Onward: Becoming Okay With My Quarantine Struggles

My Quarantine Mood Might Never Quit: Sometimes I feel invisible, like I don’t matter, and that I am insignificant.

Will this ever end? I’ve been stuck at home since March! I am sure you know how I feel. I think I am becoming invisible, maybe I don’t matter any more, maybe I am insignificant, and maybe I’m being unjustly judged by the world. I’ve been disconnected for so long I have no idea what the people in my community think! That’s why I go to the worst possible outcome. I need people in my life! I need normalcy!

A year ago this weekend I went to see Star Wars: The Return of The Jedi with my good friend Luke. I shook hands with a random stranger (who happened to be Rian Johnson’s brother), but now I am stuck inside.

At this point it would be more surprising to hear from someone who hasn’t been quarantined due to a Covid scare than about someone having to do multiple quarantines. Yet, I refuse to allow the covid quarantine life to be the new normal. It should not be normal to be stuck inside of my house with a weird fear of whoever is delivering my toilet paper. It will never be normal to have to meet all of my students through zoom, where I try to be as entertaining as the best podcasters and as relatable as their best friend. And it will never be normal to work day in and day out in the same sweat pants no matter how hard I try! I want to go out to eat inside a restaurant again! I want to go to movies!

Speaking of movies, no not the 158 movies April and I watched at home last year, but real movies in the theater! The last movie I saw in theaters was Onward on March, 6th 2020. April and I love going to movies so the fact it has almost been a full year since I stepped into a movie theater astounds me. At first I didn’t mind it even though April and I go out of our way to have fun movie going experiences. We went to the O2 arena in London to see Spider-Man: Far From Home while on our honeymoon. Before last March I couldn’t remember the last time I went more than a month without going to the movies. Even when I lived in Guatemala, I made sure to travel to the theaters (I have a blog about traveling to Guatemala City to live it up in luxury which meant going to the movies), even though most of the movies were horribly dubbed into Spanish or had lousy subtitles (and the theater leaked any time it rained and it always rained in Guatemala). But now a year without theaters has me sad and a little mad.

But as I move onward through this pandemic maybe I should take a lesson from Onward. If you haven’t seen Onward, it is a fantastic Pixar movie about two brothers, Ian and Barley, going on an adventurous road trip to reconnect with their dead dad. Like the two brothers in the movie we could all use a little reconnecting right about now and maybe a road trip too. Yet, our world is forcing us to hold each other further away than arms length. I am not a huge hugger, but I do love a good hug and well, we could all use one.

Yet maybe Onward was a great last movie to see in the theaters and it could be a great hope for the future of theaters and the end of quarantine life. It is a great last movie experience, not because now it is just easier to watch movies at home on Netflix, HBO Max, or any other streaming service, but because it reminds us that there is good in our world. As the lockdown started last March, I had Onward on my mind. Ian Lightfoot, the young protagonist voiced by Tom Holland, only wants to reconnect with his dead dad, but throughout the movie life blocks him from satisfying those desires. That is what it has been like for the past year. I have desires to travel, to go on a road trip, but Covid has blocked that. Instead of driving up the west coast of California this summer, April and I will be staying in because it is not safe for us to travel with a baby girl on the way. I am very willing to sacrifice for my family and my future baby girl, but it still sucks to be stuck at home.

Memoirs of traveling at hyper speed on the Millennium Falcon

Being forced to stay in makes me feel off. All year I have been staying in. I teach remotely due to health reasons (which are now double due to baby Hermione (not her official name) and so sometimes I feel invisible to my coworkers. Like when they are all provided a free lunch and I don’t get any because I am home. This can lead to me feeling insignificant. The feeling of insignificance is compounded when my opinion is not considered for how to teach something in my class. Then I feel unfairly judged because I am being told to run my zoom meetings a certain way even though I do not feel like the person judging me has the whole story, nor the best interest in mind for my students. And then my school district keeps on making decisions for my life and our community that I disagree with which makes me feel like I do not matter. And yet, all of this is okay. I must be okay with being invisible, with being insignificant, with feeling like I don’t matter, and with being unfairly judged.

In Onward, Ian struggles with not knowing his dad and therefore not knowing his true identity. What I am realizing is that it is okay to struggle because that helps us become who we are meant to be. Importantly, if Ian hadn’t struggled he never would have become who he was meant to be. But his true struggle was one of letting go of his desire to connect with his dad. As Ian fights to truly reconnect with his dad he causes problems. His desire to connect with his dad is not bad, but like all desires, if they are held onto for too long they can be our ruin because they do not truly satisfy. Ian is forced to choose between connecting with his dead dad or letting go. If he chooses to let go, it will be a humble sacfrice. I want to let go of my desires to fight and sacrifice. No, not because I want to be like characters in a movie, but because I want to follow Jesus.

On a deeper level than movie analysis, I need to be okay with feeling invisible, insignificant, unfairly judged, and that I don’t matter sometimes because Jesus felt all of that too. In the fight, flight, or freeze response to fear and adversity, Jesus knelt and sacrificed. I would imagine that if Jesus was asked to quarantine with us, he would feel frustrated and lonely, but he would respond to it all in love. Just like he did when he was persecuted and forced to march to Calvary. He did not fight against being told to do something he disagreed with or unfairly judged, but carried the cross for all of us. He took on all of our loneliness, isolation, separation, thoughts of insignificance, and invisibility when he did not fight back and allowed himself to be nailed to the cross. If he can do that maybe I can too. If he felt how I feel at times, and yet choose love I can find freedom in choosing to become more like him, even if I can’t go on the next adventurous road trip. And until my next adventure I can still dream of my next trip back to Hogsmead at Universal Studios.

What Am I Becoming?

Five years ago I met a woman who has changed my life. Yes, I am talking about April! We met five years ago tonight on a Valentine’s Date. Do you want to go see Pride and Prejudice And Zombies I had asked. No pressure I had said.. That night I wasn’t thinking about what I would become over the next five years. I just wanted to watch a fun movie and maybe go on a good date, but I went in with an open heart and because of that God has helped be become more.

I am still in awe that April has stuck by me for the last five years. Her love for me makes me want to become even more of the man God meant for me to be when he first meant me. Because of April I want to spend the next five years being intentional with who I grow into.

I’ve heard it said that we become more like the people we spend time with, meaning we should spend our time wisely and be even more careful about with whom we spend that time. But after a year of isolation I don’t just want to become a random assortment of my favorite movie heroes, tv show personalities, nor my dogs. Yes, April and I spent hours together and I think we might start wearing matching clothes soon. Well, as long as she’s okay wearing sweats all day.

However we end up dressing, April and I did watch roughly 162 movies last year, that’s three a week, and several complete series on Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, and Apple +. Like you, I enjoy relaxing in front of my TV and I love going to the movies, but I haven’t stepped inside a movie theater in nearly a year at this point. I miss it, but I found if April and I were purposeful with our viewing the movies and TV shows we watched really did add to my life. The best thing April and I did last year was set a viewing schedule which made for great spy movies on Thursdays and Hitchcock and other mystery thrillers on Fridays. It helped break up the monotony of being home and through it all I found many beautiful adventures. With my eyes open to the heart of each character in the movies and TV shows we watched I’ve decided I do not want to become like James Bond (we watched all but the Roger Moore Bond movies last year). James Bond might always save the day, but Jack Ryan is more of the type of man I would like to become (We watched all of the old Harrison Ford Jack Ryan Movies). He is not afraid to speak up for what is right, he takes risks, he owns up for his mistakes, and he would do anything to protect his family. But this year I want this year to be something more than a movie watcher.

As 2020 was a year I looked for a beautiful adventure in everything, 2021 is going to be my year of becoming.

I could become more like my dogs Gryffin and Phoenix and make sure I am planted in good soil. That’s right, my dogs! We brought Phoenix home on New Years Day! They are both so lovable. But if I were to become more like them, I would need to start relying on someone other than myself for my daily care which might not be a bad thing, but then I would need to nap in a crate for nearly 16 hours a day. I would also need to become way more interested in sniffing butts. My boys are also great at being joyful adventurers. When I take them for a walk, they stop and smell everything that attracts them. Maybe I need to become more like my dogs and open all of my senses to the world around me, especially the treats. Gryffin is currently sniffing out all of the treats I have hidden around the house. God has probably hidden a few treats around his world for me to find.

I could become more like my wife. April is direct and gracious. If I have accidentally hurt her she is not afraid to confront me. Because she is willing to lean into conflict with me, I know she loves me and it makes me a better man. She makes me want to be brave enough to listen to criticism so that I can grow into the husband she deserves. The other day she called me out for being short with her. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t perceive what I had said as short or that I had snapped at her. She took it that way, so I apologized. If I want to become a better husband I must listen to her. April is also the most thoughtful person I know. If I want to become more like my wife you all would benefit so much from it. This last weekend she decided to bake her coworkers homemade doughnuts just so she could announce some huge news. Who does that? When I have something special happen for me, I want people to lavish things on me. No, she is the opposite and because of that she challenges me to become a more giving man.

Yet becoming is a process. It is taking time to work on becoming better at something. It is taking risks and trying something new.

I want to become a better steward of my home. I want to become a better outdoorsman. I want to become a better listener, lover, leader, writer, warrior, healer, servant, teacher, follower, friend, uncle, and communicator. But if I want to become all of these things I need to take the time and go slow. So that is what I am going to dedicate to doing this year.

Especially in the biggest area that I am becoming, a father!

On January, 3rd April and I found out that we are expecting and so we are becoming a true family! I am scared, but excited too. I want to have this posture of becoming which to me means I am allowing myself to be under construction. God is going to help me become a father therefore I do not need to expect perfection at being a girl dad all at once. That’s right, we found out yesterday that we are having a girl!

So pray for me that I allow God to help be become a better man, husband, and now future father of an awesome little girl!