Amidst the ongoing despair and pandemic fatigue in our world at large, right down to our very own selves, we are reminded that suffering comes in so many forms. No matter what our circumstances have been during this prolonged period of isolation, fear and uncertainty, we have all had to adjust, strengthen our muscles of patience and operate in somewhat of a “crisis mode” for nearly two years.
Whether I am talking with a friend in Arizona, a relative in Seattle or the clerk at Target, there is the Universal understanding that things are just not the same. I‘ve written extensively how my own life has been impacted, and especially in relationship to caring for our special needs 22 year old son Zach.
But on a macro level, we are all in a period of waking up. Even if we are walking around entranced with responsibilities, to-do lists, airline credits from trips postponed, metro rail credits for train passes never used, with our groceries now being delivered and Amazon as our new best friend who visits regularly, there is a common human experience of the loss of control.
Or rather, we are living out of an increased awareness that we really don’t have any control, and actually for the most part never did. This wave of inarguable truth that has washed over our planet like one big title wave, throwing us here and there, taking close to a million lives in the US alone, has been a kind of “waking up” for many people.
If you embrace the “Covid is a hoax” philosophy this post may not be for you. But for the rest of us, Covid has been an unavoidable constraint that has inspired, if not forced us to wake up from our automated lives, roles and routines. It’s alarm rings different for everyone, but it has been ringing (loudly) for all of us.
No matter what impacts Covid has had on our lives, we all share this common experience: We have no control. While it is natural to writhe around, flail about, resist, curse, argue with and plead for it to go away, “it” (Covid) is apathetic. And we are left to steep in the swirl of our own lack of agency.
Our paths through this mess have been idiosyncratic. We have had to think outside the box, rise to challenges, remain isolated and say farewell to loved ones. We have rescheduled weddings and banked travel points for trips untaken; lost our jobs; lost our homes; gotten new jobs and gotten new homes; changed family structures and financial strategies; had babies; gotten divorced; gotten sick, and gotten well.
No matter what our own experience, we don’t need to know the details of the impact Covid has had on each specific person to share in the aggregate, compounded effects of being woken up, shaken out of our wrote routines, and stuck with the inarguable truth that the Pandemic is still happening. And although it has torn parts of our families, friends and communities apart, it is still part of our shared humanity.
When we greet one another, friend, foe or stranger, let’s keep a small opening of space in our hearts to bring a little extra compassion to the party when interacting with others. We don’t need to speak it out loud to acknowledge the challenges we have each faced. We don’t need the details of of anyone one else’s experience to know that we have all been affected by Covid. If we can leave a little room for a momentary and intentional (quiet) thought like “I see you, this is hard, and I feel it too” the thing that threatens us all can actually be transformed into sewing seeds of connection, if we choose to look at it that way.
If only in a fleeting glance of making eye contact, letting another driver in front of us, slowing down a bit or saying thank you more often, we can encourage each other by simply being kind. We are all waking up in one way or another, and eventually some of us will go back to sleep. And that is ok.
But for the moment, we can deepen the strength of our ability to transcend this two+ year process by seeing ourselves in others, and recognizing their pain in ourselves, as a shared reality. We can choose to use the very thing that threatens our connectedness, to also be the thread that brings us closer together as humans.