I’ve been wondering what I’ll remember about this time when it finally finds itself in the rear view mirror. This question crystallized in my mind as I read a Facebook post from a friend who has been chronicling her family’s social distancing experiences. The post on Monday contained her reflections of “Pandemic Life”. I jokingly asked her if I could “borrow” it as my devotional for this week!
After the laughter died down, it really got me thinking about this time, which I have affectionately named “The Break”. I landed on that name because I’m uncomfortable calling it “Lockdown” because that’s just too harsh. I hate calling it “The Pandemic” because that sounds so Hollywood and surreal, two sides of the same coin if you ask me. “Stay at Home Orders” is too clunky for someone who talks as fast as I do, so I settled on “The Break”. Because in so many ways it was, wasn’t it?
When after school activities were cancelled (for the rest of the year) on March 12, my first thought was that my daughter, May, would never know if she made the 7th grade soccer team! I was so disappointed for her because she’d been looking forward to trying out for the team all year, and was she excited to play for her junior high team. (Between you and me, I’m sure she made it!)
When TC and I agreed that we needed to follow the lead of local school districts and cancel Sunday school on March 15, there was both relief and disbelief in the decision. The relief was simply the giddy feeling one gets with an unexpected day off (kind of like a snow day). The disbelief was also of an unexpected day off, but this time, the kind of day off created by an emergency. And in that type of emergency, you can’t help but wonder how bad it’s going to be.
And then, in the blink of an eye, everything seemed to change. I’ll always remember the feeling of dread as the deadline for no more in-person dining at restaurants arrived. I remember the embarrassment I felt donning a mask in the grocery store for the first time. And then how impossibly awkward it was to manage a grocery list and cart - at the same time, which I’d successfully done for my entire life! Talk about a learning curve. And then, at the grocery store, how could I ever forget the hand-printed sign in the egg case that said “No eggs until Thursday” and the empty shelves?
And then schools shut down for the remainder of the school year. Stay at home orders were extended. The numbers of sick and dying kept climbing. Daily briefings were what they were - either informative or not, depending on who was at what podium. And all the while, each of us was doing the best we could for ourselves, our families, our community, and beyond.
As we stand on the edge of the next phase, anticipating what’s next, I want to remember it all. I want to remember the way time slowed for my family and gave us precious time for family dinners and family gym time. I want to remember “Zooming” (which is now a verb, like Googling) with family and friends, and how it felt to see their faces. I want to remember all the ways people came together. But I also want to remember the challenges and the hard times. The endlessness of some days (and nights) and the accompanying feelings of help- and hopelessness. The feelings of frustration about the limitations that were imposed on everyone. Wondering if this will EVER end.
You see, for me, holding the good with the bad, the light with the dark, the yin with the yang, is where we find meaning. I cherish the family time we were given, and I will continue to seek ways to connect with family and friends. I wear my mask in the grocery store because it’s the right thing to do, and I will never look at store shelves the same again. I greet each day as the gift that it is, but I’ll also forgive myself for wishing some of them away.
I’ll end today with a lyric from the prolific Mary Chapin Carpenter from her song, Something Tamed Something Wild, off her album, The Things That We Are Made Of.
So the things that matter to me now are different from the past
I care less about arriving than just being in the path
Of some light carved out of nothing,
The way it feels when the universe has smiled.
What else is there but the beating of your heart?