Space and time didn’t seem to really matter much until the last 11 months brought a lot of time but not much space, into our lives. Space from those in your household, that is. It is now February 2021, and our world has collectively battled COVID-19, but in our own separate ways. However, we are bound by the commonality that until we get through it, we are together. Difference of opinion doesn’t matter. Mask beliefs do not matter. The pandemic is still here. It is currently winning. So how do we get through this long and even an longer haul than perhaps some of us thought we would have to endure?
I was on the phone with a college friend today. It was my “mommy time out”. It doesn’t seem to happen much these days which seems odd if you think back to my opening time and space comment. After a day working in front of the computer the last thing I often want to do is get on the phone. One moment we were crying and the next, laughing. The human connection is so profound, I have realized through all of this. Confinement raises fear. Fear raises uncertainty and uncertainty breeds doubt. Doubt that we will navigate through the next months to year of this pandemic. When will we be safe to freely “move about the cabin” and be amongst one another without the fear of the other being a carrier? Or, go back to reading mouths vs. eyes (has anyone else asked people to repeat themselves more these days?).
Knowing we are feeling the same undercurrent of longing for any part of “normal” I tried to explain how I felt, to sum up the load so many are carrying on our backs. Aiming to help, she offered this. “When I was pregnant with my 4th child I heard a comparison made by a comedian and I think he summed it up perfectly. Having a 4th child is like drowning in water and someone tosses you a baby!” Not a scene we ever want to actually have come to fruition but a brilliant depiction to sum of all feelings of being overwhelmed without the option to stop and take a day trip, to attend a family function or hang with your friends, above all else, decompress. Our conversation led me to the thought of treading water. Getting through the past 11 months has been like treading water and being pushed in 1 direction only to have someone constantly change the destination and the duration to get there. Pepper in the heaviness you have all faced; job loss, illness, separation from friends and family, losing loved ones. Then, toss in a sudden rainstorm or squall coming along, while you are treading water. The heaviness of it all can be felt by the wet clothes on your back and the inability to touch the bottom of the ocean. But still. You keep treading. You keep your head above the water. You keep going. Even if the destination changed.
Recently, a few highlights and changes signaling a creeping, crawling entry back to normal, have come up. A child starts back to in person schooling and has outdoor recess for the first time in almost a year(pure joy). You watch your two sons learn and grow together, something they’ve never done before as they attend different schools. You share an office with your husband and you realize a different way to spend time together as husband and wife, sharing office humor and your own version of water cooler chats. Even still, without the complete freeness we were used to just a year ago, that heaviness comes back, the permeating feeling, what do we look forward to?
We agreed on the fact that “back to normal” is a backwards direction. I am not headed that way. The forward direction for me is going to be to take the observations I had while being forced to socially isolate. What’s important? My family. I have A LOT of it and have not seen them as much as I have wanted. Being one of 5 kids gives you an insta-family of 20+ people. On average, there are 1.66 birthdays per month. So if I missed yours, please understand. My Mom. She is the #1 person I cannot wait to hug, take to dinner, travel with and laugh over silly things with. My faith. Without a belief in something larger than myself, I exist thinking that I am in charge. My freedom. When you have to think about the impact of where you go from a health perspective, it rings the bell of how sweet freedom and privilege simply is.
As many struggle with opening up about the difficulty they are having in getting through this pandemic, I ask a favor. The next time you are with someone, whether it be the grocery store check out or picking up your child at school, ask the person next to you, “How are you doing?”. Note that it feels hard getting through this right now. Do it. They are feeling what you are feeling but not everyone admits it. One question could make a difference.