Love, in all its forms, is complicated even during the best of times and I think it is fair to say that these are not the best of times. During this time of COVID-19, everything about the way in which we are accustomed to living our lives has changed and whatever “normalcy” used to mean, it seems likely that it will never again have the same meaning. Everything feels uncertain, inconsistent, and complicated and I guess it should come as no surprise that love itself feels especially complicated.
In all of this inconsistency and uncertainty, I have found one thing that is consistent and universal. Whenever I encounter someone either in a Zoom meeting or from a safe physical distance in the world, my first instinct is to ask, “How are you doing?” Every time, without fail, the response is some version of, “I’m doing” said with a wry smile or sarcastic laugh. It is a response that I find myself giving to others regularly, it is a response that speaks to this moment that we all find ourselves in, it is a response that I understand and it is, in some way, a response that I find comforting. I do not rejoice in the struggles of others and yet, there is a knowing that passes between myself and the other person. A knowledge that we are all struggling and simply trying to do our best, just “doing.” Doing the everyday things that are necessary, doing the work of trying to take care of ourselves body and mind, doing what we can to help others. Doing. It is an acknowledgment that only those of us who have lived through this particular time will understand and in that simple acknowledgment, I find consistent moments, however brief, of understanding and love.
I have never felt so uncertain about how I will feel when I wake up in the morning as I have during these months of quarantine. I have experienced days where I feel pretty good about myself and others where I feel utterly useless. Days where I have energy to spare and others where I cannot keep my eyes open and need to nap. I experience days where I have patience to spare and others on which I struggle to extend grace. Days that fill me with hope and others that fill me with complete despair and send me to my couch where I am seemingly unable to move for hours.
And then there are the days where life hits me with a big dose of love. Much like the ice cream sundaes my husband and I procured from a curbside pickup, each dose of love feels like a special treat, something to be savored, and yet, those doses of love are complicated as my thoughts inevitably go to those for whom life is especially challenging right now. Those who are “doing” under extreme circumstances.
A few weeks ago, my neighborhood experienced a power outage for several hours. My husband John and I got out our poker set and I proceeded to take every last one of his chips during a high stakes kitchen table tournament of no limit Texas Hold ‘Em poker. We weathered the power outage as we have weathered any number of storms encountered during our 24 years together, with teamwork and a lot of laughter. And while I was so grateful in that moment for his partnership, my heart ached for those who have been forced into quarantine with an abusive partner. Complicated.
During this time of quarantine, I have had the joy of leading our 4th and 5th graders in a Zoom class each Wednesday evening. Each child takes a turn at teaching us something new and it has been inspiring to see them grow in leadership and in community with each other. I admit that there are some Wednesday evenings where I dread logging in for yet another Zoom meeting, but, inevitably, after spending 5 minutes in a virtual room with those kids, I find myself laughing and briefly forgetting about everything that is going on in the world. And yet, that feeling is fleeting as my thoughts eventually return to other kids who are unsafe in their homes right now or facing food insecurity or both. Complicated.
Each Sunday, I have the opportunity to attend and contribute to services with our Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia (UUCC) community. There are Sunday mornings, depending on how I feel when I wake up, where the thought of logging on is challenging, and yet, more than anything, I find Sunday morning to be a source of grounding for me. Every Sunday, if on no other day of the week, I am certain about what day of the week it is. Every Sunday, I am reminded that I am part of a community that cares about one another and has a willingness to extend that caring to those in need. And then, every Sunday afternoon, I wonder about those who are especially alone right now, those without family or community to turn to for support. Complicated.
Experiencing love can feel very much like a privilege in this moment. It seems counterproductive to shut those experiences out and yet, those experiences bring with them complicated feelings that can be difficult to process. And so in this time of “doing”, I am trying to learn to make space for it all. Space for joy and love and pain and fear. Space to feel good about myself and space to feel useless. Space to feel energetic and space to feel tired. Space for hope and space to sit on my couch in despair. I’m trying to learn to make space for all of the “doing.”
And so I ask, “How are you doing?”
All My Love,