I often feel like I live in a world with Peter from Peter and the Wolf. With 24 hour cable news and GPS tracking on everything, 50 thousand different ways to get ahold of someone, panic is always created.
Several years ago a study was produced that told us that social media was creating anxiety. As if I needed a study. I love social media; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. I also love, texting and email and yes, even talking on the phone (shock face).
I always have my phone on me nowadays, I used to leave my house without a phone all the time, I actually didn’t really have a cell phone until seminary and would often drive my husband crazy for not answering it when it rang.
When did that change? When did everything become such an emergency that I must pull the phone out of my pocket with every ding, chime, or bloop? If I can’t answer right away I feel as helpless as that kid in The Christmas Story with his tongue stuck on the pole.
Today in Maryland we are having a snow day. A real snow day. Not only are the kids out of school, but the city and county of Baltimore are shut down. State of Emergency declared by the governor. We have over a foot of snow in our backyard and “no one” is going anywhere.
Yet, I guarantee the mall is open. I guarantee the movies are open. I bet all chain restaurants and Starbucks and nonessential stores are open.
Because we don’t value that word anymore. We don’t understand a true emergency. We have cried Wolf too many times. If you don’t answer my text right away even though iMessage told me you read it already, I think you’re pissed at me. If you don’t answer my call I can’t leave a voicemail because I know you don’t listen to them (I mean who has time for that?). And god forbid I don’t respond to a comment on Facebook even though I got 15 different notifications about it.
What is an emergency? Several years ago I drove in the middle of a hurricane to sit at the deathbed of a parishioner, to hold his mother and wife’s hands, to cry with them and wait until Hospice arrived and have the body taken away. I was rerouted several ways for washed out roads and it took me hours to go 10 miles. Today, if that call comes, I will go.
These are emergencies, just as doctors, nurses and support staff will get to hospitals, and firefighters to their stations, and snowplows will be on the roads.
But unless that call comes, I will not get in my car and drive, I will not go to the mall or movies even if I get cabin fever, and I will not answer every text while snuggled up with hot cocoa and puzzles with my children.
If you need permission, here it is. The texts will wait, the emails will hold. Very little has to be done exactly in this moment. So cut yourself some slack, take a deep breath, so when a true emergency comes you will be prepared and people will take you seriously.