If I’m hearing things correctly, a lot of us here in the BLE world are falling apart right now.
People who’ve had bright lines for months are stuffing their grocery carts with granola bars. People whose minds have been free are suddenly filled with chatter. Positive outlooks and hope for the future have been replaced with worry, and even fear.
An Uncertain Future
We don’t know what’s going to happen next. We were living our normal lives, on our normal schedules, when everything changed. One little virus, and we’re stuck in our houses, wondering how long we’ll be asked to isolate ourselves. How much school our kids will miss. How long we can survive, financially.
If our families will make it through this unscathed.
If anything will ever go back to normal.
And in the face of all this change, maybe what we eat doesn’t seem so important. Maybe we should just be happy to have food to eat at all. Maybe the warehouses will empty, the truck drivers will all die, or the cashiers will refuse to come to work and grocery stores will close.
This could be the end of the world as we know it. And who in their right mind tries to face the Apocalypse without ice cream?
The Hoarding Instinct
I’m not immune to these thoughts. I am a person who likes to be prepared, and I’ve had visions of stocking up a pantry full of chocolate chip cookies and other imperishable sugar-laden goodies, to get me through a possible future of scarcity.
Hoarding is an instinct. It only makes sense. When we’re not sure about where our next meal is coming from, of course we want to eat more now. Stock up now and be safe later. It’s what drove our not-so-distant ancestors to work long hours bringing in and preserving the fall harvest. To break their backs chopping wood to keep the fire going through the coming winter.
In that recent past, people who stocked their larders with rows of canned good would not have been called hoarders. Or even preppers. They were normal. They were the people whose offspring would survive, because they worked in times of plenty, to prepare for times of scarcity.
These days, we’ve largely suppressed that instinct. We live in a world of continual plenty, so there’s no need to store up extra. The grocery shelves are always full. The money’s always coming in. We take it for granted that these things will always continue. We become complacent. And we become unprepared, without even realizing it.
Panic Eating: Healthy, or Unhealthy?
Now, suddenly, the fragility of the system that keeps us supplied with life’s necessities and frivolities has been exposed. It takes so little. The store shelves don’t actually have to empty – just seeing a few spaces is enough to induce anxiety. We’re so used to row upon row of endless packages. As though as soon as we take one down, another is added from behind to take its place.
We rarely get a hint that the supply is finite.
Is it surprising that those empty spaces make us feel vulnerable? That pictures of bare shelves on the Internet drive us to seek out new sources of the things we need, and buy as much of them as we can? To shove food into our mouths like there’s no tomorrow?
I don’t think it is. In a way, I think some of this panic this is actually healthy. A bit of a course correction, if you will. It’s possible that we were becoming a little too complacent. A little too dependent on the system for our survival. Perhaps a bit too focused on the present, without thought for the future. And maybe – just maybe – a little lazy.
If this current crisis shakes us up a little bit, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.
What a Crisis can Teach Us
The future is uncertain – so be prepared
Why did people have so little toilet paper in their houses that they couldn’t last 2 weeks?
Why are so many people unable to make their rent after being out of work for 1 week?
I hate to say it, but we live in a society that refuses to save for the future. We don’t stock up. We don’t put a little money away. We spend everything we earn, as it comes in. And we’re completely comfortable doing it. We live dangerously, precariously, on the edge. Too distracted to even notice.
At one time, this was a normal part of life. It still is, in some places. It’s called subsistence. When a day without work means a day you don’t eat. It’s a state of existence that the entire world is working to eradicate – and we’re succeeding. Poverty levels worldwide are decreasing at unprecedented rates. And this is a good thing. Because living from day to day is an unhealthy, anxiety-provoking state to be in. Yes, people still manage to find joy and meaning, and even peace, in those kinds of circumstances. But it is not something you would want for yourself, or your children. We are wired to crave safety and stability.
And yet, many of us are trading actual safety and stability, for the illusion of it. We have more disposable income than ever before, but instead of saving it for possible future need, we go ahead and dispose of it. We spend it on the newest i-phones. Or whatever else we’ve convinced ourselves is a necessity of life. This isn’t a personal judgement of our society, it’s a fact. We save less, and have more debt, than the generations before us.
We live like this because it’s fun. But it only takes a coronavirus to remind us that there’s more to life than fun. Sometimes, making sacrifices in the present is worth it, because it pays off in the future. And knowing that you’re prepared when a crisis hits – that you have food in your basement, money in the bank, and maybe even an immune system that is as strong as you can make it, because you’ve deprived yourself of sugar and been proactive in taking care of your health – creates real peace of mind.
You can’t be prepared for everything
Some things are easy to prepare for. Winter comes around every year – it shouldn’t take anyone off guard. And in general, we know that disasters occur. Floods, droughts, earthquakes, hurricanes, crime, violence, war, disease – these are all part of the human experience.
But you can’t be prepared for everything. We rarely know exactly when or where these disasters will befall us. And we can’t predict exactly how they’ll play out. We also can’t spend our lives worrying about every possibility. At some point, too much preparedness becomes unfeasible.
If your peace depends on circumstances, it will not last
One thing I’m learning from the coronavirus crisis: I have peace that doesn’t depend on my circumstances.
I hear the panic in other people’s voices, but I don’t feel it, myself. I think that’s partly because my food is under control right now. And I would imagine that the longer your lines have been bright, the easier it will be to get through this – or any time of increased anxiety. But it’s mostly because I’m not afraid to die. I’m not afraid of anyone in my immediate family dying. We’re Christians. So even in the worst-case scenario, we all end up in Heaven.
I was once told by someone who didn’t know me well, but noticed that I didn’t seem to be bothered by the things that caused most people to break down: “Some day, your world will come crashing down on you. And it will crush you.”
I didn’t know what to say to him, at the time. I wasn’t offended – I was sorry for him. He was obviously hurting, and I wished I could say something to help. I couldn’t. But since then, I’ve come up with my answer: Yes, the world could come crashing down on me. But it won’t crush me. Because this isn’t my world.
I’m not a happy, peaceful person because I believe everything is fine, or because I’m in denial. I don’t believe my future on earth is bright and rosy. I expect trouble. I expect the coronavirus will affect my life, and the lives of those I love. In general, I expect pain, and grief, and catastrophe. And I know I can survive them.
If this world is all you have, then of course you’ll be crushed when it falls down. And it will. Even if you live the most peaceful, happy, and fulfilled life possible, at the end of it, you will die. I think this is one of the reasons the coronavirus has so many people panicking: they’re brought face to face with their own mortality – something most people have worked diligently to avoid. But if you know that the end of this life is not really the end – if, like me, you know there is a better world waiting for you – then there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Panic, Hunger, & BLE
So yes, I’ve had thoughts of stuffing my face full of junk food. But am I really panicking? No. I have an addicted brain that will use any excuse to suggest eating is the answer. It acts exactly the same way at Christmas, on my birthday, when I’m driving my car, and the day before my period. It’s a jerk. It tries to derail me at every opportunity. That doesn’t mean I’m falling apart.
If you’re panicking right now, maybe ask yourself why that is. I don’t necessarily think your 1st step should be to put down the pizza. Or the cake. Or whatever it is you’re using to deal with that panic. That may be a crutch you need, right now. As SPT said in this week’s blog – if you’re eating right now, that’s ok. But the food won’t fix what’s really wrong.
To avoid panic, we need to be prepared. To know that bad things will sometimes happen. To plan for them. And to have a hope that doesn’t depend on what’s happening around us.