Time is malleable, some days endless, appointments erased, the skies gray, the almost-budded tree branches icy from temperatures dropping overnight. I feel acutely the stay-at-home order, a tense hum like electric wires beneath my skin, the current book failing to hold my attention. Other days, the world seems as it was, a streaked sunrise, a surprise call to one of my sisters, a good practice session on the piano. I can no longer predict or anticipate what each day may bring or how the constant information (and misinformation) flow about the corona virus (CO-VID19) may affect my mood, my psyche, even my physical being. Sleep becomes even more impossible. No future in the present is disconcerting, the plan forward and out of this pandemic and economic collapse glaring in its absence, the illnesses, the deaths, the dislocation of each of us, collectively, the world’s population.
In my personal world, for now, we are safe. Christopher and Kate are teaching remotely at Penn State; Alex is producing a television show remotely in Los Angeles; the grandkids have a nanny, a substitute for their shuttered pre-school that shields them from the reality of the closing of the library, the playgrounds, the get-togethers with friends; Doug has his early morning hikes, trail runs, and long bicycle rides on roads mostly barrenly of vehicles; my days are marked by walks and short runs, my anchors missing, the occasional call a lifeline to another time.
In early March, I cleared my calendar, first two weeks, then a month, and now, indefinitely. I’d planned a pilgrimage to my hometown in southeastern Washington State in early May, something I try to do every year or so. My parents are no longer alive, but the rolling hills (now vineyards where once they were wheat and pea fields), the Blue Mountains, the creeks flowing through town, the deep friendships, continue to beckon me home. It’s not quite a rite of spring, but something I need to reconnect with my younger self, to nourish the place that is imprinted in my soul, to talk non-stop with friends with whom I share long histories. I was crushed when I had to cancel the planned get-togethers, the early morning coffees, my runs in the “cuts,” those roads sliced between the hills with limitless views of the sky and land, my meandering through old neighborhoods, the visit to the cemetery to check in on my parents.
I was slightly sanguine, thinking I’d reschedule my visit by early to mid-summer. And then, more stay-at-home orders, increasing numbers of confirmed cases of, and deaths from, CO-VID19, whether from better testing or more diseases or other factors, stretching out the suggested, then required, social distancing phenomenon, hoping to flatten the curve (words and phrases previously of little importance), searching for ventilators, wearing masks, listening and reading opinions from experts and non-experts, gleaning what we can as it relates to our own lives and to the broader societies in which we live.
And then, from a friend, “I’m really looking forward to the time we can hug…without hesitation.” The lack of touch that has been enforced upon us by social distancing and the stay-at-home rules resonated in that one, simple sentence. I ache from its absence, a vital sense for humans, a reflection of our humanity, a signal of our friendship, our love, our joy when meeting others. I miss being with my friends and my family.
When will we know, truly know, that we can reach out to others, in person, without a slight, albeit invisible, hesitation? How will we re-establish the innate trust that we have always carried within ourselves? Will we need to wear a sign that says, “I recovered from CO-VID19?” Or perhaps, “I was tested and I have the CO-VID19 antibodies?” Or yet, “I was asymptomatic a month ago?” Will new categories of people be created, the before and after, the have and have-nots, the survivors and the destroyed?
I worry about the small businesses, the hopes and dreams of our friends and neighbors, the coffee owner down the street, the Hispanic man with his own food truck, the dancers, the physical trainers, the day laborers, the restaurants, the edge of the margin businesses in the best of times. I am vitally concerned about our non-profit organizations serving the vulnerable populations, the elderly, the abused and neglected children, the hungry, the homeless. And of course, the health care workers, the truckers, the delivery people upon whom we are completely dependent these days.
Experts are contemplating the re-engagement of society, maybe in bits and pieces, perhaps in non-hot spot areas, or businesses that are low-risk for the virus or its spread, but maybe only after we have sufficient testing or contact tracking or a vaccine. How long will this take? Henry Kissinger believes that recovery may take generations. Can we survive? Can we be malleable, nimble, flexible, patient and kind enough to wait out this pandemic and economic implosion? I want to believe that we will have compassionate and empathetic leadership with the vision to tackle these unimaginable, enormous, and complex issues. I want to believe that we have the courage and will to change, structurally and substantively, without political rancor and brow-beating, to a society that truly overcomes what the CO-VID19 revealed as defects. We must do the right thing for our children and our grandchildren and their children.
1 thought on “A Hug, without Hesitation”
Beautifully said! You capture so much of what is saturating so many minds. Thank you!