love (and grief) in the time of corona

Today marks exactly four years since Nap died.  It feels like I’ve been straddling two parallel universes since - the one in which I am a happy, well-adjusted, and productive friend, sister, partner, business owner, and human; and the one in which I am that but also still broken in invisible places.  This second world is filled with meanings and memories and ghosts and love and so much grief that it feels impossible and uncontainable, even years later.  

I always talk about grief as one of the loneliest experiences, despite it being one of the most universal.  I imagine all of us walking around in our own invisible parallel universes of one, with our unseen broken places, ticking off the days until the next birthday or anniversary in our calendar of events significant only to us.  It is impossible for us to truly understand or inhabit each other’s private universes, but I wish we could at least share in it for a while. I think the world would be a kinder place for it. 

April 7th is an annual disturbance in my own personal universe; it’s usually just another day for most everyone else.  This year feels the same, but also different - there is a collective upheaval that we are all feeling now. All of our lives have been disrupted in real, everyday ways that we can’t ignore.  There is a shared recognition that the world has changed, and that it may be changed forever. It has shaken our sense of safety and stability, crumbled so many of our assumptions, and revealed us to be more fragile and stronger than we ever thought possible.  There is crying in between (Zoom) meetings and a sharp spike in the consumption of wine and ice cream. There is a loss of basic hygiene and sense of time. Everyone is self-isolating. In so many ways, this feels like grief. And while I know that we are all grieving for different reasons, this year it doesn’t feel like I’m the only one grieving today.  

Grief teaches us lessons.  These are lessons that we never asked for or wanted, and the price of admission is always too high, but they are lessons nonetheless. 

Today, I’m at home with my current partner, while I grieve my previous partner.  For so many reasons, that is a sentence I never thought I’d write.  But I think it illustrates something important about our capacity to love - somehow, we can’t help but love, even when we know how devastating the costs can be.  Somehow, our weary, broken, patched-up hearts stretch and grow to accommodate more and new loves.  Somehow, all of our loves evolve and shape-shift until the new ones can coexist with the old.  In other words, our hearts are clown cars.  This gives me hope.  

These few months feel like a temporary parallel universe that we all share.  In this acute period, it feels like the world as we know it is over and the life that we had no longer exists.  There is a necessary falling away of appearances, of goals and ambitions, of to-dos and must-haves. There is newfound permission to let them go.  At the same time, I anticipate that many things will snap back to the way they were more quickly than we think - we’ll be back to working late at the office, to perpetually rescheduling drinks with friends, and to feeling like we don’t have time to just hang out or to just be.  

I wish that Nap were still alive.  I wish he was railing at the news or making music in his room or getting takeout sushi and french fries right now.  I wish I could bump into him and see his masked smile at the grocery store.  I wish he had a chance to be the man I was watching him become.  I wish I got to say good bye and I love you.  I wish April 7th could just be another day again.  

There are so many wishes that are impossible to fulfill, and so many choices that are taken from us.  I hope that this experience jolts us into thinking harder about the choices that we still do get to make. I hope it prompts us to re-examine the ones we've made, and to choose going forward with more clarity and intent. 

I hope that we take the time to figure out what we truly need, and not worry about accumulating more of the rest.  Life is not only short, but unpredictable - we are all living a taste of that truth right now.  I hope that we choose to live it with more compassion, connection, and commitment to spend the time we have with the people who matter most.  I hope that we direct our energy into work that we enjoy and would be proud to be remembered for, and also that we occasionally stop what we’re doing to cheer on someone else.  I hope that we always make time for evening strolls and balcony concerts and friend FaceTimes.  And when given the choice, I hope that we are kind.  

Thanks for reading. Stay safe.  Be well.  

xo

Janine



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