The whole world is grieving right now. 317,180 deaths worldwide. 3.8 million Americans have lost their jobs. Life as we know it has been undone. When was the last time there was so much collective loss? What do we do with this grief?
We can't lose sight of how much this matters, how tragic it is for the entire world. It's also important to keep things in perspective and be grateful for what you have. I have a husband I'm happy to be around 24/7, I still have two jobs and have had more freelance work lately to keep me busy, we have plenty of food and supplies, we go on walks with our dogs on our dirt road most days, our chickens are keeping us stocked with fresh eggs, and I'm editing my passion project, an anthology of mental health recovery stories, in addition to working on two books of my own. I have a weekly video check-in with my closest and oldest friends and have had readings and writing groups from home. Life is actually pretty good. These scary times have at least given me things to throw myself into and I've kept busy as ever, with a little more time to try to relax, now that I'm not driving anywhere. Though things I want to do have been cancelled and I can't see the friends and family I want to see in person, I'm pretty damn lucky.
There is so much to be grateful for, and it feels privileged to complain about any of the changes and disruptions this pandemic has caused in my life. I haven't personally lost anyone. I don't have to try to navigate our convoluted DOL system to collect unemployment, I'm not an essential worker who has to risk their life, and both my husband and I are able to work fully from home. I don't have kids to educate or entertain. My loved ones are safe and healthy. And yet, I miss my regular life, my routines, my weekly soccer games with my friends. Even typing that makes me cringe. How dare you complain about soccer when people are dying? I think. But, maybe we can do both, mourn the devastating and real losses the entire world has suffered - the terror and uncertainty and misinformation, the crippling losses to our economy and to many people's livelihoods - and also miss our weekly latte and having a beer with our friends.
Graduations and weddings and music festivals have been cancelled. Brewgress Fest, one of my favorite weekends of the summer in my small mountain town, isn't happening. Neither are the weekly food trucks and music by the river. No trips to the beach or to go sailing this summer. No concerts in the meadow. No camping with friends (most likely; there's a debate about this going on among my friends). No parties. Swimming holes, one of my favorite parts of summer, are questionable. How can we guarantee they won't be crowded? my husband worries. Of course, this all pales in comparison to real tragedy, which is everywhere these days; these are just minor inconveniences. But it's these small things that make up our lives, and the anticipation of fun and joy and laughter. Right now, there's nothing to look forward to. It looks like it's going to be the same thing next week, and the next. Yes, things will slowly open, but a lot of people (us included) will be afraid to go to stores or bars for a long time. We'll still have to wear masks and take precautions and stand far away from each other. No hugs or high-fives. We'll still have to be anxious all the time. There's no real relaxation, no letting go of the fear and stress we're all carrying.
For the past few years, Monday night soccer has started off my week. We would be starting to play outside again soon, after a winter of indoor soccer on a tennis court (falling on that surface is no fun and I've got a few scrapes to prove it). We've been playing together for a few years now, and it's how I've made most of my friends in the valley where we live. I miss the camaraderie and the energy, the feeling of working hard, the satisfaction of burying a goal, sharing beers on the field afterwards. The women's hockey tournament I look forward to every year didn't happen. Ski season ended early. I can feel frustrated that these parts of my life I enjoy have been taken away, while still mourning the far greater losses felt around the world. It's easy to feel this sense of guilt, this how dare I complain? feeling, but I think we need to cut ourselves a little slack (easier said than done) and recognize that it's OK to lament the loss of our routines and the things we look forward to and enjoy. This time has changed all of our lives, likely for a long time to come, and I think we need to recognize those things as the loss we feel. Loss can be both big and small, devastating and inconvenient, and we're all experiencing it in one way or another.
What are you missing?