I was all good. I was settling in and finding my way and happy about my choices for the next phase of my adventure. I had a plan and a timeline. It was great, and then it wasn’t. In what felt like the blink of an eye, everything changed. It was fast and unexpected and tumultuous. It blindsided us all, out of nowhere, overnight and sometimes right in the middle of the day. We were all good until we were not. It was fun until it was not fun any longer.
News stories unfolded, people started to panic. Really? Toilet paper??? Long lines and empty shelves. Emotions ran high, fear put its hands around our throats and we let it choke us. False news, inflammatory reports, misinformation flew around our world like dust in a tempest. How can we see the truth? How can we stay grounded in this storm? What shall we do?
For the most part, and by this writing, many things have started to calm. There is toilet paper in the store, folks are taking precautions, leaders are taking steps to arrange care for our most vulnerable. Preparations can and are being made. The situation is more calm and we are finding our new routines. There are daily repots about status and numbers, but for the most part, whatever was supposed to close has and whatever business modifications are required have been made. We are walking on the path of a new normal.
My mind wanders, as it often does, to little things, to part of my nomadic life and how it all fits into this. I am NOT at a campground or boon-docking or struggling to find a place to live. I am also not on the road, not nomadic, and not living my chosen life. The choices in how and where I live have been taken from me and that sucks. But, I am not struggling for necessities or worried about water and food. I am safe and secure and have access to every and any amenity I may need. I am fine.
Small things start to enter my mind, my thoughts, and some of my conversations. Things like haircuts and grooming, clothes shopping or car repair. I planned for my life to be lived without many, or any, of the standard societal amenities. I let my hair grow and only get it trimmed every few months. I eat whatever I have, and treat myself to something I love now and again. I wear the same clothes over and over, though I do have more than I can wear between washings. I have arranged myself to do without or to do with minimal. I have one roll of toilet paper, but a lot of wipes. I also know how to improvise if needed. You can read whatever you want into that. LOL
A dear and old friend and I touched base yesterday during a Zoom meeting session. We were both working during the beginning of the HIV crisis in the Pacific Northwest. We were educators and service providers and crisis managers. We were in the trenches when few others were. We worked amidst stigma and bias and fear; so, so much fear. We attended the weekly funerals and consoled the parents, lovers and children when they died. Everyone at that time died. Everyone who was HIV+ passed away. Entire neighborhoods, groups of friends, members of our society were gone in the blink of an eye. Lest we forget, that was a pandemic, too.
My buddy and I relived some memories and compared it to today, to now, to this pandemic. We have a very unique perspective, and we are not alone. We are also much older and wiser than we were then. We each carry pockets of hurt and pain from that time, but it is a thread of the quilt of our lives. We have been here and we did that and we learned. This is not new to us.
I cannot help but compare the two scenarios. I cannot help but look back to what happened during that time. I cannot help but feel. I feel sad and angry. I feel those people were cheated out of support and kindness and prevention. I feel those lives were lost in vein. Sure, over time, our world and our culture got their shit together and learned and grew and finally, finally created an appropriate response. Others made quilts and wrote songs and fashioned red ribbons as a way to deal with the trauma they experienced. The trauma that we still experience in our memories, in our stories, in our hearts. The trauma that is still present.
I write this post as a way to get perspective. I hope we can all grow to that place. I hope we can stop stocking up on food and supplies. I hope we can keep each other safe and healthy. I hope we can be more creative in our new reality. I hope we can appreciate what we have, learn the difference between want and need, and come out on the other side of this as a more expanded human being. I hope we can all grow.
Like the little rubber ball let loose in a small cement room, my thoughts bounce from all the outgrown haircuts to making sure I have food to filtering my news to supporting my loved ones. I have too much time and not enough ways to spend it. I struggle in this new life that is not of my choosing. I pray. I do my best. I also know people still die of cancer, old age, diabetes, heart disease. I know we are still getting older and the sun still shines and the waves still crash.
May we all embrace the growth, live with reason, give kindness, and expect the best. May we take no more than we need and give what we can. I mean, for some of us, this is nothing. For some, this situation pales in comparison. For some, this is a walk in the park. For others, this is everything.
Take care of yourself and each other.