Thanks for stopping by today! I picture you sitting down in my kitchen with a cup of coffee or tea, settling in for a heart-to-heart chat. Because that’s the type of connection I need right now. How about you? I’d really like to know how you’re doing.
Here we are at the start of year three of the pandemic and if we’re being honest — many of us are feeling more isolated than ever. I don’t have any magic words; all I can do is share what’s on my mind today and invite you to share what’s on yours.
My heart goes out to you if you’re a working parent with young children (doubly so if you’re a teacher or a health care professional). If this is you…I see how you’ve been pushed to the breaking point by the dizzying game of Whac-a-Mole that is now your life. I wish I could snap my fingers and make it all better or at least step in to help with the kids.
But in a cruel twist, the CDC tells me that I’m in a high-risk group (over 65 with an autoimmune disease) and that your children are germ-carrying little creatures to be avoided by people like me. It’s not supposed to be like this.
Instead of being able to help, I’m faced with having to fill my days with meaning…at a time when meaning is hard to come by. In the earlier days of the pandemic, I did all the things: Jigsaw-puzzles-and-wine | pandemic-baking | virtual museum tours | crossword puzzles | socially-distanced-outdoor-visits-with-friends | paint-by-numbers | afternoon-drives-to-the-beach | yoga-on-zoom and-cardio-on-YouTube.
Now I’m just emotionally tired — as I suspect so many are — after being steam-rollered by a pandemic that’s left us resigned and worried when we’re meant to be more than that. It’s not supposed to be like this.
I’m tired of not being able to see people’s smiles and facial expressions. I’m tired of church on a computer screen, exercise classes on zoom, canceled holidays and birthdays. I’m tired of not being free to travel or go to shows and lectures. I’m tired of having to wear a mask to the hair salon and having to think twice before eating out.
In a quick flashback, I remember in 2019 standing in line to hear then-presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg and having the most fascinating conversation with a woman who’d spent 30 years in the foreign service. Gosh — I even miss impromptu chats with strangers!
And now — after letting our guard down for a bit and then facing a new surge worse than the last, I barely recognize the person I’ve become. I catch glimpses of myself — still dodging people who are unmasked in the grocery store or holding my breath if they pass too close in Target. I find myself thinking if you choose to remain unvaccinated, you’re callous and uncaring about old people. I don’t want to be this person.
I’m embarrassed to admit I’m gossiping too often with friends about how everyone’s behaving. We’ve adopted a shorthand, with ordinary words taking on new meanings: positive, negative, boosted, vaxed, distanced. It seems to me that we’re meant for more noble and meaningful activities. It’s not supposed to be like this.
We’re judging each other in new ways when it’s rarely an “either/or” situation. If I wear a mask during yoga class, I’m living my life in fear. If you don’t wear one in church, you’re not being very Christian. I’m tired of believing the worst about each other.
More so for the older generation, I think, the pandemic has also shone a light on the finiteness of time. Turns out that if we live to 80, we have just over four thousand weeks on the planet. Well, I’m down to my last one thousand weeks or so (if I’m lucky) and I can’t help realizing the previous 106 weeks have not been all I hoped for. I’m a bit resentful that we don’t get a make-up session.
So if our lives can’t be all that we hope for right now — what can they be?
I can only speak for myself. I can start believing that time spent wishing for things (or people) to be different than they are is a waste of time. The choice is mine: I can treasure each moment of the thousand weeks I may have left or I can choose to fritter them away.
I can choose where to turn my attention, my energy, my love, my gifts… in the world we are in now — not in the one that’s history.
I can decide to tune out the evening news threatening to drown me in a tsunami of suffering — and choose, instead, to listen to the podcast everyone’s talking about, pick up the book on my nightstand or check in on a neighbor who lives alone.
I can get up each day and ask myself, “How will I make this day a good one”…not just for myself but for someone else, too. I can look around to see how I can help solve some of the world’s problems in new ways. Climate change, voting rights, homelessness, racism…they don’t all require us to show up in person, they only require us to be present and informed.
I can appreciate the small, still moments of every day — and embrace interruptions to the stillness when they come. It’s only 10 degrees in New Hampshire right now, but there are nuthatches at the birdfeeder and the sun is out. A few days ago, our granddaughter did cartwheels in our living room because she was so excited to finally master her multiplication tables. You would have thought we’d all won the lottery!
As I see it, we are all of us at a threshold…when a big chunk of our old lives have faded away and there’s a profound unknowing of what comes next. For many, there won’t be a return to “normal” as we once knew it. As we linger here, there’s confusion, fear, anger, hope, anticipation and sadness. I choose to focus on hope, but I can’t pretend the rest of it isn’t there.
The way forward still appears a little out of focus and all I can do is turn the lens to try to get a sharper view. I feel a tentative hope and a tiny bit of excitement as we look toward spring. Just as I’m now embracing every chance I get for hugs and snuggles with our grandkids — even those too young to be vaccinated — I’m reaching for what comes next. How about you? How are you doing?
Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals (Book by Oliver Burkeman)
Toxic Positivity: What is It and Why it Can Be Harmful
(This Berkeley Well-Being Institute article helped me to realize it’s not healthy
to keep pretending we’re okay when we’re not.)
I realize my own experiences with the pandemic may be far different than yours. Even if you’ve been able to check your apprehensions at the door and get on with being fully in the world, I hope you’ll leave a comment. I’d love to hear your views!