Tonight, I grew frustrated with the perpetual spin cycle of hypotheticals that nag at my psyche, those loathsome little whispers of “what if?” echoing in the dark corridors of my mind.
What if I…had only known that everything was going to end so abruptly last spring and alter the course of my days, as a wife & mother, trying to raise two young children who just want to play, touch, climb, and experience everything?
What if I…had known that we would experience such unrest, an upheaval of much that is good about us as humans, who are capable of more kindness than many of those acts show?
What if I…had known we would lose a beloved family member, then witness the void their absence left in my best friend’s and my little girl’s lives?
What if I…had known I’d be denied precious time with my loved ones, like my grandmother, reduced to just phone calls and cards in the mail because getting close to them was risky?
What if I…had known that my job would be deemed as both essential to progress and as “high risk” for me and my family, even though I came back in person because I wanted daily interactions with my sweet students and felt empty just seeing them on a computer screen?
What if I…had worked harder towards my own goals and dreams, which are more often talked about than acted upon?
On repeat in my ear, they leave me wishing I’d paid better attention to the warning signs on the roadside, or just enjoyed the journey more while I was on it, now that things have stalled out temporarily. Then maybe I’d be able to shake off this pesky doomsday feeling eeking out its real estate in my head and look for the silver linings instead of the shadows. It makes me wonder if this battle weariness is the new status quo, the slow war I wage against a new and more insular world we live in now.
I want this year to be transformative, not one of regression—so, I just have to read a new map.
One of my favorite morning radio vj’s mentioned the way they now give everyone in their path a wide berth, be it in the grocery store or the doctor’s office, any place where social interaction is unavoidable and necessary to accomplish something we all did without a worry or a care, prior to the pandemicpocalypse of 2020. She mentioned that there is now an internal knee jerk reaction when someone accidentally pierces the bubble of isolation she has constructed, and how strange it is to know that this is the world we are in. She wouldn’t have thought anything of it before COVID—now, she worries about being labeled a close contact just because someone stood next to her in the cereal aisle.
I miss real close contact.
We are programming ourselves to avoid and shuffle apart—but my question is, what if we lose the ability to feel and act naturally around humanity, and instead, become more comfortable with distance? What a world that would be. I get that the introverts of the globe may find this time less anxiety ridden, but for those of us who could talk to a brick wall just to have company, this is tough.
I heard a colleague of mine say that she just missed hugging people. Our normal, before this all began, was to hug without fear, shake a hand, give a kiss, and be close with those friends and family whom we loved. Now, if they aren’t in our close contact bubble, we have to omit PDA, and check their vital stats first. Did you know that hugging someone for 20 seconds releases cortisol, something we need to help us relax? What if we miss out on this natural remedy to the challenges of our days?
I miss seeing people’s faces, which are now leant an air of mystery because we are all masked. One of my students had to lower hers yesterday to drink from the water bottle she has to carry because the fountains are now relics of a time long past. I thought I was looking at someone else, because I’d only ever seen her eyes. I met her in August, virtually, but I can’t remember what she looks like, because the mask that’s draped over her pretty smile has concealed it for the past 175 days, like a storm cloud obscuring the sun. I couldn’t help but wonder—what if it’s another year or more before she gets to share that smile with someone who really needs it? Eighteen months ago, smiles were given without fear of contamination.
However, I refuse to believe we are permanently altering our emotional landscape, despite these conjectures.
I agree with the statement that 2020 was not a year to get everything we wanted, but it was a year that taught us to see what we really needed. Instead of looking back on it as a the worst of times, let’s look on it as the best lesson in gratitude.
We just have to look at 2021 and find new, more positive “what if’s.” Look. I’ll start for us.
What if we come out on the other side of this better people—more creative, more resilient, more connected—-than we were before?
We will smile again.
Be together again.
It may just look different from here on out.
Truth be told, and weariness aside—If knew then what I know now, I’d miss out on the journey, the struggle, and the rewards I have found through adversity.
1.27.2020 (edited 1.28.20)