I come from a long line of optimists, my great-grandmother born in the late 1800’s, chief among them. Like her or, perhaps, because of her I am genetically predisposed to look for the silver lining even amidst the panic of a pandemic, keenly aware we are all just a point in time.
Amidst the relentless assault of bad news, there have been extraordinary and emotionally overwhelming acts of selflessness and kindness. There are good things that have come out of all this. In fact, for the first time in my adult life, I have stopped long enough to rediscover and process my world.
I’ve discovered the beauty of songbirds welcoming Spring and the pale green canvas of tree-tops outside my window. I’ve discovered the joy of rose-colored light waking me each morning and the anticipation of light changing in the afternoon, bringing neighbors to their windows and onto their balconies — cheering, banging pots, waving and playing instruments to honor frontline workers. Everyday at 7pm. Rain or shine. A release of energy. An escape from quarantine. Strangers no longer.
In a world where we constantly fill our schedules to capacity, the ability to share cocktails over Zoom has enabled me to connect in new ways with friends and relatives who I don’t ordinarily see. Time saved traveling, means more time spent strengthening connections. Virtual games have deepened friendships and intimacy. And if my friend’s 98-year-old grandfather can do Zoom yoga then, dang, I have zero excuse not to get on the floor and do the same.
I’ve also discovered that somewhere in me is a short order cook; that teenagers don’t help nearly as much as they should; and that I don’t have the energy to force them otherwise. My dishwasher has not seen this much action in five years. The oven is in need of what, I believe, professionals call “a deep cleaning.” And organizing a refrigerator is actually a thing. Moreover, an excavation of the small room off the kitchen, recently unearthed a bed and dresser. The headline? “Woman in Quarantine Finds Another Bedroom in her Apartment.”
Also on my recent-discovery list: Without manicures or pedicures, my nails are healthier than ever; that, I was a Junior in high school the last time my hair was this long; And that my new favorite coffee is no longer a low-fat, triple-tall-latte but instant-coffee with heavy-cream which I sip during the online pilates classes I just signed up for.
Ironically, as everything has slowed down, somehow I have sped up and become busier than ever. It’s not just work but tackling everything I’ve long promised myself, “I’ll do later.” Well, later finally came and with it the cleaning-out of closets, files, and boxes randomly marked “Miscellaneous” from a post-divorce renovation years ago. My will is updated. So too is my financial plan. And with all my “blockers” suddenly cleared out, the creative space seems limitless. My dreams seem bolder; my desires more clearly defined now.
Self-Isolation, at its best, also leads to self-evaluation. What is important to me? What do I want in my life? Who do I want in my life and how can I spend more time with them?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not naive. I am beyond blessed that my 92-year-old mother and 89-year-old father have survived Covid-19, each in their own way beating the odds. I cry when I think of the 100,000+ people dead in so short a time, and of the people who love them, forced to pick up the pieces and carry on. I marvel at those pulled back from the edge by miracle workers; at those who successfully struggled back to health; and others still with antibodies but no symptoms.
I am angry that pandemic warnings that have been public for years were ignored at the highest levels. Perhaps we were too busy to focus, or too distracted to listen. Safe to say, we’re finally paying attention. I don’t minimize the pain of missed semesters and milestone celebrations, of blossoming new relationships cut short, or once-in-a-lifetime trips postponed. I honor the disappointments and anxiety. Uncertainty has a way of keeping us off balance and altering the futures we so carefully plan.
As I drove up a wide-open Amsterdam Avenue the other day, I saw people of all different ages and backgrounds wearing masks. Old. Young. Rich. Poor. Healthy. Frail. Everyone. Myself included. It dawned on me, those masks are the great equalizer. Here in my corner of the world our fears, our anxieties, our worries, our determination, and our drive to keep going are similar in so many ways. The masks that currently hide our smiles, have allowed me to see people more clearly. We are all dealing with something, doing the best we can to get through it and, hopefully, emerge stronger on the other side.
Our world may have changed, but it is still our world. So, we keep moving forward waiting for the day when we can remove the masks to reveal our greater humanity, and see one another as we are, united in this world we share.
NYC, 25May2020, DF