March 23, 2020
When the World Opens Again:
I want to believe it will be much the same, that we will be as causally intimate, close as we once were to strangers in a restaurant, in line at the grocery story, jostled together on buses, at intermissions and half-times. I hope that we once again can literally reach our hands out to strangers.
But I doubt it. We can’t. Fear and distrust will continue to keep us six feet apart. Perhaps we will begin bowing respectfully in greeting as they do in the East. Curtseys and bare nods of acknowledgement will begin replacing high-fives and handshakes.
When the world opens again, I hope it will be kinder, more tender, careful of the bruised and hurting. But I doubt that too.
When the world opens again, I want to say I will rush out to rejoin it, frolic in the gardens, accept all the invitations, travel, hug with abandon, but I probably won’t.
When the world opens, will we only have to close it again? And again. And each time, shutting ourselves away, making a return to the world more and more difficult.
When the world opens, it will be with parts of it still, perhaps forever, closed.
April 7, 2020
I’m Here and It’s Like This:
Cocooned safely in my home, it’s peaceful but surreal. The view to the back patio is much the same as it has always been this time of year, mostly brown, but with burgeoning green in the flower beds and along the fence.
But everything is also different, fundamentally changed by a tiny, enormous thing. A virus, a strange and microscopic lifeform is transforming us, altering what it means to move through the world—a vulnerable human, fragile, reduced to our bodies’ ability to fight off an unseen enemy.
We are only biology after all and just a susceptible to death from disease as the lowliest Midieval peasant. And oh, that stings. We thought we had vanquished the worst of the threats (except that of ourselves to each other, of course). And we were wrong.
Bereft of the swagger of the alpha predator, the user, abuser, consumer of earth’s riches and resources, we are humbled at last (well, some of us) by the knowledge that no, we really do not have control of nature. We do not hold dominion over everything on earth, despite what the Big Book of Human Ego has taught us for millennia. Nature fights back.
As the scientists rush to find the cure, they are met with resistance, distrust and doubt. Howling like cavemen hurling rocks at the moon for shining too bright, we demand relief, but reject it when it comes.
A reaction to the knowledge of how vulnerable, dependent on others, and how small we too really are.
May 3, 2020
I Want You to Know:
I want to know I’m not as strong as you think I am.
It happened again. Someone was shocked, even dismayed to hear that I’m struggling, that I had a panic attack at the Dollar Store and had to stumble out without buying the milk we needed, that I’m worried and frightened.
“Not you!” she cried. “You’re a rock. You’re the one I depend on to have your shit together.”
Naturally, (well, naturally for me anyway) I shut down, laughed it off. I’d tried being open and honest. Somehow my being vulnerable, admitting to (I don’t know) being human? I’d somehow upset this person, a self-proclaimed “spiritual Bada” offering Tarot readings and advice via Facebook Live.
As a people pleaser, I had to fix it. So, I downplayed my feelings and signed off. And there I was, again, left without a voice for my true self.
The same thing happened when my nephew died. People looked to me to “keep it together,” make the arrangements, open my home, comfort and feed the grieving. And on some level I was glad to do it. Busyness keeping feelings at bay.
And once, when I began to cry, the relative, the one so weakened by grief, who’d leaned on me for support from the car to my back door, said, “Stop! I can’t handle it if you can’t handle it!”
So I figured out that my being upset, upset almost everyone. I had nowhere to go with my grief and it was crushing.
Weeks later, I called the Suicide Hotline and just finally poured it, all of it, out to the stranger on the phone. I didn’t have to care that I might upset her. She was kind and listened and didn’t meet my grief with grief of her own.
So, what I want you to know that even “the strong ones,” the ones with their shit together who everyone depends on, have a limit. They’re probably not really strong, just better at hiding their weakness.
Check on your strong friends too. Make sure what they are holding up isn’t quietly crushing them. You might be the only one they can tell.
And I want you to know.