Lately, I have had revelations about how I relate with lovers, friends, family, and strangers.
The therapist that I am knows that people come and go. They either die or leave us—or we die or leave them.
I understand on a cognitive level that the reason, season, or lifetime connections are part and parcel of this human existence. As a bereavement counselor and minister, I know that loss of all kinds is happening daily in many people’s lives.
Over the past 40 years, I have sat with clients and family members of those whose funerals I officiate as they grieve. I have offered hugs and tissues. I have shared what may feel like pat answers that ring hollow at times. Sometimes silence is a better balm, and our full presence offers conscious comfort.
Beyond the philosophical musings I do, I am more acutely aware of the soul-deep losses that people experience.
Unless we are trained in the field of epidemiology or practicing as a medical professional, it is unlikely that we anticipated a pandemic that has led us to such a devasting death count.
Two years ago, on this date, I was living in blithe ignorance, not knowing what awaited on the horizon. I was working as a therapist in a group psychotherapy practice, seeing clients in my colorful and eclectically decorated office. I was writing articles about the horrific ongoings in this country at the hands of the former guy, as well as less politically charged topics.
I was offering workshops and classes on relationships, touch by consent, spirituality, creativity, and loss.
I was sitting on carpeting with alphabet letters and numbers emblazoned on them as I was surrounded by tiny humans in daycare centers, teaching mindfulness and yoga.
I was anticipating the birth of my grandson, who, as my son predicted, would be the center of my universe.
I was walking the streets of small towns and big cities, doing free hugs events as the founder of Hugmobsters Armed With Love.
I was spending time with friends at music festivals, drumming circles, potluck gatherings, concerts, art shows, and just taking walks and talking about life, the universe, and everything else.
Then what felt like a gut punch occurred in March of 2020. I was celebrating two months since my little joy boy arrived when everything in our area shut down. My son, daughter-in-law, and I decided that it would be the better part of valor (where did that saying come from anyway? Ah, it turns out that it was a quote by William Shakespeare) for me to self-solitude, rather than come to their house to help care for their son.
Thus stretched the longest 11 weeks of my life, far beyond the two that I imagined it would take. Daily videos I created for him and FaceTime calls didn’t anywhere near take the place of baby cuddles.
In May of 2020, we agreed that it was safe for me to return to in-person visits and, now, full-time morning caregiving for him. On the rare occasions I left the house since I was able to see clients via telehealth, I did so quickly, masked up, and physically distanced from people around me.
It wasn’t fear that compelled me to follow safety protocols, but respect and caring for others and myself. I promised the kiddos I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize my safety or theirs. That meant forgoing vigils, rallies, and peaceful protests that were a staple of 2020.
I wistfully watched as friends participated in positive social action, fully masked and as distant as they could be from others. Funny how the interactions that bring people together, such as standing in solidarity, shoulder to shoulder, or hugging, have been dangerous in the past year. I am looking forward to seeing us all clear of this trauma.
Even now, fully vaccinated 15 weeks ago, I remain careful.
I have heard too many first-hand accounts of people who have contracted COVID-19 or know people who have. With the pre-existing cardiac and respiratory conditions of a heart attack, asthma, and pneumonia, I was not willing to join the others who either found themselves on ventilators, living in what I have heard referred to as God’s Waiting Room or saying farewell to loved ones.
I look at 2020 as a year of reckoning—a combination of action and stillness. Facing fierce fear and triumphing over it.
A sense of stagnation and sweeping clean of all I thought was important in my life. This social butterfly has become content with staying at home as I am doing at the moment. Ensconced in a comfy lounge chair that a friend had given me in 2018 when pneumonia required I sleep upright. I am basking in the springtime sunshine, listening to “WWOZ” out of New Orleans as I am #jazzfestinginplace.
I am recalling my first and only—but hopefully, not last—trip to NOLA with friends to attend “Jazzfest.” I miss them and the color and pizzazz that traveled along with me. I still have the rainbow-hued parasol that shaded me from the blazing sun.
I could look at this as a wasted year or as one of an opportunity to get to know myself better. I can grieve the time I have not spent with loved ones, including my sister, niece, and great-niece who I have not seen in more than a year, or I can celebrate that I will see them soon, now that we are all vaccinated.
I can remain angry at the previous administration, which contributed to the devastation, or I can be grateful that we are rounding the turn into daylight, gatherings, and hugs again.
I have had losses (grandparents, friends, husband, and parents) I thought I had integrated and put in their respective places in my mind. They stir up feelings of abandonment that spill over into my current relationships. There are times when I look at my all too human vulnerability with disdain and a you-should-know-better critique and thinking that my purpose is to hold space for others—fearful of wanting or needing too much from those in my life.
How hypocritical is that?
Sometimes the feelings are enormous, and I don’t know what to do with them as they threaten to drown me, and I bury them in work. I submerge them in the caretaking of others. Sometimes I let them flow with a trusted few, for whom I am grateful. Those who are among them know how deep my trust in them goes.
As I step into a new paradigm in my life, I am willing to do that more often.
Raw and real at the moment. Embracing it all.