December 4, 2020

A Letter to Strangers & Soul Mates During a Pandemic.

Dear strangers and soul mates alike,

I see you.

Not just the disastrous virtual preschool photos or the pinterest worthy date nights in.
Not just the messy buns and unshaved facial hair that appears on my Zoom screen.
Not just your upgraded home office or your new workout regime.
Truly, I see you.

I see your heart—radiant and aching.
I see your soul—brave and stifled.
I see your essence—vibrant and vanishing.

I see all sides of you.
I see you doing your best to make sense of our present reality—feeling both stuck and unstable with forces that are overflowing with change and yet, in so many ways, remaining the same.

I see you clinging to all of the things that you love—the precious people and moments.

I see you beaming ear to ear and heart to heart when it feels like there is some sense of normalcy.

And yet, the moment when you realize there is no perceived “end” in sight, I watch the rug as it is pulled out from underneath you.

It is from this place of unknowing and ungroundedness that we exist right now.

Our feet are dangling
Our hopes are dwindling
Our fears are dancing.

We are all here. I assure you—all of us.
Even the people who appear to have it all together.
They’re in the brokenness too—we are all suspended in the unknown.

It has been nine months since the United States entered its first shutdown. Nine months ago, we began using words like social-distancing and quarantining—being particular when differentiating between the two. Nine months ago, air hugs became the preferred form of love currency and, to some degree, we began to move inward both in our homes and our hearts.

In the early days of COVID-19, the internet was flooded with memes questioning, “What part of normal is worth rushing back to?” and while that was an important point of pause for us, it is clear that returning to an old normal is no longer an option, as much of our old stories have been rewritten or thrown away altogether. We are left with questions of where we go from here. But there is so much that is still unknown. Perhaps the answer to where we go isn’t anywhere. Maybe where to arrive is right here—because right here is the center of both our joy, our pain, and our life, which is truly a collection of the two.

At this point, we have all grieved something with COVID-19. The vacation that didn’t happen. The graduation stage you never walked across. The empty chairs at your wedding ceremony. The birthday cake that was void of candles to wish upon. Your newborn who has yet to meet the friends they will someday call auntie and uncle. The concert you never heard. The relationship that didn’t last. The holiday that didn’t happen. The loss of a job or career. The families that couldn’t hold the hands of a loved one before a surgery, so they held up signs outside of the hospital instead. And the ache of a lost loved one, perhaps even without a goodbye.

We miss feeling safe. We miss getting together with family and friends, not having to worry about the possibility of getting someone sick. We miss making choices without guilt and concern that we are potentially being a part of the problem. We miss dating, heading out to brunching, actually going in to work, smooshing our nieces’ faces against ours, and staying out too late. We even miss ditching plans to choose to stay in.

We have all lost something this year. And with the most recent spikes in the pandemic, I sense some of us have lost hope.

It is said that we are defined by how we show up during the most challenging times of our lives. Therefore, I am done wishing 2020 away. I know this will be a year that defines much of our character in the years that follow. But in order to be transformed by this year, I believe it is important to honor the positive and the pitfalls of life right now.

There are certainly many pros and cons to 2020. We no longer make plans months in advance, which has allowed us to live more presently. We have moved much of life online, and pants have become an optional part of our attire. We have given up many of our more superficial connections, and instead, we dedicate more intentional time to those closest to us.

The truth is, while we are making the most of it—life is hard right now—I mean really f*cking hard.

Many parents are navigating how to support their children toggling between virtual and in-person learning. Small business owners are holding on by a single thread, the very same threads they spent years weaving together to build their stores. Those who live alone are aching for the pleasant exchange of a handshake or a hug. The challenges for those who live with mental health and addiction have been amplified—in fact, they are on fire as it feels like the sun burns above as a magnifying glass is held over their pain.

Things are hard. Again, really f*cking hard. And we don’t want them to be. We want to fix them, we want to control them, but mostly, we want to go back to feeling comfortable.

You are allowed to feel sad about your cancelled plans or let down from expectations you had about what this year would look like for you. You are allowed to struggle no matter what you identify as struggling. You are allowed to sit with this sadness—without guilt. We often shove our pain aside as we recognize someone might have it worse than we do. However, the size of someone else’s pain does not mean our pain doesn’t matter, nor does it make ours disappear. Feeling the pain is what allows us to move through it.

It’s not your fault your life is hard. There is nothing you should be doing more of or less of to make things feel easier or that will make them “right”—except maybe offering yourself some grace—we are living through a global pandemic after all.

In this time of challenge, I encourage you with everything I have—
be a little bit kinder to yourself.
be a little bit nicer to each other.
be a little bit softer to the world.

With self-compassion, allow yourself to experience the sadness, the harshness, and the hardness of life, but do not stop there. Because to only open yourself to the pain of life would discredit its wonder.

So let life be sad when it is sad, and let it be beautiful when it is beautiful.
Allow yourself to experience it all, especially right now.

Allow yourself to feel joy when it comes to you. There is no need to have reservations for feeling happy and content with your life just because of the state of the world. We all want to make this world a more peaceful place for all of humankind to live in and love in. Part of influencing the overall happiness, health, and peace of the world is by contributing your own. Let the joy you wish to share with the world begin in small moments in your home.

2020 is an invitation to let life be both challenging, wildly charming, and perhaps a little bit chaotic, while recognizing that most of life resides somewhere in the middle of the three. Some days, the hardness of life will want to steal your goodness and softness. And some days it will win. As days come and go, feel the pain, feel the joy—but keep the hope. I beg you—keep the hope.

When things feel particularly challenging, bring a lens to the goodness happening around you.
Remember that every day, postal carriers are delivering handwritten notes to best friends across the country. In a coffee line every single morning, a stranger is paying for a latte for the person behind them. Neighbors are raking yards for their elderly community members. People are out fighting for social justice. And as you read this, babies are being born that will someday grow into adults who will change the way we think and live…for the better.

Dearest stranger and soulmate,
Amidst all that is going on in the world, I want to remind you—I see you.
I see you smiling.
I see you struggling.
And I see you doing your best in every moment in between.

We forget that most of life happens in between the smiling and struggling.We forget we aren’t supposed to be smiling all the time. And just as tragically, we forget we aren’t supposed to be struggling all the time.

We are not strangers after all. We are all soulmates.

How could we be strangers when we are all walking through the same fire? This is shared pain. This is shared joy. This is shared harshness. This is shared hope.

You are not alone. This is not the end. I love you.


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