I sit at a wobbly picnic table in our friends’ backyard, squirrels chattering at me, huge butternuts falling around me, and kids playing in a backyard somewhere near. My friends and James are having a meeting of the spirituality committee for L’Arche Ottawa, discussing how to move into the future in a way that serves everyone’s spiritual needs best. With a community made up of core members who are differently abled in different ways, and assistants who help them navigate their days together, plus community leaders and volunteers, it’s a challenge to create an inclusive space for spiritual nourishment.
The fact that we’re in Canada is a milestone in the pandemic. Canada opened its borders to the U.S. at the end of August. We had to take COVID tests 72 hours before crossing. We got there 74 hours after our tests, so we had to take another one right there before they’d let us through. It was negative, so they let us through. (The U.S. hasn’t opened its borders to Canadians yet, for some weird who-knows-why reason. They just announced they’ll open it in November.)
We’ve been in Montreal for a week, and here in Ottawa for one overnight. (Although if this meeting goes on much longer, we’ll need to stay another night!) It’s been kind of like rising from the dead being able to walk around and sit in parks with people and go to jazz shows at our favorite club, Diese Onze. It will be very hard to go back to our daily sameness. We always say we’re going to keep walking every day and go to the great places we have in the Berkshires, etc. But when we get home and I go back to my split-shift that turns 5 hours of actual work into a 10-hour day, we quickly lose the vitality to carry it out. And we always say, This time we’ll really do it. Maybe this time we really will.
We walked into the grocery store without masks. We went to the library and browsed to our hearts’ content without masks. In Massachusetts, enough people are now vaccinated to allow most of us to be freer now in our movements. Last weekend we even went to a restaurant and sat inside with friends and ate, without masks.
Other parts of the world are still dealing with raging infections and deaths. My mind, soul, and heart don’t know where to stand, where to go, what to feel, living on a teeter-totter. So I enjoy my new freedom, and I weep for those who don’t have it yet.
And I wait to see what comes next.
Today I decided to treat myself like I would tell anyone else to treat themselves. I paid $100 for a set of Photoshop filters. I’ve used the free version for a few years now, but as always happens in the Capitalist world, the company finally killed off the free one and only offers an expensive paid version. Without the filters, I found that I never wanted to spend time on my photography anymore because the artistic rendering was too limited. I feel bad about the money spent, but it’s exciting to work on images again.
I just read a NYTimes article about “disenfranchised grief”—grief that isn’t acknowledged. There is a lot of it that has built up in many of us who haven’t lost anyone close to us, or lost our jobs, or been evicted. Our losses are “smaller”; e.g., losing time with our grandchildren; missing out on big events like weddings, funerals, graduations; canceling travel plans; or just being unable to be with people face-to-face.
All those little losses add up, though, and need to be acknowledged. We have to give ourselves permission to feel it. It’s common to say, “Other people have it a lot worse than me, so I can’t grieve the small things.” I say it all the time—”I’m lucky because I already worked from home so my job wasn’t affected”; “No one close to me has died, so I’m very fortunate”; etc. I feel sad that we can’t be with our kids and grandkids. It was painful to have to have a memorial service for my brother-in-law, who died from lung cancer, over Zoom—it tore me apart to see my niece sobbing and not be able to hold her. I miss wandering around TJMaxx for a couple of hours.
But I haven’t lost a loved one to COVID. We haven’t been evicted or lost our income. We can afford to put food on the table. So my grief isn’t as important as others’. I don’t have a right to grieve.
Not so! There’s no hierarchy of grief. My grief is just as legitimate as anyone else’s and needs to be honored. How to do that is up to me—I need to find ways to grieve openly that work for me. I’m not good at grief in general, so it won’t be easy. Not that grief ever is.
I haven’t been able to write here for a little while because the tragedy of COVID-19 cases and deaths has just been too overwhelming to talk about. Almost 210,000 cases per day in the U.S., and over 2,500 deaths yesterday alone. The daily death numbers have gone over 3,000 recently. I can’t even get my head around numbers like that. Like I said, too overwhelming.
To stay sane and not horribly depressed and anxious, I focus on the fact that no one in our immediate family has gotten it, and in our extended families there have only been a few cases and none life-threatening.
I found this video today on Facebook. It comes from a family of white privilege, but so do I, so it really speaks to me. I love these guys—they say true things in fun and creative ways. Some of their parodies are priceless! The Holderness family. I recommend them.