It’s OK to not be OK

It’s ok not to be ok…isn’t it? They’re all over TikTok, videos telling young people ‘it’s ok not to be ok’. I think it’s a great message but I know not everyone agrees with me. People generally don’t like to show when they are having a hard time. To let people know you are struggling emotionally or mentally doesn’t seem to come easily to many people. When I share with some people that I struggled in lockdown I am surprised when some people respond with how they struggled too. They don’t volunteer the information but when I share, they are happy to share back and I realise that I wasn’t alone. But I don’t hear many people saying they found lockdown hard. I am not feeling ok now either. It seems that this pandemic is bringing wave after wave of challenge and once you have adapted to one you have another to catch up with.

So much is changing so quickly. Restrictions come and go like the weather and it’s hard to keep up. The virus is increasing and we don’t know if we will be locked in our homes next week. Some people really don’t mind, in fact many feel safe staying in. None of this is really getting to me, I have, like you (I guess) got used to fluctuating restrictions. What I am struggling with is the gradual erosion of our social structures. While we are all trying to cope with the pandemic in our own ways, the side effects of the many restrictions we are facing are transforming society and culture before our eyes. Remember that time back in March when we went into lockdown for ‘three weeks’? Now they there is talk about postponing next year’s GCSEs and Australia maybe closed to tourists until the end of 2021! Whatever we are going through and experiencing it is going to last, whatever changes are happening will have time to bed in. This is where I am struggling a little.

I can’t say I thought the world before lockdown was by any means perfect, but as lockdown wore on, I came to understand a little why things were as they were. They were as they were because they were the best we could devise for living, for having a social outlet and for building and maintaining relationships. Social events existed because people needed them to make sense of their lives, to give them meaning. All of our social interactions from going to football matches, the theatre, a concert, to eating out exist to inspire us and provide the social oil to keep our lives running. None of this was perfect but without those opportunities our lives will be very different. What really hit me hard this week was that a chain of cinemas, Cineworld, might be closing down. The cinema has always been part of my life, like always. From Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse to Back to the Future, Starwars, Arachnophobia, James Bond and hundreds of other films. It has been a backdrop to my life, something I never imagined not existing. I am sure other cinemas will survive but for a cinema chain to have to close, that’s serious! However we look at it our society is changing, maybe new better things will emerge but the old good things are passing away too. We are in a situation of flux and change, and there will be a gap as the old fades away and the new comes to replace it.

In the letter to the Hebrews (13:8) the author says that Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever. In theology we understand that Jesus is the Lord of History, he is the creator of life, of the past and the future to come. All things exist through him and for him. In his death on the cross Jesus drew all sin to him and in his resurrection he gave life to all. All life comes from him and if a cinema chain closes it probably is no big deal in the eternal scheme of things. But behind every lost job is a life, a family, mental well-being, a future. Millions of people are losing their jobs, millions of lives are being affected. Psychologically and emotionally I am finding this hard to process but spiritually I know that God has us in the palms of his loving hands, God has got this. Knowing that, brings me a sense of peace but it doesn’t stop me feeling like a little fishing boat in the middle of an Atlantic storm. I would love to hear from you if you see lasting change in your life or work, what changes are you seeing and how do you think it will shape your life in the future? Let us pray that our hope may be an inspiration to those around us, a little light of God’s presence in our world.

Fr Tom