just days, our lives have gone from normalcy to cancelling major sporting events and gatherings to social distancing and staying in our homes. It has hit us all personally in some way with news of more people testing positive each day. The Coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented and will continue to reshape the way that we live.
I, like all of you, have been trying to find hope in the turmoil. Finding hope in broken times is certainly an optimistic thought. I’ll admit, I’ve found it hard to find hope over the last week. However, hope continues to show up in many ways. Here are three ways that I’ve been able to find hope this past week:
Virtual Connection is Possible: I’ve still been able to connect with friends and family. On Sunday, nearly 600,000 people downloaded Zoom, a video conferencing app. The app is being used by professors and workplaces to stay on track. I’ve used it with friends to catch up “after the workday” while preparing dinner and winding down from the morning. Facetime, which is already built into your iPhone, allows multiple people at once- just start a group text message and you’re set.
If connection to God is what you’re after, Saint Joan of Arc will be uploading Mass each week during social distancing. You can find those on www.stjoan.com. In addition, this is a great time to try out other forms of prayer. So many communities are putting services online- go check them out.
(Re)discover Hobbies: This might be the cleanest my house has been since moving in a year ago. Cleaning may not have been a hobby before, but I’d consider it one now. If we’re all stuck at home, we might as well have a clean space to spend our time.
I have always had a bunch of hobbies. Before social distancing, my main hobbies included going to the gym, working my second job at Urban Growler Brewing Company, and brewing homemade kombucha. With gyms closed and restaurants slimmed down to essential staff, I have been able to find a few new hobbies to fill my time at home. First, remember to stay active! There are so many resources online for in home workouts. You can find them on Instagram, YouTube, and through a simple Google search. Fill a book bag with some books and you’ve got the start of a full body workout.
You can still support your favorite local businesses! Grab takeout, buy a gift card, or share their posts on your social media pages. These gestures can make a huge difference in businesses being able to survive during this time.
I’ve taken more time to be creative in the kitchen. Now is a good time to grab things from deep in the pantry and create new recipes. Be your own Food Network Chopped Champion and create something out of what you have.
Don’t be afraid to share your hobby! Friends that are musically talented have hosted live concerts from their living rooms on social media, a friend that is an excellent painter has shared videos of her projects online, and physical trainers have posted workouts for folks to try at home. These small gestures can make huge impacts on our moods. Now is the time to share your talents.
Have Things to Look Forward To: I wish there was an end day in sight: April 8, May 1, June 3, etc. However, most professionals don’t even have a clear idea of when life will return to normal. That’s why it is so important to continue setting goals and have things to look forward to.
Personally, I am so excited for Laura and me to be moving into our first home. We recently purchased our first home after several years of renting and close on the sale in mid-April. This has given us so much hope and excitement throughout the last couple weeks. We’ve been able to occupy our lives planning paint colors, projects, and room layouts. We’ve gotten a head start on packing our current rental into boxes and being as organized as possible for the move. I encourage you to find a project or something you’ve been hoping to complete and set a goal to do so.
It is important to recognize that we all must keep going. Take time to reflect on your habits over the past week. Try to find hope in each day. Take time away from the news and pick up a new book, complete a project, or reach out to a loved one. These small gestures will build into better days.
We are all in this together.
Our youth at SJA have amazing things to say. Our goal is to give them a platform to share their thoughts on topics they want to talk about. Their thoughts are uniquely theirs. From politics to faith, school issues to our church, this blog shares their voices with our community.