COVID-19: It touches us all.
I left my house for the first time in over three weeks to go to the grocery store today. I’ve been listening to the news and checking the CDC website on a daily basis so I’ve felt pretty informed about what’s been going on. It sounds silly, but i wasn’t prepared to see the man at the front of the store making tally marks on a piece of paper to track the number of humans inside. I wasn’t prepared to see signs limiting the amount of onions we could purchase or stickers on the ground reminding us to stay six feet apart. I wasn’t prepared to see people wearing face masks and latex gloves, quickly making eye contact but keeping their mouths closed. I wasn’t prepared to hear the large speakers reminding us to wash our hands and about changed store hours to allow more time for cleaning. I wasn’t prepared to feel anxious after seeing aisles completely emptied of their products. I wasn’t prepared to question leaving my house to get necessities or to feel worried about germs and potential exposure.
I cried in the frozen veggie section.
How beautiful it was to only see a handful of people- the practice of social distancing out of love for our community and out of concern for each others’ and our own health and safety. But the tears were really about sadness. And they were really about grief. The tears were about recognizing my own privilege and opening to other people’s suffering. My heart sank in knowing that other people had to work today so that I could shop. Some people have lost their jobs. Others are concerned about affording rent, paying bills, or arranging childcare. Some people have lost loved ones and have not been able to mourn collectively at a funeral. Some people missed out on a college graduation, a high school sports competition, a beautiful wedding. There have been birthdays that have been missed, Sunday family dinners that have been cancelled. Babies have been born without families to fawn over them, others have been sick in the hospital without the comfort of a familiar face, little kids are missing recess with the friends and math with their favorite teacher. Businesses have had to close and people have put their dreams on hold. Some people are having to spend more time alone and are overwhelmed with loneliness, depression, or anxiety. Some people are in unsafe living situations and are unable to leave. People are experiencing reduced access to services or heightened discrimination. I cried because we don’t get to connect as easily as we used to. We don’t get to sit in coffee shops with friends or have large groups of people over for a warm meal. We are so dependent on each other for a sense of connection and safety, and for now, we must stay away. So much of what we need to thrive – connection, safety, predictability- feels uncertain right now.
Maybe the pandemic has created space for you to spend extra time with your family or work on a list of goals or unfinished tasks. Maybe its created extra pressure and stress in trying to run a household while working from home. Maybe you’re required to force productivity when your mind and body are really craving rest. Maybe you feel overwhelmed with young children at home and mounting uncertainty about how to pay this month’s rent/mortgage. Perhaps you’ve found plenty of things to do or pressure to accomplish. Maybe you are enjoying extra time to sleep or rest or maybe the extra time has left you feeling alone and depressed.
What I know is that none of us know how to experience normalcy in a pandemic. What I know is that many of us are resorting to judgement or criticism because of our body’s natural survival response system. What I know is that we are all doing the very best that we can and how heartwarming it is when we can see that in each other.
The pandemic touches us all.
And because we are all in this together on a global level, we don’t need to compare our suffering or justify how we are feeling. We need to allow ourselves to have the experience we are having and make room for others to do the same. We all are allowed to cry, to feel something, or to feel nothing at all. We are allowed to experience grief in the way that we connect to, even if our losses are different.
I came home and sat on our small balcony that points to the mountains. I took a breath and connected with the hollowed heaviness in my chest. I realized that I was hurting because we as humans are hurting- in smalls ways, in big ways, and in different ways. That because we are so intricately and deeply connected to each other, the pain you feel is shared in my heart. That I ache for all the ways in which we cannot connect, for the loss of normalcy. Part of me asked, ‘who am I to be crying?’ and the other part recognized how human it is to touch into other people’s suffering, how compassionate it is be moved by a stranger’s pain. Life is always presenting us with endless opportunities to notice each other, we must look. We must listen. We must see how each of us are navigating the world in uncertain times, doing our very best to move forward. We must see how we all need the very same things and we must take them time to share them with each other- toilet paper and love. I know that we will continue to rise to the challenge. We sing from balconies and off roof tops. We check on neighbors and connect through technology. We share memes and wash our hands. We stay home. We create physical space. We bow in gratitude to our healthcare providers, to our grocery clerks, to our janitors, to our teachers, to our social workers, to our neighbors, to each and every one of us doing our part. We look each other in the eyes and smile.
And so for now I’ll sit. I’ll sit with you in my home while you sit in yours and I’ll know that we’ll come back together and it will be so, so good. I’ll let myself be moved by our shared vulnerability and open to the difficulties we experience in our own ways. I’ll hold your experience with compassion and space, with a deep knowing that we will rebuild, that we will endure, that we will stand firm in our resilience, and that we will all choose to love a little deeper.
My dear friend, it’s okay if this is hard. It is hard.