Tuesday, March 23, 2021

What We've Lost/What We've Gained

This past weekend, I downloaded Monogamy, a novel by Sue Miller, from the library. I was excited to read it -- I like Miller's writing -- but first went on Goodreads to put the book on my "currently reading" shelf. 

And there it was. On the shelf of books I've already read this year. 

Upper-left corner. Monogamy. Oy. 

That's right. I read Monogamy in January and forgot about it by March.

I'd like to say that's an odd occurrence, but ... no. I'll give you another example: a medical bill for $198. I paid it in February, but the payment apparently crossed paths in the mail with my doctor's second notice. I got that second bill, and promptly wrote another check for $198. 

It's year 2 of the pandemic, and I am not OK. 

Now, as I say that, keep this in mind: I am in the extremely lucky group when it comes to the coronavirus. My family and friends are healthy. I haven't lost anyone to COVID-19. I have worked from home for nearly 20 years, so my daily schedule wasn't turned upside-down last March. The girls are grown; I have not been home-schooling kids or trying to keep toddlers amused while working. 

I count my blessings daily. Truly. I have a list of gratitudes. Still, as we enter the second year of this pandemic, with vaccinations happening and hope in sight, it's important to acknowledge what even the luckiest of us have lost. 

There are people I love dearly -- family and friends -- that I haven't seen in-person for over a year. There are people I love dearly -- family and friends -- that I have only seen from a distance. 

This pandemic year has continually brought home the message that time is precious and no one is guaranteed tomorrow. We have all lost time together. 

Ah, togetherness. How many hugs do you think you've lost in the past year? I'm a hugger. I miss wrapping my arms around someone, drawing them close, and holding them tight -- not for long, but long enough. Long enough. 

One of my dearest friends lost her father to Alzheimer's this past year. When I went to drop off food, I asked for permission to hug her --  and we both were wearing masks, we turned our heads when we hugged (as one does), and I held my breath to keep her safer.


I send "Virtual hugs!" now to friends. It is not the same. We've lost the healing connection of contact.

We've also lost full face-to-face contact -- and that matters. People's faces tell stories. Our wonderful, life-saving masks are essential. No questions; I'm not here to debate the science. That said, I won't deny that those masks change the quality of our communications. When we can't see someone's full face, we lose important body language cues that help us understand each other. 

Is she smiling when she says that? Is it a real smile? Or a forced grin? Who would know? 

For me, the communications challenge is exacerbated. I'm half-deaf. I lip read. Well, I used to lip read. FYI, some of y'all speak awfully softly. 

There are people who have completely fallen off my radar during the past year. Either they didn't reach out to me, or I didn't reach out to them. Or, we checked in with each other at the start of the pandemic, but ... it's been months now, and we haven't spoken. Or Zoomed. Or FaceTimed. 

Relationships have been lost. Maybe they'll be resurrected when life gets back to normal -- or maybe they won't. Maybe that's OK. 

Ah, that sense of normal. Probably should have put this at the top of the lost list, rather than at the bottom. We lost normal last March. 

Will we ever walk into a coffee shop or bookstore again with perfect ease? Will we remember how to have idle water-cooler chit-chat with colleagues? Will we even want to have idle water-cooler chit-chat with colleagues? I'm hearing -- from a surprising number of people -- that they're happier working at home and interacting with fewer people. 

And that brings us to ... 

What We Gained
Yep. I may not have the mental focus required to remember the book I read a month ago or the check I wrote a week ago, but some things never change.

I am still my mother's daughter. And I still seek out the best in a situation, whenever I can. 

So what have we gained? 

No, seriously. I'm asking you: What have YOU gained?

I'll get the answers started with a few examples from my life, but I'd love to see your response in the comments below. 

With this year of losses, I have gained: a deeper-than-ever gratitude for true friends, a new sense of who and what matters most, and a fresh appreciation for free time. (Yes, I used a ridiculous amount of that free time to binge watch Schitt's Creek, Bridgerton, and Virgin River. Still, I also learned how to watercolor and took a pottery class.)

I have gained a rock-solid confidence that even if, "I am not OK," today, I will be OK again. This too will pass. 

Your turn! Tell me: In this year of losses, what have you gained? 


veredlh said...

I'm still figuring it out. Maybe today I will look up and around with just this question in mind.

CJ Kennedy said...

Like you, I work from home so the pandemic didn't upset my applecart too much. I'm an introvert so honestly the not having the small interactions with people, especially the huggers 😉, it seems everyone whether you know them or not hugs nowadays. Anyway, that's been a relief. A blessed break. I gained a couple of online friendships. One friend, we bonded over the worry of the pandemic. Another over politics so it was good to have those friends as outlets. The museum where I teach allowed us to teach classes online. No driving in the ice and snow during the Winter session because no matter what day/night I teach it always snows. A library from NY found me and I was able to teach a Zoom workshop for them! So, the pandemic has brought possibilities for future work without having to travel. One of the biggest things I discovered is online grocery shopping. I have always hated grocery shopping. Himself came to me trained to do the grocery shopping as he did it for his mother. Mobility issues now make the task difficult for him. But I can gleefully point and click my way through produce and dairy and have the groceries delivered to my front porch. Why didn't I discover this sooner? 😊 So the losses of not being able to see family and friends for holidays and outings, that's temporary, and now with the vaccine we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Without the pandemic, we might have missed other ways to make connections.

Jan said...

Vered, it does help to Look Up. :-) It's amazing how changing your perspective, or your focus, changes your perception.

CJ, I promise -- I will not hug if we ever have the pleasure to meet face-to-face! (Unless you hug first. Then, I will hug back.) You and I have had some parallel experiences this year. I had the opportunity to teach some Zoom sessions for Creative Mornings, which was a real plus. And, extroverted introvert that I am, I have also enjoyed a reprieve from a number of small-talk situations, interactions. So glad you've found a number of positives through the year!