As we close out another week in lockdown, many of us are perhaps settling in to what might very well be the long haul as the trajectory of this virus continues to be re-evaluated. Worries about our health and the health of our loved ones, (potential or very real) loss of income, and the challenges of maintaining connections are at the forefront of our minds. I myself am finding that, while on the one hand I am extremely grateful to be in the countryside with fields through which I can walk with my husband and son, a garden in which my boy can run around to blow off some steam, I have those very same concerns that cloud my days. And then there is the fact that I am also over three thousand miles away from my family in Toronto when they need me the most.
My beautiful, strong, vibrant, independent aunt with whom I was so so close, passed away last week, not from the virus but from cancer which she had battled for years. I couldn't say goodbye, I couldn't attend her funeral, and I couldn't physically be there for my mother as she endured the excruciating pain of watching her sister slip away. I couldn't (and still can't) physically be there for my parents at a time when they need people around them, supporting them, comforting them. My parents who are such sociable beings, who love having their friends and family around are finding themselves dealing with this alone. Some of you may ask why I didn't just fly to Toronto because these are extenuating circumstances. I didn't fly because I didn't want to risk making my aunt any sicker than she already was (this was the week before we knew she was nearing the end of her life). I didn't want to take the chance of infecting my own parents who are 80. I didn't want to risk infecting my brother and his family, nor did I want to risk infecting anyone else who would be travelling with me on the plane. And all of this before me even knowing if I even had the virus, something I would have easily been able to contract en route to Canada. I still don't know if I have had it or not. I guess that literal unknown is the inherent cause of real concern for all of us and especially those on the front lines.
In an interesting piece I read in Der Spiegel a professor of ethics and theory of medicine said, "The Greek word for "crisis” is the etymological source of the word "decision.” And so many difficult decisions are having to be made by all of us. From being separated from our families, crucial budgetary cutbacks, to doctors having to make heartbreaking decisions about who will have access to a ventilator and who won't, decisions that will have huge emotional ramifications on their own lives down the line.
The inability to be near my family at this very difficult time has left me feeling helpless and sad. Yet I know I am not the only one. There are so many families around the world who are experiencing loss and are having to deal with it in way that would have been unimaginable before. There are families having to say goodbye via FaceTime (if that is even available), with the sound of those two beeps when the call ends the sound of not just the end of a phone conversation, but the last time those voices would be heard in a conversation together. History shows humanity has been through worse. Yet because of how interconnected we all are today, this generation is seeing that interconnectedness has become a blessing and a curse.
We are all looking to make sense of this crisis. Existential questions are being asked (as explored by the article above) all in the hope that something good will come out of this trying and for many, tragic time. In an interview with WWD, the designer Vera Wang said, "What I really am feeling on a personal, human level, is that there seems to be some bigger message other than obvious and scientific." I guess it comes from our need to find meaning and perhaps gain a semblance of control, even if it is control over our emotions. It's what the wellness experts will call "mindful" living. Being present and making choices that are about our emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing, if we have the luxury to do so.
As for luxury, you know, pre-COVID19, when asked what is the most coveted luxury, most people said "time". Well, this virus has redefined time for all of us. Time spent in lockdown. Time spent with our loved ones. Time spent thinking about them when we can't be with them. Time spent with ourselves. It is a precious, precious thing, time. We will look back at this time and hopefully those of us who aren't on the frontline, will see that we made the most of this space. For those remarkable people who are out there every day making sure our lives are running as smoothly as possible to those literally saving our lives, I hope they rest assured in the knowledge that their efforts will never be taken for granted by us. And as for me, I am truly grateful for the good times I had with my aunt, I hope and pray for the health and wellbeing of my family and friends , and as always, I am grateful that you spend some of your precious time with me in The Citrine Room.
Take good care of yourselves and the ones around you.