“In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee; in inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife…How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?”~”Seasons of Love” from RENT, the Musical~
I hear this song playing on loop in my head a lot these days, as I look over my shoulder at the past 525,600 minutes and realize that we will probably never go back to the way life was then, before the world stopped. Sometimes, it’s almost impossible to remember who I was before, as I’ve rewired much of myself to function in constant flux.
Exactly a year ago, we froze in place, and our perspectives veered away from interaction towards isolation, one of many new ways to create a means of survival. I honestly never thought I’d live to see a day that felt like a mix of “Outbreak” and “Lost.”
I find that mentality of determined “apartness” to be both tragic and a sign of our love for one another—we were willing to stay apart to come back together.
“While I’m watch, watch, watching people pass
I’m waving through a window, oh
Can anybody see, is anybody waving back at me?”-“Waving Through A Window” from “Dear Evan Hansen”
Here’s how I/we adapted under duress:
—I was aching to communicate, so I wrote more letters. Talked on the phone to my friends. Began a blog so my voice would not die out and my students, my friends, the world could still hear me. That one was a backwards blessing—everything had to get quiet for me to hear myself.
—I found ways to enjoy the full time parenting gig more, and savored/cherished bedtime more. No longer forever running life’s hamster wheel, we had picnic dinners, lazy Sundays, and no sad Monday mornings when it all wound down. I watched my infant son grow and go thru all the milestones. My daughter learned to ride a bike and lost her first teeth.
—I eschewed all things family that reached beyond my four walls. Because we were forced to forgo family gatherings, the holiday seasons felt like we occupied a ghost town, and many of our immune compromised kin were forced to see us through glass, like animals in their zoo enclosures.
—When I felt my spirit pale in the dark, and yearned for the sun, we escaped to the deserted beach or the hill country. I let nature heal the brokenness I felt, grateful for the waves and wind. I found God in our many walks through the trails.
—We shopped our own pantries as restaurants shuttered, and the scarcity of essentials at the grocery stores triggered survival mode. I now wonder if brick and mortar stores will become relics of a past when people got to enjoy browsing the aisles of their favorite place.
—For me, personally, as both an educator and lover of the Fine Arts, Theatre going dark was such a shock that I worried we’d never get it back in the same thrilling adventure that it was, when we had no concept of distance in an audience and if someone cleared their throat or coughed. Instead, I watched filmed performances and read up on the shutdown with all the ravenous hunger for my favorite art form.
—I began to rely on social media for my “drama fix,” as casts and crews, musicians and entertainers reached out to us in the abyss of social distancing and quarantining at home. We found nature shows, mysteries, and thrill seeking adventure flicks to slake our thirst for what we could no longer go towards. I never felt this disconnected with the world before, and it was strangely numbing.
Here’s what I’ve been thinking about with what lies ahead as 2021 continues to throw out ninth inning curveballs.
We still prevailed.
We became more innovative through adversity.
We discovered new ways to love.
We gathered precious moments in our hearts and learned the true meaning of the fragility of time. I was surrounded by these kindred spirits, but often too busy to acknowledge. These are the tiny grains of sand I refuse to forget when life speeds back up again.
I’ll tell the story in years to come, as my children grow and forget this time, and the end of our old world slowly fades in the distance, only captured on the occasional history textbook, much like the Great Depression, when America and elsewhere had to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps if we were ever going to climb out of the trenches of despair and into the light.
Luckily, this season of strife has been overpowered by love.
That’s how I’ll measure a year in the life, not with coffee spoons, scuttling alone on the sea floor, but turning my face towards the sun, so the shadow of the past will fall away.
Because here’s the thing that gives me hope—it’s in the past now, and though I’m now trained to wash my hands and still keep my distance, I know it won’t be forever. I’ve certainly learned enough to never allow the feeling of uncertainty to repeat on loop.