I was the recipient of some sad news this week. I heard from a close friend and piano colleague from the Sarasota Music Festival — where I play, coach and perform every June as an associate piano faculty member for the last 26 years. The festival of course, has been cancelled for the first time in its existence, yet I have been keeping in touch with associates and friends…and recently learned that my colleague’s parents had both come down with COVID-19. Unfortunately, my friend’s mother succumbed to the virus, while her father is currently fighting to stay alive. The news was devastating to hear, especially as her parents are close to my own in age, and my heart broke for the reality of her family and what they must be going through, not being able to visit/say their goodbyes in person.
I was feeling immune to knowing anyone directly who had either died from this horrible virus, or had a beloved family member pass away. This brings the reality even closer, and I am surprised that I haven’t received news even earlier, given the number of musician friends and colleagues I have in the New York City area.
I remain hopeful that I won’t find out about more deaths from this virus, although I feel certain that might be Pollyannaish/wishful thinking.
I have read similar observations from folks who liken what the world is experiencing now as GRIEF; and that we likely will encounter the various accompanying stages of grief as this crisis evolves. Some have even suggested that the idea of grief as the unknown factor in this current climate is in some ways worse than the grief of death – particularly as the accompanying sense of continued anxiety and dread carries on. As painful as death is, the sense of finality enables one to begin to seek and possibly find some kind of closure and acceptance — yet with a pandemic, the underlying panic, simmering unease and sense of existential threat/fear of the unknown future is an altogether even more overwhelming condition.
While some have remarked at the beauty of quiet streets, and the earth’s seemingly quick healing from some of human-induced climate change, I fail to see much silver lining when there is so such sadness and loss of life. I, like others, hope that the return to normal won’t look quite the same as “business as usual” when our lives resume. But I think it is a privilege to sit back and observe any environmental beauty in this current crisis — I feel pretty certain that all the health care workers, other essential employees, and most of all to me — all my arts and musician friends, aren’t pondering daily any positive effects of living through a global pandemic. These gig musicians are out of work and may not know how long they will be able to continue to feed themselves without any assistance, not to mention the great unknown of when and how exactly, the entertainment world will open back up to groups of people. This makes me feel immensely grateful that I am able to feel secure and sustained in my home, with only mild boredom as the main symptom or inconvenience, at least for now.
There are of course, days and times when I feel buoyed by beautiful moments — a special home-cooked meal, a pleasant walk among the colors of Washington, DC’s spectacular spring, the Zoom chats or cellphone reconnecting with an old friend — yet sadly, this only temporarily dispels the simmering unease that we are all experiencing. It is our reality, and I cannot simply cheerlead my way out of this current condition. I can only hope that I, my family, friends, fellow co-workers, and UUCC congregational members remain healthy and sustained until there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
It occurs to me that these In Between Sundays reflection columns often serve the function of holding up and assist others in rising above challenge in our daily lives — but for now, I am having trouble finding anything but fleeting moments of inspiration in our daily struggles. Perhaps our solidarity of being in this predicament together can buoy and inspire — but boy, is that difficult when we cannot be together, hug one another, etc. It is hard to feel warmth through a computer screen.
When required physical isolation started a number of weeks ago, I said to myself and others: “Oh, I got this, I think I’ll be fine — as a sometimes-solo pianist, I’m used to being alone/playing alone…this won’t be difficult for me at all”. I chuckle now at my naiveté. Sure, I have some experience being alone, and I am currently not partnered… but honestly, this sucks. I miss human contact, I miss my family, I miss feeling the spirits of those I can reach when I play live in worship (and I really DO feel those vibes come back to me), I miss leading and conducting the beautiful voices of our Chalice Choir… If you easily find the positive in challenging and unprecedented situations, I admire you — send that energy and optimism my way — but if you don’t, and you are having a difficult time existing now, I feel you… you are not alone.