I’m not angry anymore. Well, sometimes I am. I don’t think badly of you. Well, sometimes I do. Depends on the day. – Paramore
The one year anniversary of a global pandemic has weighed on my heart the last few days. I get caught in a swirl of reminders of empty grocery store shelves, flipping through the news channels and sitting in silence trying to process what I’m hearing, of being in company and feeling all alone, stepping out onto my balcony to see helicopters swirling up and down my neighborhood, of joining my community in uproar over the unjust attacks on others. Protests, pandemics, politics, prayers, panic, and pure exhaustion come to mind.
My life one year ago is a 180 from the life I lead today. I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful for my health and for the safety and security of my friends, family, and loved ones. I’m thankful for health insurance and for a job that pays my bills. I’m thankful for having a pet like Luna Mia who brings me immense joy and comfort. But that doesn’t mean it’s been easy to experience or comprehend or that I’ve come out unscathed.
My life a year ago was one of fear and feeling trapped in a variety of situations. It was the realization that I wasn’t sure who I was anymore, I had no idea how I’d strayed so far, and I didn’t know how I’d get out.
As we all experience this global event together, loneliness, confusion, and isolation has been the common thread throughout. There’s only so many virtual meeting rooms that one can sustain before the reality of today’s world leaves us with a massive sense of loss.
The loss of sharing a meal together inside without reaching for a mask every five seconds someone walks past. The loss of office chatter and lunch dates and interactions with strangers on the subway. The loss of sharing birthdays, graduations, funerals, births, and other important life moments with the people we would want to have around us.
The loss of job security, medical insurance, of mental health benefits, the loss of life of our friends and family, the loss of in-person hugs and kisses, and the loss of overall safety. The loss of the little things like seeing a movie on a Tuesday night, going on a date with someone you don’t have to prescreen a million times for safety reasons, of freedom of choice with how and where you’d like to spend your time.
My heart breaks at every statistic of my community losing lives. My heart breaks at every Facebook post raising money for funeral costs or living expenses after a job loss. My heart breaks when kids are forced to play alone at a playground or I have to eat my meal alone inside my car. My heart breaks when I drive past my favorite small businesses shut down or I imagine how difficult it must be to pursue an academic career solely through a computer through some of the best years of college. My heart breaks at every parent having to be a parent, a teacher, an employee, and an emotional support system for others. My heart breaks for all the major life moments and all of the little life moments that are disrupted for myself and for others.
I don’t have the answers.
I’m still angry and upset about things sometimes. And I still get paralyzed by that anger.
I don’t have a list of tips or tricks on how to cope and I’m tired of seeing people post about their cute loungewear and slippers honestly. I’m sometimes more tired than I can even believe, until I realize I’m still processing things from a year ago on top of what’s currently happening everyday.
I don’t have an idea of what the repercussions will be after the dust settles.
What I do have is the understanding that sometimes the most painful processes are necessary for you to find your purpose or your peace. What I do know is that I’ve allowed myself to feel every good, bad, horrible, mundane, and glorious day and to process it all as it comes without suppressing it. What I do know is I now go out of my way to say hello, to connect with people when I can, to compliment a stranger, to support a small business, to reach out to friends and family, to be engaged in conversations, and to hug my dog super tight.
What I do know is that I appreciate a sit down dinner with a friend more than ever. What I do know is that we absolutely have to treat others with kindness, empathy, and respect, but also be selective about who we allow to enter our lives because the lack of social clutter has been eye-opening. What I do know now is that I am enough, regardless of my societal or environmental factors or relationship status.
A couple of weekends ago, I got a coffee from Starbucks in the early morning and walked around the block downtown surrounding my hotel to explore. I came to a crosswalk and there was this huge burst of sunshine that had creeped around a high-rise building and was flooding the area this stranger and I were standing in while we waited for the light to change.
I slightly turned and was just basking in the first big rays I had felt in awhile, but the man next to me thought I was staring at him. We both started talking about how the sun felt on our face and how genuinely incredible it was that it felt like it was just for us. I’m not even kidding. We then just spent a moment in the quiet intersection on a Saturday morning waiting for the crosswalk to turn on and with both of our eyes closed facing the sun. The light changed and we laughed our way down the crosswalk, joking that we were acting like we had never seen the sun before. A quick goodbye and a “have a good day” and we were off.
It made me remember that in the midst of the mess and the chaos and the unknown, there are pockets of time and experiences with others that remind me to slow down and face the sun. That not every moment is without value or meaning just because it looks different from what I’d consider the norm. And that the mundane might just be the most monumental thing of all.
Chicago is thawing and so am I. I’m deciding to shake off the winter and the dust and the frustration this year and pandemiversary has brought on. I’m turning towards the sun, towards others, and towards myself.
And if no one has told you yet, I love you and I’m proud of you for making it through this year.