How To Surrender Control To Find Inner Peace During Quarantine & Coronavirus
I’ll never forget the day in July that half of my face suddenly stopped working. I had just flown home on a red-eye from a wonderful vacation in Alaska. I went to bed for a few hours, and about an hour after I woke up the right side of my face just stopped moving. No matter what my brain said, if I tried to move my face NOTHING happened.
The next few weeks – and really months – were hard. Thankfully the doctors in the Emergency Room told me the paralysis in my face was not a stroke. I was diagnosed with something called Bells Palsy. The ER doctors (and then the parade of additional doctors) told me I would “most likely” recover. But nobody could really tell me when, other than “not immediately”. In the meantime, I had no control over half of my face. On the right side I couldn’t smile. I couldn’t even blink. All of the normalcy I thought I knew had evaporated in an instant.
I have always been a bit of a control freak, but I learned a lot about losing control during my Bells Palsy experience. And I learned even more about turning to and trusting in God to get me through the uncertainty and the fear of everything suddenly changing on me.
My face started moving again slowly but surely. Most people (save maybe a neurologist) would probably never be able to look at me today and tell I’d had Bells Palsy less than a year ago. But, while my face went back to normal (thankfully!) the experience changed me forever internally.
Over the last few weeks the entire world and way we live our lives has almost as abruptly changed because of coronavirus. I’ve been faced with a lot of similar emotions to the ones I experienced when my face stopped moving in July – but this time I’m not alone, because you are probably feeling these same emotions that I’m feeling, too.
But I know that when my face stopped moving, God carried me through that time, and He will carry all of us through this time too, if we are willing to turn to Him. (Please note, I say “God” because that is the language I use in my own heart when referring to my higher power, but if you say “Universe” or anything else, these same ideas can still be applied and adapted, so please don’t let my word choice stop you from finding value in what I am about to share if praying to “God” doesn’t feel right to you).
The words I’ve heard so many of my friends speaking are the words of same fear, uncertainty, and lack of control that I faced when I had Bells Palsy. And so, as we all face these emotions together I wanted to share some of the things that got me through my experience and helped me heal last summer, and that I’m returning to to help me cope now.
RECOGNIZING THAT THERE ARE THINGS I CANNOT CONTROL AND THINGS THAT I CAN.
There is a prayer that I have heard other people speak so many times, that brought me so much peace and healing in my Bells Palsy recovery – and that is bringing me so much peace now as coronavirus effects all of our lives.
“God Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
There are things NONE of us can control personally about the current situation and we must make peace with that if we want to get through this situation with as much ease as possible. There are also lots of things we can control.
If you’re struggling with being out of control it may help to say this prayer and then sit down and write about what you DO and DO NOT have control over.
When I was going through Bells Palsy, I did not have control over moving my face and I did not have control over how long it would take to recover. I did however have control over if I chose to do my physical therapy. I had control over the food I ate to give my body the nutrients it needed to help me heal. And I had control over if I chose to wear my eye protection while I slept to protect my eye from becoming damaged.
Once I recognized what I could and could not control, I was able to more consciously hand the things I had no control over to God, and to take responsibility for the things I COULD take responsibility for. And to feel good about what I was doing, instead of dwelling on what I had no control over.
Right now, I recognize that I do not have control over how far and wide the virus will spread. I do not have control over how many people will die. I do not have control over whether other people decide to go to social gatherings or will stay home. I do not have control over whether anyone I know and love will get sick. I have no control over whether the hospitals will run out of protective equipment for doctors or ventilators for sick patients. I have no control over what the President, or my Governor, or Congress decide to do. I have no control over the uncertainty of this entire situation.
On all of these things I can choose to get sucked into them with fear, resentment, anger, and anxiety, or I can choose to give them to God. I choose to hand them over since I know I can’t control them.
But I do still have a lot of control and that brings me peace. I can control whether I personally leave my apartment, and the precautions I take when I go for a walk. I can control how often I wash my hands. I can control that I stay at least 6 feet away from other humans and don’t touch ANYTHING when I walk outside my own door so I don’t spread the virus myself. I can control that I take the initiative to have FaceTime conversation with my friends and family to keep me connected to others in this time. I can control my news consumption. I can control that I meditate every day, and when and how often I turn to God to pray.
And because I know that these are the things I CAN control, I accept my responsibility for them.
TURNING TO A HIGHER POWER FOR SUPPORT ON ACCEPTANCE OF THAT WHICH I CAN’T CONTROL
Part of accepting that there are just parts of all of this that I can’t control is surrendering that control.
With my Bells Palsy, I found it incredibly empowering to CHOOSE to surrender my control of all that I could not control to God. I trust God always has a plan for my highest good, and the highest good of all. And I trust that God is, in fact in control even when things seem to me to be spiraling. So if I can’t control things, I really can’t think of a better steward of control than my creator who knows how to turn all things into good!
For me, surrendering control over that which I can’t means sitting in prayer and telling God, I RECOGNIZE these things I can’t control. Here they are. I surrender them to you. I trust you to do what is for the highest good of all, including me, and including my family. (And in the context of coronavirus, including all of the doctors and healthcare workers, and all of the people of this entire world). I may not understand what is happening or why, but I give the control to YOU because I trust you. And I ask you to help me surrender this control and I ask you to help me find peace, and I ask you to help me trust YOU with this control.
FINDING GRATITUDE IN THE MIDST OF WHAT IS HAPPENING
The last part of my surrendering control is taking the time to recognize all of the BEAUTY, LIGHT, and GOOD that is also coming into my awareness from this experience that I never would have chosen to go through (and never would have personally chosen for the world).
In the context of my Bells Palsy, I discovered a deep gratitude for things I have taken for granted my entire life – like being able to blink, or smile. I suddenly found myself incredibly grateful for my continued ability to walk, and move my arms, and to breathe. I also found gratitude in the gifts the experience gave me – in the form of teaching me so many life lessons that I would not have learned any other way. It helped me adopt a much healthier lifestyle, and a deeper connection with the Lord.
When it comes to coronavirus, there is so much I have to be grateful for. I have a safe, nice space to spend my quarantined days in. I have the technology to connect easily with friends and family. I have quality food filling my refrigerator and cabinets. There is so much I normally forget to be thankful for on a daily basis that this experience is bringing into focus.
There are also good things coming out of this experience, even though I wouldn’t choose for any of us to have to go through this. I’ve been talking to friends I haven’t connected deeply with in a long time. I’m talking to my good friends a lot more. I’m talking to my 94 year old Nana more frequently than I ever have. The same with my Aunt, Uncle and Cousins. I’ve got more time to pray. More time to meditate. More time to sleep and just relax.